Shallow Preaching and Whatnot

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W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
Greetings all, as I have explained before, the OPC I am a member of is about an hour away, and thus my mother and I continue to attend an evangelical, non-Calvinistic SBC near our home in the mornings (been attending for four years). A little over a month ago they installed a new pastor (who is from our area, and whose brother is the youth minister [i.e. there might be a little bit of nepotism involved]) and he is a Doctorate graduate from Liberty University. His preaching is noticeably not Reformed, and not expository. We read a Bible verse or so and then pull one idea out of them, and talk about that. He uses movie clips to make points frequently, and is very shallow.

Some in our church have put forth the idea that if you do not like a sermon, or did not get something out of it, it means the sermon is not for you. As in, a sermon might seem shallow to you but may be beneficial to someone less mature in the faith. Is there a Biblical response to this? Should not ministers be able to preach to mature and immature Christians alike? I would appreciate advice and prayers. It is frustrating, and I am easily given over to resentment. I listen carefully to his sermons, and thus my mind picks out all the things he says I disagree with. Today I prayed I would be able to focus on the positives of his preaching, but came up with the conclusion that even when he preaches truthfully, it is shallow. Thank you all.

Also I know it has been discussed that I should leave this church. I think that soon my negative attitude will make it prudent to leave, so as not to spread disunity. I am 17, and my mother is not ready to leave, although she agrees with me about the preaching. I am staying for a while longer.

Here is the youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/BridgePointVA/videos) if you would like to listen to a minute or two of his sermons. The series on The Body of Christ was before he came.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
A sermon ought to have an exposition of the text, an explanation of what it means, and an application to help people grow in grace. Some texts go deeper than others, but If I'm not given these three, I'm pretty disappointed. I also heartily enjoy a good exhortation to sinners. Christians of any maturity level should be able to be encouraged and taught by the exposition of the Word, regardless of what passage is in view.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Junior
A sermon ought to have an exposition of the text, an explanation of what it means, and an application to help people grow in grace. Some texts go deeper than others, but If I'm not given these three, I'm pretty disappointed

This morning I heard a sermon on Hebrews 9:23-28. After the text was read, a sermon followed on, Being Ready for the Return of Christ. The text was not referred to again. This ignoring of the text has been the case through the entire Hebrews series.

Sad...

EDIT: To be fair, the passage in Hebrews does mention the Second Coming of Christ, and I think Being Ready is a valid application of the text. But expository preaching it was not.
 
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Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
Funny, this morning our assistant pastor preached on preaching. His text was 2 Timothy 3:14-4:4, and he brought out that in context the "preaching" in 4:2 is certainly best understood as expository in nature, which people with itching ears (and perhaps preachers with an itch to advance a pet topic...) will resist.
 
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Relztrah

Puritan Board Freshman
You have chosen to stay for now, and if your mother is not willing to leave, this is the right choice. Not knowing the specifics of your situation, I think this is the God-honoring thing to do. Continue to pray against negativity and bitterness. Is there any way you can encourage the pastor? Perhaps there is a nugget of inspiration or edification that you can glean from each message that you can let him know was an encouragement to you. After all, he's new and will mature in the pulpit with time. Maybe he's trying out the movie clips and such to see if they are what the people want. At some point, perhaps years from now, he may conclude on his own that the congregation is tired of milk and ready for meat. Or not.

No, it is not an ideal situation and you might have to look elsewhere to supplement your spiritual nourishment. But every pastor has to deal with his share of malcontents, so don't add to their number. Perhaps something you say will inspire your pastor to preach the full counsel of God.

Having said all that, many years ago my wife and I left a church for similar reasons. One too many times we looked at each other in the car when leaving church and asked, "Now what was the sermon about today?" So I fully understand your frustration.
 

