Don't Pick a Fight

by Mike Benson
boxing_gloves1.jpgSome of my preaching brethren seem, dare I say it, “eager” to pick a fight. Virtually every sermon that emanates from their pulpit is an attempt to expose falsehood, refute error, or uncover a deceptive wolf among the sheep.
Folks in the assembly are taught implicitly, “If you’ll just open your little brain and listen to me, you’ll see what an incredible blunder you have made and then repent.” The preachers may not intend to sound harsh and intellectually superior, but they do. It’s as if they’re saying, “I’m right, your wrong, and I’m tickled.”
It has always been confusing to me how teaching false doctrine is wrong, and it is (Matthew 7:15; 2 Peter 2:2), but practicing false doctrine is not only permitted, but endorsed.
Brethren, we can’t tell saints in the pew that we ought to be loving and kind (Ephesians 4:31), but then sound anything but loving and kind in our delivery.
Paul said, “But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). The phrase, “in love,” addresses how preachers are to communicate; it has to do with the manner in which they attitudinally deliver the Word. They can’t argue, force, coerce, or browbeat people to cherish, love and obey the Lord.
On another occasion Paul wrote:

“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil…” (2 Timothy 2:24-26a).

Watch it–“must not quarrel…” The Greek word here means to fight. It was used of armed combatants, or those who engaged in hand-to-hand struggle. Gospel preachers aren’t to be argumentative and hostile, but gentle, patient, and humble because they deeply love people and their souls.
Sometimes preachers will say, “We’re going to tell you this because we love you, even though it will hurt.” It is true that truth sometimes hurts.
When a Christian is told that he is endorsing fallacious views, it hurts him. When he is told that he is living in a sinful relationship, that hurts him. When he is told that his life is not in harmony with the revealed will of God because he is not serving and using his God-given talents, it hurts him.
But what is said from the pulpit ought to prick his conscience because of the content of the message and not because of the contentious, cantankerous spirit of the messenger.
Are preachers to be bold?Yes (2 Corinthians 3:12; 10:1). Are preachers to compromise the truth in order to placate certain hearers? Absolutely not (Galatians 4:16). Are preachers to preach doctrine? A thousand times, yes (Romans 16:17; 1 Timothy 1:3)! Are preachers to defend the gospel? They better (Romans 1:16). Should preachers ever expose false doctrine and warn fellow saints about smooth-talking, articulate false prophets in and out of the church who draw souls into perdition? Yes!
In fact, they have an obligation to inform and warn (Ezekiel 33:1-7; 1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 2:17). But when people come to the assembly and constantly feel as though they have been emotionally skinned-alive, horse-whipped, or “knocked to the mat,” it probably says more about the how of the messenger than the what of the message.

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Mike Benson

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5 thoughts on “Don't Pick a Fight

  1. This has been the story of my religious life. I could tell first hand of specific events that have chased people away from the Lord because they were hurting and acting “weird” – even sinning – and rather than going to the wounded soul in gentleness and humility, the intervention was more along the lines of, “You’d better straighten up or you’re going to hell.” My wife calls it “shooting our wounded.”
    I am now the minister of a small church in the South. We are growing, and are known in the area as a truly loving and kind group, folks who actually love each other and whoever we may run across. Let me ask those who disagree with Mr. Benson, “When was the last time you converted an atheist to Christ?” It can be done, we are doing it, and harshness is not part of the recipe.

  2. Having been there (as one of those preachers), I have now refused to be associated with them at all. As I swung, I made it a point to stop where the Lord did! ETSOP did me a lot of good as a student. Because of men like David Pharr, I have a better sense of the way to approach.

  3. Absolutely right, brother. Isn’t this the error of Ephesus? They were really good at pointing out error, but had left their first love. But preachers like pointing out error because the brethren often feel better when the preacher is pointing out the shortcomings of others while their lives go unchallenged and important things are untaught.

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