This entry is part 13 of 13 in the series Subtle Errors

Is your preaching substantive? Does your preaching foster transformation? In an old post on the Preaching Today Blog that is no longer available. The TheoCentric Preaching Blog quotes an old Preaching Today weblog where Haddon Robinson wrote:

They end up being nothing more than moralisms: We should, we must, we ought. Or, here are three ways in which we can be better off financially. A sermon I heard a while ago on how to deal with procrastination had as its first point to get a Day Timer. You knew you were in trouble when you heard that. I have no doubt that when people left that church, if they were procrastinators, they thought it was a helpful sermon. But it was simply something that a motivational speaker could have done.

Get a Day Timer? How to deal with procrastination? Many take this “relevant” preaching to an extreme that removes its trasncended value. I was listening to a black preacher who preached a sermon “how to be a success at work.” Yes. Maybe it is this kind of preaching that makes people think that the American Middle Class lifestyle is the essence of the Gospel. Here you are given tools for living, but no confrontation of the divine into this world that will transform it and us.

Robinson continues:

If people are raised on cotton candy, they are not going to grow as Christians. When Paul writes to his young associate Timothy, he says that “all Scripture is inspired by God,” and that all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for teaching, for putting the fundamental truths in front of people, and for “reproof, for correction, for instruction in right living.” We have ignored that first affirmation that the Bible is given to teach doctrine. It’s not the only thing it does, but doctrine is first, and out of that there is reproof and then there is correction and then instruction in right living.

Dear preachers, don’t fall into the trap of getting rid of doctrine. Yes everything should be relevant to our daily lives, but at the same time it should be relevant to the coming kingdom of God. In our zeal to reach the “felt-needs” of the “unchurched” so that we can build mega-churches many preachers have missed these major functions of Bible preaching. To put it bluntly, Cotton Candy will only rot your teeth. Robinson is on to something.

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15 thoughts on “Cotton Candy Sermons?

  1. Rev T. Shelton says:

    Well put, well said. In this “scratch my itching ears” society, many of our ministers have adopted the cotton candy theory which, no doubt leads people astray. Why, some of them even have mega churches…and TV shows…hmmmm. But what does God say?

  2. It is so important that we as preachers remain on point to the scripture. Our congregations listen to the preachers on TV and most of the time they might mention the main scripture once and then take off on their skills of being motivational speakers instead of preaching the word. I really appreciate your ministry here on line and may God Bless and Keep you is my prayer. I use a lot of your information and have corrected my self in many things concerning my teaching and preaching. Thank you.

  3. I thought about this whils reading the article. People that are new to the faith or “babes” in Christ need milk before they can handle the meat, usually. The qeustion is for me is how to keep “milk’ from turning to “cotton candy”? My Pastor calls the same cotton candy teaching “gospel light”, which is basically what it is when you listen to it. The fact is thousands of Christians are gravitating to this kind of teaching. “And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables”. 2 Timothy 4:4.

  4. someone once said, “if you preach against sin you probably have a small congregation; and if you preach prosperity messages you will have a mega-church. has it come to this?

  5. Roger B. Abuloc, says:

    Generally speaking, I agree as to what were said in that article. However, I would like to say that preaching is situational. Meaning to say, it depends on what comprises most of the attendees. Because when they are just new believers we cannot feed them hard food. We have to give them soft foods as in Cotton Candy sermons. Of course, when these people grow, a different soul diet will be served.

  6. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:

    Yes, Great Preaching is always situational….Thus the first plank in my own homiletic method is “purposeful planning.” We must know who we are addressing and by God’s grace give what is needed…

    Let me also agree that there are times when the “milk” must be fed to new believers and even to older believers who may have shown a particular need. However, if I might rephrase another comment…whether you are preaching milk or meat, neither is “candy” much less “cotton candy.”

    I don’t think you are getting what I mean by “cotton candy” at least as used in this article and my reading of Haddon Robinson’s quote. For example, to use the example given in the article, there may be a time to “preach” about how to be better at time management. But that time, I would argue, certainly is not the worship hour…and I would also argue not the time devoted to Bible study either. There may be a time to teach people how to be better citizens and even how to better their chances for promotion at work. But it ain’t Bible Study or the worship hour, at least that is my thinking on the subject right now….

