"What can a ruined soul, like mine, effect towards the redemption of other souls?—or a polluted soul, towards their purification?"

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

When To Confront From The Pulpit

Just a disclaimer - I've done what I'm about to complain about. And I was wrong to do it. In fact, it grieves me that I did it. I learned from it when I did it and hope that others won't make the same mistake.

So what exactly am I going on about?

In the past two weeks, I've heard about pastors who have heard there was adultery occurring in their church; instead of dealing with it in biblical fashion, or talking to those involved, they addressed the individuals from the pulpit. Once, it was done directly, and once it was done in a roundabout way so that everyone in the congregation knew who the pastor was talking about, but he didn't mention any names.

Before I start making points, I'll tell you about the 50 or so times I did it. I was arrogant. I thought I had the black and white truth and biblical authority to lash out against people. I thought the pulpit was my right to say what I wanted, when I wanted. Uh uh. Doesn't work that way.

I'd hear about someone living together, having an argument with another church member, being stupid inside a committee meeting, or whatever, and I'd make a whole sermon point about it. I wouldn't mention a name, of course, but I'd make sure they'd hear my point.

On one occasion, after the music director left after the deacon controversy, I preached a whole sermon out of anger. It was basically a "don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you" sermon. It wasn't right and it wasn't well received.

You know why it wasn't right? First, because I was angry. Secondly, because if I had a problem, I needed to deal with it in private with the people I had a problem with. I used a bully pulpit to make a point to people and stirred the pot. I was airing dirty laundry that was personal business and I had no right to do it.

Does the pastor have the right to preach on adultery, anger, gambling, etc.? Absolutely. But in the course of normal preaching. Not when we're using another person to make a point. Not when we're showering down the Word of God on someone to lash out on them instead of going to them first.

It's the misappropriation of the pastoral office, plain and simple. It's the abuse of the Word and the pulpit. And it does harm to the congregation and those who have sinned. It doesn't make the situation better, it makes it much worse.

You know what to confront from the pulpit? The enemy. Other church members are not our enemy. If a church member sins, we seek them out and restore them, plain and simple. If they don't want restoration, we grieve the loss and pray for them wholeheartedly. We tell the church to pray for them.

But we never, ever air their dirty laundry. Because we might just find ourselves in their position one day. God help us all when we do.


  1. You may not realize it but trying to preach from the Lectionary as often as possible can help one from preaching these types of sermons. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the Lectionary is foolproof but it does help.

    When one desires to preach a sermon condemning someone about a particular topic yet the Lectionary readings are on grace & mercy it makes it awful hard to go with the judgmental message. On the other hand, when I was serving a hurting church that had gone through dealing with a pastor's moral failure certain Lectionary readings came up that would have reopened old wounds. I decided at the time it was best to not use those passages. In the end, it worked out for the best.

    I understand the judgmentalism because, in the past, I've been quick to do something similar. However, I've come to the point in ministry where if I know about a particular situation I avoid preaching about it from the pulpit. It just exasperates the problem. On the other hand, I will try and take it up with people individually if they are open to doing so.



  2. Excellent viewpoint, Geek Preacher. It is an excellent tool for those who have one to follow.

    For those without a Lectionary, I would suggest following an expository outline - going through a book of the Bible. Even then, however, there is always a temptation to do eisegesis.

    It's a delicate line for the minister and thank you for sharing your thoughts, as always.

    God bless,