The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart…
Recently, a woman told me that when she was a child, her family belonged to a church in which the pastor constantly preached about sin and evil. He constantly berated his own congregation until the sweat dripped off the tip of his nose. Evidently, this experience still troubled her, even though she changed churches as soon as she was old enough. In the same week, I received electronic mail from a pastor in a distant state who was unsettled by his colleagues whose preaching technique is to frighten their congregation by finding the devil everywhere. And then a third person asked me the same question.
I have three insights about this:
- Jesus commissioned His followers to preach good news to everyone (Mark 16:15).
- The Greek word translated ‘gospel’ means ‘good news.’ Therefore, whoever preaches nothing but bad news is not preaching the gospel and did not receive a commission from our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Preaching nothing but bad news is a great way to cull your flock.
- The mature Christians will discern my first insight and will leave. The congregation that remains will be paranoid and insecure, they will have the mindset of an embattled minority. These are not fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-23). Those who are fearful do not know the love of God, because perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). If they were confident of God’s providence, they would not fear the world.
- As Jesus said, what comes out of a man’s mouth is what he has in his own heart.
- People who preach nothing but hellfire and brimstone must do so because they have never experienced the grace and love of God. They condemn others, because they aren’t so sure about themselves, and they want to make sure that someone else is worse off so that they will make the cut. As if God grades on a curve.
Fire and brimstone is a valid sermon topic, but not for every sermon all the time! So if you are troubled by a fire-breathing pastor, have pity on him. Reach out to him in his need, or if you are not equal to the task, find another church. In any case, pray for him to experience God’s grace and love.