  7. Ptr Rizal Asuncion says:

    Rev. Cox, I understand more what you mean with cotton candy preaching after reading your comment on Mr. Roger Abuloc’s comment. Yes, I agree that cotton candy maybe taught in secular seminars but never in the pulpit or even in Bible studies. Only God and His relationship with mankind should be preached in the pulpit either as milk for young believers or hard meat of doctrines for matured ones for the purpose of growing to Christ-likeness.

  8. Brady Williams says:

    I can see the positive attributes of both arguments. On one hand we must be relevant for this present generation,but we must be mindful that our relevancy is to God’s way and not the world’s. On the other hand we must teach transformation but not to the shadow of things that lay behind us, but to the expressed word that comes from the mouth of God for this present age.God said in Isaiah 48:6-7:From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you. They are created now not long ago(that I may prove you in this day.)We preach this way because we are consecrated to God, and because of that our words are able to transform the people into God’s Holy Priesthood (born again believers).

  9. Pastor Frederick D. Harris says:

    The article mention a little about preaching the full counsel of God; when the preacher adds purposeful planning, prayer and preaching to that, I believe that congregation will be feed plenty. I was drawn to read the subtle errors; good reading. This has become one of the most purposeful platforms of Christian dialogue that I am associated with; keep up the good work Rev Cox.

  10. Wow…all great points. When I read from Genesis to Revelations, the the bible addresses many things. Paul preached/taught on work, money, being idle, what to eat, sin, love, marriage, wisdom, unity, children, parent and I can go on. I believe it’s vital to preach/teach whatever the Spirit says to preach/teach.

  11. Roger B. Abuloc says:

    Your article has certainly stirred a hornet’s nest when different point of views were mentioned by different commentators re: Cotton Candy used to connote time management, food, etc. Of course, I know too that metaphor is just one poetic language used by writers to emphasize a point. I may not have grasped the meaning of “Cotton Candy” with reference to your article and Haddon Robinson’s quote. Anyway, my misunderstanding of it is my misreading of the article. Sorry for my mistake.

  12. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:

    It is certainly true that there are limitations to the use of any metaphoric language. However, I do think that the different takes on the image of “cotton candy” brought a lot of complimentary ideas. I don’t really think there was any real substantial difference of opinion…However, the different takes provided different views that needs to be discussed in any homiletic…

    In addition, this discussion pushed me to articulate the differnce between preaching for new believers and preaching of a weak gospel. Also the fundametnal question of celebration had to be discussed in this…

    No need to apologize…this was a good discussion

  13. Bennett Yancey says:

    Very good article! Honestly, there is no point in preaching if people are not challenged to change. This is a serious problem in preaching. We’ve reduced preaching solely to being Burger King. People come to church to hear how they are going to get their blessing vs how to change their lives and make a difference in society. Jesus told us that we would be salt in the Earth. How can we be salt if we are just flowing with the program? I am one that believes in empowerment preaching but to me, empowerment preaching MUST be connected with the overall purpose of Christian living. Our lives are suppose to impact others. How can we continue to solely preach messages that make people run, shout and dance but don’t call for actions? As someone said, it seems like the preaching that builds a large church is the prosperity/motivational preaching and the preaching that keeps a church small is holiness preaching. We’ve just got to get back to the basics.

  14. Min. Cardell Tillman says:

    My belief is that EVERY sermon preached should cause each listener to make a decision. That decision could be accepting salvation, or answering a call on their life. It could be to overcome some area of sin in their lives and to mature as a child of God. Popcorn and cotton candy preaching are nothing more but deceptions of the enemy keeping those who hear that word attached to the things of the world. We all know that friendship with the world is enmity with God. In my estimation, anyone who preaches a word that is not pointed towards Christ and the Kingdom of God is outside of the will of God. God did not call preachers to preach about procrastination and time management, or about wealth and how to increase your net worth. Those things are all important regarding our walk, but the real deal is this. The bible declares that we are to seek first The Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

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