DecafCoffee

Puritan Board Freshman
Well, I've been on both sides of the aisle my friend. I am a minister now, but had been a layman for years. I don't say any of this to brag about myself. But one of the best part of preaching is I don't have to hear sermons that I don't like anymore. If my sermons suck, I have full agency to change it. I don't have to wait for someone else to do it.

My take is usually a bit harder than most people's. But it's honest and, with years of experience and observation, realistic.

I would start looking for a church with better preaching, and if you can find it, leave and never look back. The problem is that faithful, exhortative, and honest expository preaching is so rare these days that you might not find it. In that case, you have no choice but to just bear it and prepared to be a loner because very few if anyone will sympathize with you. They will call you a Pharisee and give you platitudes. In that case, I have three pieces of advice:
1) watch online sermons of good preaching.
2) pray that God would bring godly people to come into your life who will walk honestly with you.
3) pray for the church and the pastor - this is hard because you inevitably will grow resentful.

I know people who say things like "pray for your church, for your pastor, for more patience" or some variant of "try to change things in the church without giving up on it." Honestly, it sounds good on paper, but in real life, I have never met anyone who tried to do this actually succeed. I speak from personal experience (5+ years in my last church, 3+ years in previous church only to have the pastor later get canned with a sexual scandal), as well as the experience of my mom, numerous friends, and church history figures (Luther, Calvin, Bonhoeffer) who tried the same thing and failed, let alone the prophets in the OT (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, etc.).
Praying for your pastors is really hard because you get resentful (and justifiably so in my opinion). As well, pastors don't really like to change. I say this as one. I mean, people in general don't like to change. But throw on top of that the institutional power and the image they must keep, pastors have a really hard time admitting mistakes in the area of preaching. Can you imagine a pastor admitting to himself/others "yeah my preaching - my vocational raison detre - is terrible...." He'd lose his job probably.

Some will object and say, "yeah but God can change them. God can do anything." True, but for whatever reason, like 99 times out of 100, God chooses not to. There's a much deeper predestinarian discussion here, which I won't get into. But this is just the observed reality. God can, but most of the time he chooses not to. Most of the good preachers we have today and throughout church history (if you read their biographies), they have always been good preachers. Very rarely do you see someone who was a terrible/ungodly preacher do a 180 and become a really good preacher. If they're not there on the first day, they probably won't be there on the last day... I know that sounds real cynical, but it's been my observation over the years.

My biggest advice is this: you gotta get yours. You have to be spiritually "selfish" almost. Why let someone else's incompetence hinder your own faith? That's just stupid. You're not responsible for other people's ministries. You will stand before God and answer for your life. We live in 21th century America. There are more resources than you could possibly need to grow spiritually: cars (transportation to get to other churches), internet, YouTube, books, study bibles, forums (lol) etc...

With that said, if you're not getting fed at your own church, then you gotta find other ways to get fed, even if that means switching churches.
[Insert anticipated objection: but part of growing in your faith is committing to and serving others...] this principle is true at face value, but how do you feed others without being fed yourself? and even if this principle is true (which it is), this should be applied to the pastor first, not the lay-person. If the pastor does not serve his congregation biblically, how can your expect the lay-person to serve others properly?
 
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Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
Well, I've been on both sides of the aisle my friend. I am a minister now, but had been a layman for years. I don't say any of this to brag about myself. But one of the best part of preaching is I don't have to hear sermons that I don't like anymore. If my sermons suck, I have full agency to change it. I don't have to wait for someone else to do it.

My take is usually a bit harder than most people's. But it's honest and, with years of experience and observation, realistic.

I would start looking for a church with better preaching, and if you can find it, leave and never look back. The problem is that faithful, exhortative, and honest expository preaching is so rare these days that you might not find it. In that case, you have no choice but to just bear it and prepared to be a loner because very few if anyone will sympathize with you. They will call you a Pharisee and give you platitudes. In that case, I have three pieces of advice:
1) watch online sermons of good preaching.
2) pray that God would bring godly people to come into your life who will walk honestly with you.
3) pray for the church and the pastor - this is hard because you inevitably will grow resentful.

