The Scandal of the Pulpit


Let me begin by apologizing for luring you here with such a seductive title. This blog is not about a hot steamy affair between a clergyman and a temptress nor is it about the use of church offerings to pay for exotic cars, vacation villas and European clothing. No, the greatest scandal OF the pulpit actually occurs IN the pulpit.

Preaching without preparation is scandalous.

Preaching your word and not God’s word is scandalous.

Referencing your text and not taking the time to read the text is scandalous.

Making programs more important than preaching is scandalous.

Those in the pew sanction such behavior by choosing churches based on secondary or even tertiary considerations like music, prominence and location and not primarily over whether the Word is properly being proclaimed.

I have often said that the greatest recurrences of malpractice aren’t in hospitals or law offices but rather in the pulpit on Sunday morning. If the biblical task before the preacher is to surgically divide the word then butchering it is indeed malpractice. A lot is being written about regarding preaching. I can hardly keep up with the latest definition or trendy angle on what preaching is. This is particularly the case with expository preaching. I am not scholarly enough to pontificate with these experts. I do however pastor a large congregation that most would even term a mega-church – although that terminology wasn’t really mainstreamed when I began the pastorate. That church has largely grown on biblical exposition. I share these thoughts as I head to Dallas for my annual pilgrimage to the E.K. Bailey Conference on Expository Preaching. Allow me to give you six thoughts that shape my preaching and why it should matter to those who sit in the pews:

Stay in a Series

Who gets in a car with a driver that admits they have no idea where they are headed? Too many pastors are just driving around the Bible with no real destination in mind. Series preaching gives direction to your driving. Pastors must drive with a destination in mind and members need to stop hitchhiking their way thru church and life.

Book by Book

I can never recall a time where I read a sentence out of a secular book whether it was fiction or non-fiction and without reading the entire book could clearly understand the intent of the author. The Bible is a book of books with a single theme. When I open my Bible I do not see a list of themes, topics or subjects but rather books. For that reason I preach thru books of the Bible to gain the meaning of that book to ensure the authors intent is being communicated to the people. It is only then we can make it relevant for today. Any biblical sermon, even topical ones should take into account the intent of the author.

 Holiness not Hype

We are not called to be spiritual hype men for God. Sunday morning is when we are going over the playbook. Sunday morning is when the instruction occurs. Too often we are exciting people to believe something that God just didn’t say. The message of the cross is also a message of personal responsibility. The danger of a “tell your neighbor…” gospel is we have no idea if our neighbor has done the preparation necessary to receive the blessing that is being preached about. It is unkind and irresponsible to promise something that God never said. Yes, I enjoy a good shout like everyone else and I love the emotion attached to the church but the Spirit of God taking the Word of God and showing people the Son of God should drive that euphoria and not a Hammond B-3.

Christ over Charisma

The preaching in our churches must be more about Jesus then the personality of the preacher. Too often, the preacher is the hero and not God. I pray before I preach for Jesus to be seen and then once He is seen that He would heal, deliver and save. When that Samaritan woman left Jacob’s well declaring, “Come see a man” she was not talking about us preachers.

Scriptural Synergy

The Godhead hits a ceiling at three. God the Father as author, God the Son as agent and God the Holy Spirit as administrator. No one else gets a vote. I am amazed how the Sunday message can change based on what is currently happening in our world. We must not allow the local newspaper editor or some hot news cycle to drive what we preach. I recall during the last presidential election how many pastors were “led” to preach on Israel, abortion and same sex marriage. Similarly, many pastors preached on violence, racism and injustice when Trayvon Martin was killed. Now let me be clear all of these issues MUST be addressed from our pulpits. But they cannot be addressed on our timetable but God’s. Yes, I too preached in a hoody but only because the text gave me permission to address the issues of violence and injustice. This is “scriptural synergy.” It is when the current series or sermon lines up with what is going on in the community or world and you then have free clearance from the Holy Spirit to speak to it with Godly authority. We must not be schizophrenic pastors who when it is convenient tells the government to stay out of the church but then use CNN, MSNBC or FOX News as an “assistant Holy Ghost” at the church to direct our preaching.

Don’t Taint the Text

If not careful, we can make muddy what should be a clear word from God. This happens when we use the pulpit for our own personal sounding board and we allow how we feel, what people are saying about us or what is going on in our lives to drive the Sunday sermon. Order matters. Scripture first not situations first! The wrong time to preach a stewardship sermon is when the offering decreases. The preacher already has an emotional bias as he approaches the text. Rather, the stewardship series should have already been on the preaching schedule.

Whatever your preaching style, let’s resolve to be faithful to the text and to the God who has called us. Whatever church you attend be more concerned about the preaching than anything else.


What concerns do you have regarding the preaching in today’s pulpits? I welcome your feedback.

10 thoughts on “The Scandal of the Pulpit”

  1. You are 100 per cent correct. Anything that is not conveyed through the Holy Ghost has the influence of the natural man. Satan will used the pulpit to further split the flock, if the preachers glorify themselves and not GOD in their messages.

  2. Excellent Blog today. You ought to teach some folks some thing because this speaks volumes! Excellent, excellent, excellent!!!!!

  3. You write like you preach, with sincerity and passion. I enjoy your preaching and your writing. Be blessed in the Lord.

    Alice J. Garrett, Ed.D. Education Consultant

  4. Great blog! We need to hear the word of God to conform us to Christ and convict us when we are wrong. Thank you for being concerned about the revelation of Jesus and the renovation of your flock.

  5. This was an amazing message. Every Pastor every church leader every teacher needs to have access to this message.

  6. This is excellent food for thought for all God’s children, lay, babies in Christ, and senior members of the clergy. I like the idea of working through the bible, book by book even though there is connectivity from Genesis to Revelation. Why? There is a specific purpose in studying the historical events and the purpose of God for us as we feed on His Word book by book in bible study. I wish all pastors would use bible study sessions just for that purpose and that at some point within a series there is actually two way discussions rather than one point delivery because it is in discussion that one’s misunderstandings are revealed and clarifications through God’s Word made potent if I may use the word as in omnipotent for where I am living today in my spiritual walk with the Trinity. Some church members are literally afraid to question events in the bible for greater clarity for fear of reprisal from the man or woman of God who has been appointed to deeply study to bring out possible questions so they go away with questions unanswered when one should feel free to ask any questions of the teacher just as the disciples did and their hearts burned when greater revelation knowledge was given by Jesus Christ after his resurrection. Thank you.

  7. Great instructions for those who are called to teach/preach the Gospel. God is a God of order and not confusion or skipping around as some churches are experiencing today. Many people leave services hungry and confused from all the hype and no knowledge of having a personal relationship with God. I loved the outline that you gave and it deserves to be read many times, referred to often and then put into action.

  8. I am very concerned about the quality of preaching in our pulpits, but I am equally concerned about the preacher. You have wonderfully outlined the finer points of exceptional expository preaching; however, why are many preachers unable or unwilling to live up to this standard of preaching? Are there too many life distractions, disobedience to God’s word, pride, pain? Why is the man or woman of God not “complete, thoroughly equipped” or not adequately prepared to “rightly divide the word of truth”? The enormous weight of the call to preach the Gospel requires every preacher to seriously and prayerfully examine themselves, seek godly counsel, if necessary, and to take heed for souls are at stake. We must pray for the preacher so that the preaching will always point us to Jesus Christ.

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