Bleaching: when bloggers and preaching collide to make a mess

Reading blogs can be hazardous to your health. It is what we will call “bleaching.”
If you preach every week like I do then I will guess, like me, you are always thinking about your next sermon. It’s as if I’m constantly sifting through the minutia of the next text and how I will preach such wonderful truth through such an earthen means (2 Cor. 4:7). I also take note of how others preach because I’m not only a preacher but a student of preaching and therefore I have volumes to learn in this regard.

As I have read a few blogs about or by preachers this morning there are two issues in the forefront of my mind that cause me to tremble in my loafers. Both can be summarized by the axiom, “it’s not only important what you say but how you say it.” The inflicting wounds are from two different spectrums however both end in the same cesspool of unbiblical logic.

One perspective says, “Lord I thank you that I’m not like…” which is the mantra of the legalist who critiques everyone else’s theology yet trips over his own “system” all the while failing to deal with what Scripture actually says. I read one blog this morning that almost (unintentionally I’m sure) quoted Luke 18:11 verbatim in a positive light while waxing eloquent on things eschatological. It seems that some would rather turn the serious discipline of systematic theology into a sensational circus of caricature and ad hominem argumentation. This sort of thing may increase blog stats and gain the approval of the masses who fail to read Scripture for themselves but it’s not the sort of thing pastors should waste their precious time with. As a result, we pastors have fostered a generation of good theology book readers who can’t find their “good theology” in the only book that matters. Could this be because pastors have made their exegesis slaves to their theology?

At the other end of the spectrum are the self-titled “progressives” that would have you believe they have thrown off the shackles of conservative theology but have not yet jumped from the cliffs of theological liberalism. They are all the more “wise” because they are not bound to anything in particular and therefore remain, from their perspective, in the best position of fostering “conversation”. However, just try to question their logic and you will see the fangs come out. The phrase “TR” (a derisive term meaning “truly reformed”) will get thrown around like fur in a cat fight.

By way of example, I am amazed that some would take a Christian brother to task because he pointed out the fact that some preachers have failed to guard their language in the pulpit. When did we reach such a state of biblical ineptitude that we would think that the Apostle had his fingers crossed behind his back when he said things like, “we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by manifestation of truth….” or when Jesus said “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks”?

I have listened to what both sides have to say about this issue and the question that plagues me is this: why are good men wasting their time defending the use of vulgar language and coarse jesting in the pulpit? Do they really have such a low view of their congregation that the only way they can get them to swallow a vitamin is to wrap it in bacon? I have done my duty, I have listened, I have embraced “conversation” and yet I fail to see their point. So I close with this fitting reminder from Richard Baxter,

“You cannot break men’s hearts by jesting with them, or telling them a smooth tale, or pronouncing a gaudy oration. Men will not cast away their dearest pleasures at the drowsy request of one that seemth not to mean as he speaks, or to care much whether his request be granted or not. If you say that the work is God’s, and he may do it by the weakest means, I answer, It is true, he may do so; but yet his ordinary way is to work by means, and to make not only the matter that is preached, but also the manner of preaching instrumental to the work” (The Reformed Pastor, 149).

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Just wanted you all to know I appreciate your blog. I am in the DMin in Expository Preaching program at Southern. Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks for the kind comments. I hear wonderful things about the program at SBTS. A few of us here are in a similar program at Master’s Seminary. Blessings to you.

  3. Posted by Caleb on October 25, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    I would love to pursue a DMin at SBTS. I have now met a few of the professors when they visited our church (to speak) and have been very blessed. Dr. Nettles and Dr. Sills are great guys. I am glad Dr. Scott is now only 2 hours away from me as well (though it was a big loss to TMC and TMS). Andrea and I were able to have lunch with Stuart and Zondra after the conference.

    Paul- I am thankful for your hard work to keep this site going as well.

  4. You asked:

    “I have listened to what both sides have to say about this issue and the question that plagues me is this: why are good men wasting their time defending the use of vulgar language and coarse jesting in the pulpit?”

    I’ve been asking the very same question for the last 2 years or so (as have many others), and the answers don’t make any more sense than the idea that professing believers would defend vulgar language.

    Maybe you’ll get a more sensible answer than the rest of us have been getting?

  5. Guess I should have read the comments instead of the post. I suppose I didn’t get excited about it because there is really nothing new under the sun. As a kid in the mid 70’s I remember hearing a camp meeting preacher (he was not typical of the preachers) whose delivery of truth was like eating steak out of a garbage can. But then we live in a day when most people watching TV and movies and reading popular novels think that is the way life is supposed to sound. Good taste has gone the way of thank you notes. Obviously, I can’t judge people’s motives but that doesn’t mean there is nothing wrong with what they are doing. Maybe if the Bible didn’t say anything about the tongue, one could let such things slide but it obviously does make a difference how we say what we say.

  6. Paul

    I listen to John MacArthur on TV (would you believe) the last two weeks. He cuts to the purpose of preaching. He sounds just like he does on tape. He sounds just like he does when I hear him in person. He sounds like he preached thirty years ago.

    Liston to your first sermon and your last, sermons you preached in your church, sermons you preached on Radio, sermons you preached in a Fellowship Meeting. Do they sound the same?

    Preaching/Teaching of the Bible should not take in view where you preach, but in view you are trying to explain God’s thoughts to mankind.

    I preached before blogging, before Internet, good grief before WWW. I am not sure how I would do now if I allowed all these media stuff to influence my study and view of the Word.

    The quote from Richard Baxter gets to the heart of the issue. Thanks

  7. This entry is spot on target. So many pastors (especially Reformed pastors) defend Christian liberty to the point of ignoring the weaker brother. this happens with language all the time. But if we are to avoid even the appearance of evil, then we must guard our language. It is all a question of knowing our audience. For instance, one sermon a while back, I used the word “darn” in a sermon. I grew up thinking that that word was not a curse word. Well, where I am in North Dakota, people think of that word as a curse word. So I have to be careful to avoid that word, since it bothers some in my congregation. The pastor is not supposed to undermine people’s faith, but rather build them up.

  8. Breaking Hearts

    I came across this excellent quote from Richard Baxter over on Expository Thoughts “You cannot break men’s hearts by jesting with them, or telling them a smooth tale, or pronouncing a gaudy oration. Men will not cast away their dearest…

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