4. The pulpit is abused when ungodly attitudes and temperaments are displayed by the preacher. Much too often we have attempted to excuse ungodly attitudes on the part of some preachers by explaining that “it is the message that hurts people’s feelings.” The reason that we are always tempted to explain situations like this is that this is one of the oldest tricks in the Devil’s book. In a majority of cases the message is the thing that hurt their feelings. The preacher is blamed in order to escape the inevitable alternative, the admission of guilt (Gal. 4:16).
At times, however, preachers actually do speak in tones that portray anger, contempt, resentment, bitterness, hate, and so forth. There can be no excuse for a man “flying off the handle” and losing control of his senses in the way that some do. Paul wrote to the preacher Timothy and said, “The Lord’s servant must not strive, but be gentle towards all, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness correcting them that oppose themselves; if peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:24, 25). It is therefore wrong to imply that the way we say a given thing is of no real importance. It is important to the hearer-it can convince or it can cause irreparable damage-depending upon the way we say what we say. And it is important to God. Therefore, tact should be in the vocabulary of every preacher of the truth.
5. The pulpit is abused when used for entertainment. Have you ever gone to hear a preacher and left with the impression that the only Book he knew anything about was Mr. Ha Ha’s Joke Book? Or, have you ever attended a gospel meeting where the gospel took a back seat to a series of “booga-bear” stories, used for the purpose of frightening the young into obedience to the invitation? If you have, then you know precisely what we are talking about. On such occasions many (except those who know what real preaching is like) go away saying, “What a wonderful speaker brother Silvertongue is,” instead of “What a wonderful Savior Jesus is” (1 Cor. 2:1,2), or something similar.
I think that no one would oppose the use of an occasional humorous story or illustrative anecdote. Jesus used them often in his teaching. All students of the techniques of teaching are aware that an illustration can be “the window through which you see the point.” Yet, if an illustration becomes an end within itself, instead of the means to the end of illustrating the point, then it has been carried to the extreme. Our intention as preachers is to preach the gospel (Mk. 16:15), not to entertain. We might take knowledge of the fact that even though we preachers might assume the responsibility of the comedians, they will not do our job for us. If people do not hear the gospel from those who preach, then most will probably never hear it at all; for, “how shall they hear without a preacher? ” (Rom. 10:14).
6. The pulpit is abused when used for egotistical gab and braggadocio. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he offered as his commendation of himself the “manifestation of the truth” (4:2), and his past record of faithful service in Christ’s kingdom (6:4-10). Howbeit, he only offered these so that the brethren at Corinth would have an answer for those that gloried in appearance rather than in heart (5:12). Under other circumstances humility would have forced him to be silent on such matters. Yet, every once in a while a preacher comes along chose whose work does not speak for itself, so he feels duty-bound to inform everyone as to how great he is and how magnificent his achievements have been. I remember attending a meeting held by a “big-name” liberal preacher in which the aforementioned literally overwhelmed the audience with a long list of the places that he had been and the marvelous accomplishments for which he was responsible. I hope that I was not the only one that went away that night with a sick stomach. This is an obvious abuse of the pulpit, which according to the Bible is to be used to exalt Christ and not for self-aggrandizement (Phil 2:9; 2 Cor. 10:5).