What % of pastors preach down to people or use guilt motivation? This question comes from my coaching and mentoring practice. It is not unusual for people to leave a church service “beaten up” or “beaten down” depending on the verbiage of the client. Why do preachers preach this way? Where does it come from? Is it from their insecurities, a faulty Holy Spirit theology, a moral twist in their character or somewhere else? I do not see Jesus or the Apostles preaching that way but it seems this is a style for some preachers.
Why is this so? I posted this question recently (3/12/15) on social media. Because of the feedback I received, this is an expanded treatment of that question.
It is well known that negative preaching is some of the easiest preaching. Preachers who are unprepared or unlearned often default to negative, judgmental, and legalistic preaching when they have nothing else to say. However, there could be more in the mix here. Let’s consider some options.
The preacher is insecure: Insecure preachers hide behind a mask. In their fear of being found out, they preach down to others to lift-up themselves.
The preacher is unprepared: The man may be unprepared due to all the plates he is spinning or laziness. Preachers who are unprepared may go negative, preaching louder and louder, to cover up the lack of real substance.
A faulty Holy Spirit theology: Rather than preaching the truth with clarity and passion while giving the Holy Spirit space and time to bring illumination and conviction, some preachers see their role of doing the correcting themselves. When they do not see an immediate response to their messages, guilt motivation is the default card they play. This is sometimes described as “beating the sheep.” I recall Jesus telling us to feed sheep. I do not recall Him tell us to beat the sheep.
A moral twist in their character: One of the indicators of a moral twist in a person is they have an argumentative spirit. A moral twist in a preacher leads quite naturally to negative and judgmental preaching. Many years ago, a well-known preacher preached harder and louder against all the immorality in our land. Later, he was exposed as being deeply involved in the very immorality he preached against.
Performance-based acceptance: We see this in the world but we do not need it in the church. Performance based acceptance says, “You do what I say and I like you. You do not do what I say and I do not like you.” Most church attenders want to like their pastor and want their pastor to like them. Many parishioners will conform to the style and the demands of the preacher because if they do not, he may not speak to them or visit them when they are in the hospital.
Praise God for the godly men who hold the torch high everyday. Praise God for those who study to show themselves approved unto God, as workmen who need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. May we always strive to preach the truth without any mixture of error. Some topics are difficult to address. We are passionate about many things. However, may we remember, the enemy is not sitting out there in the pew. He is the prince and the power of the air. Let’s feed sheep, not beat sheep.
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