Mar 7, 2011

Populist and felt-need preaching

“I really would like to enhance my marriage,” the church member said. “Pastor, that’s what your next sermon series should be about.”

“You know, that’s a good idea,” the pastor replied. “I’ve been reading a lot of books about the modern relationship and it would be a good opportunity to develop sermons around that.”

If you attend a church where a conversation similar to this is common, then I suggest you seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance to determine if that church is where God wants you.

Many churches today have filled their pews and enlarged their budgets by preaching and teaching based on the members’ felt needs or a popular issue. Though preaching to felt needs will make a pastor popular, it weakens the spiritual life of his flock.

Fellow blogger George Cannon puts it this way in a recent posting at West Branch Ramblings.
Populist preaching keeps people shallow in their faith. They can quote their preacher’s position. But there usually is no depth beyond the popular issue of the day. Populist preaching solidifies biblical ignorance. There is no need to exercise their faith, since the preacher is fighting “the fight for the Kingdom.” Also the listener tends to confuse the work of the gospel with the work of the populist message. Populism is popular. But the minister of gospel needs to recognize that our message is not one that is popular. In fact, populist preaching is a sign of the coming apostasy.
I was a member and teacher in a church just like this and I’ve personally witnessed the devastation preaching to felt needs can cause. When questioned about it, the lead pastor became defensive and suggested I leave the church.

At first, I thought I must have missed the point in American church history when preachers felt their job was to entertain and give the people what they want instead of what God wants to give them. However, I realize that this is nothing new and the Apostle Paul was cautioning against this kind of thing when he wrote to Timothy.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Tim. 4:3-4)
As George Cannon mentioned, this kind of thing will only grow as we draw ever closer to His coming.

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