Anytime someone steps up in front of a group of people to speak, there is a certain sense of authority and gravitas given to that person. In the case of someone who is stepping up to present the Word of God to a group of people that sense of authority is even higher.
Preachers, ministers, pastors, teachers of God’s Word all have a huge responsibility to present truth as unbiased and straight forward as possible.
I have been speaking in this manner for about 25 years. Assuredly, I have said things that were incorrect and things I would like to “take back” and present differently. We all grow and learn and mature in our ability, knowledge and theological understanding. So I am in no means sitting in a position of innocence or judgement of others.
One of the most dangerous things a preacher can do is one of the most common things that is done. This thing is repeating what others have said without weighing it against scripture and really knowing what it is that is being communicated.
Having grown up in church and as an adult attending conferences, meetings, and listening to podcasts, I have heard thousands of sermons from hundreds of preachers. In all of those I have picked up sayings, ideas, thoughts, and nuances that have found their way into my sermons as well. I have come to realize the importance, the weighty responsibility to make sure that what I say is as true and accurate as can possibly be. I cannot just simply say something because others have.
Recently, I was at a large gathering of primarily teenagers. It was a great event with powerful music and students seeking God.
The preacher got up to speak and started with a statement that just set a wrong tone because it is not true. Now, I know the pressure of speaking to a large group and the desire to connect and be memorable. I also know that in a moment like that one can say something they do not actually mean to say in the way it comes across. I give this speaker the benefit of the doubt and do not think he believes to be true what was said and it’s ramifications. The problem is, it’s not the first time I have heard it. In fact, I have heard it many times. Most of those instances were said in the context of a large gathering of youth. Somewhere along the way, this was said and then it got repeated over and over again until it has become a part of the lexicon of youth speakers.
While I am not going to breakdown the statement in this post, I will quote it and give a very brief reason it should not be used anymore. The statement is this:
“You are here tonight, not because your youth pastor invited you, not because someone made you come, not even because you chose to be here, but because God, in His sovereignty, made sure you are here tonight to fulfill His purpose in you.”
There was more, but this is the essence. On the outset, this sounds good and right. The problem is it is actually a doctrine called “pre-destination” that removes free-will from the equation in our walk with God. I think the speaker was trying to highlight the purpose of God and His will for each one in the room, but He stated something that is not true in that attempt. Again, I have heard it said many times before, so he is not at all the first to do so.
As these kinds of statements build up in our minds and messages, they build up in the minds and hearts of the next generation and we end up with a lot of bad theology floating around.
It is so important that we say things because we believe them to be true based on God’s Word, not just because we have heard them said by others. This is true whether we are speaking to thousands or leading a small group.