Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Counseling and Cheerleading Preaching

I’ve noticed that a trend among evangelical preaching now is to counsel from the pulpit.  No matter what the topic may be (and typically this is topical preaching), the preacher uses the pulpit to counsel the sheep.  The preacher will even do entire series’ on subjects and will use each of them to counsel the people on how to overcome their addictions, their poor self-esteem, their lack of trust in God, their poverty complex, their apathy over social ills, etc.

Counseling preaching seeks to help everyone with their problems but it ignores the major issue with people: their sins.  Further, it fails to truly teach the gospel of the finished work of Christ and point people to him.  Instead, counseling preaching points people to the preacher (as the counselor) and themselves (as they client).  They are always looking to flesh and not to Christ.  Christ is used only to “help” them.  He becomes their great helper, their divine healer.  But Christ is not exalted this way.  He is not glorified in this manner.  Who He is and what He has done is either ignored or a side issue because the main issue is helping the hurting person overcome their hurts.  I am tempted to call this, “Heal my boo boo’s” preaching.

The other type of preaching I find prominent today is cheerleading preaching.  This is camp meeting style preaching where the preacher uses phrases over and over again to get the crowd pumped up.  “Gotta get you excited so you can make it one more week as a Christian.”  The preacher speaks as if the people are on the very cliff of apostasy and he sees it as his job to get them to hang on just one more week!  So this preacher takes his text and usually has some hyped up points in there.  He usually lifts up his voice to almost a yell (like a good cheerleader would do) and tries to get the people just as excited about God as he is.  Hopefully this excitement will carry the people through just one more time before they collapse from despair.

In both cases, these type of preaching styles fail to be theological (because it would defeat their purpose) and both fail to teach the Bible.  Both would proudly say that they used the Bible and quoted often from the Bible (topical sermons have a way of doing that) but they fail to explain the Scriptures.  This is what the main goal of the Bible teacher should be: to explain the Bible.  In the process of explaining the Bible, we lift up the gospel of Christ so that both sinners (who need Christ for salvation) and disciples (who need Jesus always for salvation as well) are pointed to Christ alone.  The Bible teacher is not there to lift up themselves (topical preachers have a tendency to tell many stories about themselves I have noticed) nor to make the people of God feel good.  Our job is singular in focus: to explain the Bible.  What does the Bible mean?

This theological desert that we find among the evangelical landscape has caused many problems.  Of course the major issue is the doctrine of God is attacked.  People are creating a god in their own image these days that looks nothing like the biblical God.  Further, precious doctrines such as the person and work of Christ or the Holy Spirit are under attacked and abused.  The doctrine of the Trinity is ignored.  Precious doctrines such as justification by faith is misunderstood or summed up with “the sinner’s prayer.”  The Bible itself is challenged and there are none to defend it because who knows what it means?

Cults prey upon evangelicals as well.  The lack of doctrinal discernment leads to people not knowing what they believe or why they believe and so they fall prey to cults who give them pat answers to their theological questions about God, heaven or hell, salvation, etc.

This also leads to very poor books such as Heaven is for Real being welcomed and praised by evangelicals.  Rather than knowing what the Bible teaches about heaven, evangelicals blindly accept what a 6-year-old boy says about heaven.  Blogger Tim Challies calls this the “I Went To Heaven” books.  There are so many “I went to heaven” books out there one can hardly count.  Why is this happening?  Because people are not being taught the Word of God and people don’t know what the Bible already says about heaven so they turn to visions, dreams, angels, other religions, etc. to find out what heaven is like.

When I read the sermons of greats like the Puritans, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Spugeon, or even Arminius or Calvin I am struck by their depth of the word of God.  Their passion is to exalt Christ.  As Spurgeon famously stated, “I take my text and then make a bee line to the cross.”  Jesus is the center of Scripture.  Not us.  The entire Word of God is focused primarily on one person: the Lord Jesus Christ.  John 20:31 and 1 John 5:13 are clear: the focus is on Jesus.  Hebrews 1:1-4 speaks to this fact as well:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Christ is the One that Scripture ultimately exalts and this should be the cry of the Church as well.  After all, Jesus is the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18).  Jesus is the only one who can wash away our sins (John 14:6; Hebrews 9:27-28).  Jesus is the only one by whom we are able to pray and God hears our prayers (John 14:13-14; 1 John 5:14-15).

In closing, I know that some will read this and cry that their seeker sensitive, topical preacher does exalt Christ.  And how I might ask?  I suppose they would say that he mentions Jesus “a lot!” and that Jesus is always presented as our friend and the one that we are to trust in for salvation.  I am thankful that Jesus is spoken of as our Savior but the reality is that He is more than that!  He is Lord and God (John 20:28).  The depths of who He is is not explored.  One need only read the works of Stephen Charnock to see that the modern church is largely lacking in exploring the depths of the God’s Word about Christ nor are we truly explaining what Scripture means to people.  In the end, we are failing to exalt Christ.  May the Lord change this for His glory.


3 Responses

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  1. As I head to the pulpit this morning to preach/teach from Romans 6:1-14 in our series on Romans…I was so encouraged with your post. Be blessed my friend.

    Mike Bayer

    05/04/2014 at 12:53 PM

  2. I’m in total agreement….Couldn’t have said it better myself….I grieve over what I see in churches today….What’s sad is that most see the current trends in “doing church” as an advancement in ministry.


    05/04/2014 at 2:58 PM

  3. The point of my preaching is to teach people how to use the Word, to give them the scope of context and to continually pound into their head the importance of finding out what the Word means when it says things. I heard once, “The job of a teacher is to eventually not be needed any more.” As much as that seems terrifying to the pay check, I believe there is truth there. Too many applications merely seve to keep people from thinking. Since they were told what to do with it, they won’t actually think about what to do with it.


    05/06/2014 at 10:46 AM

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