It never ceases to amaze me how easily entertained people inherently are. Even folks that would seldom think to darken a church door seem to appreciated a “good preacher”, much like anyone is intrigued with a good story teller. But it has been my observation, through at least 22 years of experience in hearing sermons from some of the greatest names in Fundamentalism, that far too often it is the charisma and showmanship people flock to rather than the accurate exposition of Scripture. This is something I constantly witness and honestly is deeply troubling. What good is a “fireball” preacher if he is performing much in the same way a circus act would to grab the eyes and ears of those in the pew, and yet is failing to preach what the Scripture he uses actually means. I see this the most in relation to money and giving, specifically to the one preaching or their ministry. This is not to say a faithful preacher cannot have charisma and a way of captivating those hearing him, but if that is the full extent of what he does, he is worthless, and I say even dangerous to the cause of Christ. This article is not intended to be unkind or scathing, but rather to cause soul searching and careful self-examination. To proclaim the Word of God is not a trivial performance, but a sacred duty that historically has cost men everything, and must be given the absolute utmost of care and holy fear it demands. The word preach in the Scripture means precisely to herald a message, a message given by God. Therefore, how we herald that message is gravely serious. I have been a Baptist all my life, and believe in general, they are closest to the Scriptures, but I believe we as Baptists are not perfect and have room for growth; much more, we are in need of returning to the Scriptures in how we preach and train young men to preach and teach the Scriptures. I am not presuming to have all the answers in that endeavor, but am bold enough to admit and proclaim that we are in danger of teaching the traditions of men for the doctrines of God. There must be some form of reformation where we examine how and what we preach, and examine our hearts to see if we are preaching to win the crowd, or preaching to speak the whole council of God, as it is written. My heart is heavy by seeing how often IFB preachers work up a proverbial or literal sweat, charismatically preaching messages in which they–whether by intention or ignorance–extrapolate, misapply and even mislead those under the sound of their voice. Many times their applications are good, moral things, yet had nothing to do with the actual meaning or teaching of the text. The saddest part of this is that many times the youth pick up on this and an instant questioning of everything being preached begins in that young heart. And no one is to blame but us, the preachers. I do not believe the answer is more seminaries or Bible colleges, but rather the instruction within them, and most importantly, the education only provided by the Holy Spirit and much time spent in prayer and faithful, exhausting study of the Word of God–not just pulling verses out of context to suit a presupposed thesis. This will not do and is wrecking our denomination.
I understand this article may cause misunderstandings and even outrage, but we must have the honesty and humility to examine ourselves and consider whether or not these things be so.
Sincerely and Brokenly,
Kenneth D. Willis