Beating Up the People
“Stop doing this!” “You don’t do that!” These and other statements are often on the lips of preachers who generally berate the people. Here the preacher simply scolds the people for wrongdoing.
While certainly there is a time to tell people of their wrong, we must recognize a few things. First, scolding wrongdoing can alienate and push away people rather than draw them. While the truth must be told, there is a way to tell the truth. One writer said that when you speak the truth, the truth will cut, but always make sure it is the truth doing the cutting and not you! To many of us do our own cutting rather than letting the Spirit of God cut.
Second, always harping on wrongdoing leaves no time to encourage. We must commend and correct, but there is also need to encourage. That time can easily be lost when we are only hitting the people. Our people come to the church sometimes needing that word of encouragement to make it through another week. Somebody just found out she has cancer. Someones wife just left with the kids. Someone just got fired from their jobs. These people come to hear a word from the Lord, and instead they get a backhand slap.
Another problem that the preacher who continually beats up the people has is that she or he cannot commend positive actions. The preacher is to focussed on the negative to be able to appreciate or articulate that which the people are doing correctly. When you become an expert at the negative, that is all you will preach.
Finally, some preachers who always beat up their people are dealing with their own issues in the pulpit. This is always a danger. We can think that we are preaching the “straight word” and yet we are fighting against ghosts from our past that still haunt us. We might especially condemn an action because that action has affected us, or we may hold up people for ridicule who have shown themselves against our agenda. We must ever be careful to not use the pulpit as a billy club against our enemies or to fight battles from the past.
Certainly there is a time when the preacher will “step on toes,” But something is wrong when the people have not toes because you have stomped them all off! Let’s preach the whole counsel which includes some commending as well as some correcting some encouraging, and always the clear Gospel of God.