Polite preaching. What is it and where do you find it?
Answers: 1. Polite preaching is feckless, boring, creating somnolent congregations. It is best exemplified by ministers who are afraid of telling their congregations they are sinners, that hell exists, and of a God who has provided a way of salvation through Jesus Christ and his bloody cross, apart from dead works.
2. The answer to the second part of the question — you find it nearly everywhere.
So what should our response be to “polite preaching?” Our response should be to look at the preaching and teaching of Jesus Christ, his apostles, as well as the Old Testament prophets. They loved God’s people enough to tell them the truth. No one spoke of hell more than the Son of God. In the Old Testament the Prophet Jeremiah, speaking for God, thundered,“They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14, ESV)
Again, in Jeremiah 5:30, we read, “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?” (ESV)
Indeed, in this passage both God’s professing people, as well as the shepherds of the flock, will be held accountable. Certainly, by God’s grace, this gives all of us something to cogitate upon. Revivalist Rowland Hill (d.1833) wrote, “ … timid preaching leaves poor souls asleep; bold preaching is the only preaching that is owned of God.” Reformer Johannes Oecolampadious (d.1531) asked, “How much more would a few good and fervent men effect in the ministry than a multitude of lukewarm ones?” And in more recent times A.W. Tozer (d.1963) insisted that “We who preach the Gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good-will between Christ and the world. We are not diplomats but prophets, and out message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.”
Dear reader, let the word of God be your guide in this matter: as the Apostle Paul charged the young Timothy, “ … preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4, ESV)
Christianson serves as pastor at Grace Reformed Church in Clarkston.