Dear Younger Preacher Me…

My 500 WordsDear Younger Preacher Me,

Remember this word: boldly.

You’ve heard it; you’ve thought it; you’ve been taught it. You must preach the Word boldly.

This is a good thing. It’s good because it’s biblical.

In Acts 4, the early church met the enemies of Christ, who threatened to persecute them if they wouldn’t stop saying that Jesus was alive and would come back again as King. So, they prayed for boldness to continue to speak the truth.

They prayed because they were afraid. They prayed because they knew Christ’s enemies would now be theirs. They prayed because they knew they were living in a world trenchantly opposed to the Son of God, a world to whom He – the King Himself – had commissioned them to speak. They could not obey him and live in safety. So, they prayed for boldness.

And God answered their prayers. He sent his Spirit in a special, powerful way, and they sallied forth to speak of Christ boldly.

We can look elsewhere in Scripture for examples of boldly, and we can find his cousins courageously, confidently, and fearlessly. (If not the words, then definitely the ideas!) Clearly, someone who would speak God’s truth must do so without apology, certain of the Gospel he believes and shares, and undaunted by any hostile criticism.

BUT

You are in grave danger of being misled.

Yours is a preaching culture where men in suits stomp across stages, punch pulpits, call names, and generally give the impression that they are angry with half the people inside the church building and all the people outside. And they are rewarded for it.

They will be given more opportunities to preach. They will be mentioned by other preachers. They will be elevated as “great men of God.” And you will admire them because they preach boldly.

And you will want to do the same. Someday you will try to do the same. And you will discover that boldness hurts. At least, that kind of boldness.

It hurts because pulpits are made out of wood, and punching them is a great way to bloody your fists! (Trust me on this one.)

It hurts because people are made out of softer stuff and will not sit long under verbal abuse. Well, most won’t. You’ll come across enough abusive relationships to realize that there are always people who can’t leave.

And you’ll have to make a choice. You’ll either start to think that your dwindling audiences are the part of the persecution that a bold preacher must face. Or you’ll think that maybe, just maybe, this isn’t what boldness is all about, that Christ’s sheep want a shepherd, not just someone to beat them with a stick. (Oh, pity those who start to love the stick!)

I really don’t care if you stomp on a stage. (But it can look a little weird. Jumping’s better.) I don’t mind if you get loud – people generally get louder when talking about things that excite them! Even anger can be properly expressed. As for punching pulpits…well, I’d rather we keep our knuckles intact.

But dear Younger Preacher Me, don’t ever confuse boldness for brutality.

It is not boldness to consign to perdition those sinners who are likely not in your audience. That is self-righteousness.

It is not boldness to demean those in the room who likely disagree with you over disputed points of doctrine, while you hold the microphone and they are too courteous to speak up. That is cowardice.

It is not boldness to use derogatory names for those who have not yet mastered a certain level of Christian discipleship. That is cruelty.

It is not boldness to vent your spleen publicly instead of working towards a biblical solution personally and privately. That is arrogance.

It is not boldness to stand before a crowd that looks to you for a word from the Lord and allow your frustrations and fear to craft a message that will be applauded (or “Amen”-ed) by those too undiscerning to know better. That is manipulation.

Speak boldly, but speak with the boldness that a politician, community organizer, rabble rouser, union boss, football coach, or shock jock cannot emulate. Speak with the boldness of the early church, the boldness that comes from knowing your Christ has conquered death and hell, the boldness that keeps you from running for the hills because the Spirit of God compels you forward, the boldness that God honors because of the truth you present rather than the manner in which you present it.

P.S. Remember that for every preacher you’ve heard mess this up, you’ve been given many excellent examples of meekness and humility, which are not in any way incompatible with boldness.

(This post is part of Jeff Goins’s 500 Word per Day Challenge)

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