Christianity,  Preaching,  Reflection

Traumatic Listening Experience

Traumatic Preaching is Often Fiery in the Wrong Sense

It is often something that is not talked about publicly, but something that is frequently talked, whispered in private – that there is something disturbing in certain types of preaching. Coming from a conservative, evangelical, Reformed Christian persuasion there are things that are plainly obvious but are considered taboo to be talked about (at least openly). Simply: some preachings are dangerous to the listeners. Having time to step back from the activity of preaching, it is more plain to me now that certain types of preaching should be avoided at all cost and not indulged in – particularly if it is a weekly dose of.

In my previous posts, I have touched on the content of preaching – how poor content can truly spiritually weaken a believer and listener by allowing the person to stagnate and worse, to be worldly. The preoccupation of worldliness is but an inward reflection of the heart’s spiritual condition. This is discernible only by the Spirit using the instrumentality of the Word (which the Spirit inspired). Sadly, in conservative circles – particularly in Asian churches that are more strict in ‘conformity’ and ‘authority’ – this sort of action is performed quite often by the preacher.

Thus, you do get (I kid you not) preachers who would dare to point the finger to the sin of someone in the congregation without actually pointing them out! Of course, this is partly a type of ‘defense’ that the preacher can disclaim if they are called out on abusing the pulpit – but the actual effect of being under such ‘thundering’ preaching is traumatic for the listener especially when it is done weekly. Warnings are often given in the Scriptures, especially in the Old Testament, but such pointing of finger to a particular group of people who does this and that is just a tactic to ‘speak out’ against a person(s) without having to take the person aside to explain and rebuke the person(s)’s alleged wrong doing. Doubly sad is the prevalent notion that such preachers are likened to the Old Testament “man of God” – thus giving them the ‘unbiblical’ warrant of doing what no New Testament preacher ever did in Scriptures. This sort of preaching matches the attitude of the Pharisees, who were very quick to accuse and question the actions and motives of the Lord Jesus (as reflected in the Gospels). As a slight digression – the term “man of God” is often abused and misused in conservative circles, but it is made plain in Scriptures – see 2 Timothy 3:17, where the man of God obviously refers to the Christian believer (in the context of the chapter) and not to Timothy the preacher.

The second type of preaching is those that maintain an aggressive style. Not only in raising the voice, but in actually shouting at the audience. I get that many would call this “passionate” preaching, but this is an emotive style – often to provoke the listeners to “dare” challenge what they are saying! Why? Because they believe that they have taken on themselves the “righteous anger of God”. That is what the audience believe – those who can tolerate such aggressive style week by week. In order to not be affected, the listeners must be part of the preacher’s gang – so that their conscience are not affected. “This is not about me – it is about that person or this person”. This is exactly how cultish behaviours are grown. In some of the famous preachers who employ such styles, you can almost always here some in the congregation giving their affirmations “yes, sir”, “amen” – because they see themselves as part of the support group for such preachers. Let the preacher “get ‘im” – he is “our” preacher. Notice that the Lord Jesus did not preach that way. The apostle Paul was ridiculed for his simple, quiet mannerism – in contrast to the more eloquent and if you want to speculate, flamboyant, preaching style of the other ‘super preachers’.

Finally, you have the repetitive preacher who uses their aggressive preaching style to hide behind poor sermon preparation. I admit, there are many preachers who are not gifted in oration. Some who are not, try to compensate by picking up a technique or a trade trick. This may come to the dressing or the equipment that they use on stage. But these problems pale in comparison to the ‘lazy’ preacher who leans on their experience to preach. They serve up spiritual food that is lacking in balance, substance and “freshness”. The latter word is the relevance or application of God’s Word to the listener. If we believe that God is real and His Spirit indwells believers, His Word when properly explained is clear in how it is to be practised and used in daily living. Unfortunately, the lazy preacher begins to use the messages as a sounding board for his opinions or his ‘mission’ or ‘vision’ – not God, but his own. Carefully meditation and understanding of God’s Word will help one discern between a preacher’s words and God’s Word. God’s Word is full of diversity and unity – united in the common theme, but diverse in all aspects of life – because life IS complicated. The preacher that rehashes the same things over and over again apart from the emphasis of Scriptures is self-serving. Plainly, this is brainwashing. And it happens a lot because many like to put themselves into a man-made system, because they stand to ‘circumvent’ this system to make it their own, and they like the affirmation given by others.

I am so soothed by the plain preaching of Scriptures nowadays. Those who prioritise God’s Word first over man’s. God’s Spirit does wonders when His Word is made plain. Preaching that is true comforts believers, affirms their position in Christ while challenging them to be set apart for Christ. Such preaching is foolish in the eyes of the unbelieving but precious and useful in God’s Almighty hand. Trauma-inducing preaching may cause momentary fear and action, but that momentum can never be sustained – because it is only sustained by fear. And to a conscience-battered, brainwashed person – everything is fearful! No more of these traumatic preaching experiences – go get some eternally memorable experiences that bring the heart to glorify God because of His great love!

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