So I started the first of the 7 Books for the Summer of ’17. I’m thirty-five pages into Dr. Steven J. Lawson’s The Kind of Preaching God Blesses, and just had to stop, drop, and share this exemplary excerpt with you. It is a story from Lawson. He tells of “a most diabolical strategy.” One that can be found, I fear, in many of today’s pulpits.1
Years ago, Donald Grey Barnhouse, pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, delivered a message that aired on CBS radio. In this nationwide address, the noted Bible teacher speculated about what would be the most diabolical strategy that Satan could conspire against the church in the years to come.
To the astonishment of many listeners, Barnhouse imagined that all of the bars in Philadelphia would be closed. Prostitutes would no longer walk the streets. Pornography would no longer be available. The streets would be clean, and all the city neighborhoods would be filled with law-abiding citizens. All swearing and cursing would be gone. Children would respectfully say, “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am.” Every church in town, Barnhouse added, would be packed to overflowing. There would not be one church pew that could contain one more citizen.
What, you ask, could be wrong with this? Barnhouse then delivered the knockout punch. The deadliest, most diabolical danger, he said, would be that in each of these filled-to-capacity sanctuaries, Jesus Christ would never be preached. In these pulpits, there would be much religious talk, but nothing said of the supreme authority and saving work of Christ upon the cross. There would be mention of morality, but no Christ. There would be expressions of cultural concern and political commentary, but no Christ. There would be positive thinking and inspirational stories, but no Christ. There would be the external trappings of Christianity, but no internal reality of Christ.
The most diabolical ploy of Satan would be for churches to be bulging at their seams, but no proclamation of Christ and Him crucified. With this deadly silence, people would never learn of Christ. Thus, they could never know or follow Him.
What Barnhouse feared has, in large measure, come to pass in our present day. In countless houses of worship across this nation and around the globe, there is much preaching. But the truth is that there is little proclamation of Christ. There is much empty rhetoric, but little reality of the suffering Savior. These churches preach everything except Christ Himself. Tragically, too many churches and pulpits have everything except the main thing.
It bears repeating. Read this part again:
[T]here is much preaching. But the truth is that there is little proclamation of Christ. There is much empty rhetoric, but little reality of the suffering Savior… Tragically, too many churches and pulpits have everything except the main thing.
Pastors, may this serve as our reminder to preach Christ. Every. Single. Time. Lawson deftly describes the reality that is faced by many in the pew on Sunday mornings:
The problem today is not the scarcity of preaching. No, the issue lies with the utter bankruptcy of so much that passes for preaching today.
He’s right, preaching everything except Christ is not really preaching. It’s an empty rhetoric.