I was listening to a preacher this weekend preaching a sermon that began to sound like this:
The Bible Character is no good. The Bible Character did wrong. Let me tell you how bad this Bible Character was.
Then the preacher began to rail into the congregation.
Some of you are just like that Bible Character. You are mean like that character. You don’t have compassion. You don’t have the Love of God. You are just as bad and you better straighten up.
Then the preacher gave the appeal.
If anyone wishes to come to Jesus please come down.
This King of Sermon is Common
Now many preach these kinds of sermons. You can just change the character trait to be condemned to hypocrisy or perhaps “disagreeing with the pastor” or maybe lying, stealing, or whatever other problem that is found in the congregation.
The problem with “direct” sermons like this, is that the very people who are guilty of the sins you decry are the main ones shouting amen and thinking about someone else in the congregation that they think is worthy of the condemnation.
In short, condemn hypocrites and listen to the amens….they come from the hypocrites. You may condemn stealing, and listen to the thieves become an amen corner.
Indirection in the Bible
I then thought about some of the more effective proclaimers in the Bible. I looked at Nathan. Who used indirection and then later hammered the “thou are the man.” David knew who was deserving of the condemnation after that “sermon.”
And what about the Good Samaritan. Jesus simply told a story and then at the end of the story asks, “who was the neighbor?” Certainly we have turned the parables from powerful life changing vehicles into dry sterile vehicles of the status quo.
What about the parable of the workers who worked all day and got the same pay as the ones who came in late in the day. Certainly we read this parable wrong when we don’t see the outrage and the inequity of such dealings. Certainly we have not allowed the text to deal with us where it needs to deal with us. And the reason we don’t let the text hit us where it needs to hit us….
Push the Envelope
As preachers, I encourage you to to use a little indirection. When the people get riled up over the hypocrite, turn the tables. Pull the rug out from under our status quo sermons that condemn the one hypocrite in the church and placate to everyone else. Push the envelope….Preach the Gospel. If you preach the Gospel….then it will turn the world upside down. However, if we continue to preach the sterile “hypocrites ain’t no good” sermons, then we will continue to go to church and leave unchanged…and more importantly….not having encountered Almighty God.