I know people who say things like "pray for your church, for your pastor, for more patience" or some variant of "try to change things in the church without giving up on it." Honestly, it sounds good on paper, but in real life, I have never met anyone who tried to do this actually succeed. I speak from personal experience (5+ years in my last church, 3+ years in previous church only to have the pastor later get canned with a sexual scandal), as well as the experience of my mom, numerous friends, and church history figures (Luther, Calvin, Bonhoeffer) who tried the same thing and failed, let alone the prophets in the OT (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, etc.).
Praying for your pastors is really hard because you get resentful (and justifiably so in my opinion). As well, pastors don't really like to change. I say this as one. I mean, people in general don't like to change. But throw on top of that the institutional power and the image they must keep, pastors have a really hard time admitting mistakes in the area of preaching. Can you imagine a pastor admitting to himself/others "yeah my preaching - my vocational raison detre - is terrible...." He'd lose his job probably.

Some will object and say, "yeah but God can change them. God can do anything." True, but for whatever reason, like 99 times out of 100, God chooses not to. There's a much deeper predestinarian discussion here, which I won't get into. But this is just the observed reality. God can, but most of the time he chooses not to. Most of the good preachers we have today and throughout church history (if you read their biographies), they have always been good preachers. Very rarely do you see someone who was a terrible/ungodly preacher do a 180 and become a really good preacher. If they're not there on the first day, they probably won't be there on the last day... I know that sounds real cynical, but it's been my observation over the years.

My biggest advice is this: you gotta get yours. You have to be spiritually "selfish" almost. Why let someone else's incompetence hinder your own faith? That's just stupid. You're not responsible for other people's ministries. You will stand before God and answer for your life. We live in 21th century America. There are more resources than you could possibly need to grow spiritually: cars (transportation to get to other churches), internet, YouTube, books, study bibles, forums (lol) etc...

With that said, if you're not getting fed at your own church, then you gotta find other ways to get fed, even if that means switching churches.
[Insert anticipated objection: but part of growing in your faith is committing to and serving others...] this principle is true at face value, but how do you feed others without being fed yourself? and even if this principle is true (which it is), this should be applied to the pastor first, not the lay-person. If the pastor does not serve his congregation biblically, how can your expect the lay-person to serve others properly?
And what if there were outstanding preaching but poverty in every other aspect? Is it better to have correct and forceful expository preaching while discipline, worship, oversight, and purity go out the door? Or is it better to have a church where care is taken for all the details of church life and practice, even if the preaching be rather milquetoast? What's your opinion?
 

Chad Hutson

Puritan Board Freshman
And what if there were outstanding preaching but poverty in every other aspect? Is it better to have correct and forceful expository preaching while discipline, worship, oversight, and purity go out the door? Or is it better to have a church where care is taken for all the details of church life and practice, even if the preaching be rather milquetoast? What's your opinion?
Can I take a stab at this? I speak from personal experience when I say that change within a congregational system (for lack of better terminology) is sometimes necessarily a slow process. Progress should be measured in inches, not in miles. If the preacher is new to the congregation, it would be foolish to toss out everything immediately and start from scratch, unless it is obviously sinful. Over time, with sound preaching, the congregation should begin to progress toward the things you mention as positive details of church life and practice. Essentially, the congregation needs to be convinced of the necessity of these things, and often that takes time and teaching. On the other hand, I can't imagine a congregation continuing to do these vital functions of the church if the preaching/teaching doesn't reinforce their necessity. As the abundant evidence of the OT shows, the people will decline without godly instruction and example.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
If the preacher is new to the congregation, it would be foolish to toss out everything immediately and start from scratch, unless it is obviously sinful.

That should be a universal rule, not a Baptist rule. TT at Coral Ridge should be taught to every aspiring preacher as a 'how not to do it'.
 
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