“Pulpit Cowards”

Ok.  This is one of those “soap box” posts I have ever so often.  Hope it doesn’t come off too harsh…

A “pulpit coward” is a preacher who will say bold and/or demeaning things in the pulpit but not be willing to speak the same truth in love when he isn’t teaching or in the pulpit.  A pulpit coward says harsh things to God’s people who came to hear a word from God.  He tongue lashes them… beats them down… and condemns them in every imaginable way… all in the name of preaching the Gospel.  Dr. Joe Cothen, Dean and professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was the one from who I first heard the term.

The worse case of pulpit cowardice I know of personally was when a preacher had the audacity to condemn his own sister… BY NAME… who was sitting in the congregation with their mother… for getting a divorce from an emotionally abusive alcoholic husband.  His comment (While pointing his finger at her) was, “You’ve gone back on your raising!”  It’s a good thing her children weren’t present because they would have at least walked out if not confronted him during the “sermon” because that comment was in the flesh and certainly not of God.

When it comes to preaching the Gospel, the preacher had better make sure that what he says in the name of God IS actually what God gave him to say and not some pet peeve, soap box, or something he wants to get off his chest.  Consider what is written in Scripture to those who listen as God’s Word is proclaimed…

Jeremiah 23:16 Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord… 23 They have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them. I am the one who knows, and I am witness, declares the Lord.'”

Jeremiah 27:14 Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon,’ for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you. 15 I have not sent them, declares the Lord, but they are prophesying falsely in my name…

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

The point of those passages are that just because a person is speaking in the context of preaching… speaking on behalf of God… does NOT necessarily mean that they are speaking words from God Himself!  The way truth from error are discerned is found in 1 John 4:1… which applies to WHOEVER is speaking, teaching, or preaching.  It doesn’t matter if it is your preacher… a family member who is preaching… Billy Graham… or me.  TEST WHAT THEY SAY TO GOD’S WORD!  Here are some suggestions…

Is what the preacher is saying 100% consistent with what you read in the Scripture?  If it isn’t, reject it!

Are you troubled in your spirit that what you are hearing is inappropriate as coming from the pulpit?  If you are, reject what is being said.

Does the demeanor, attitude, countenance, and voice of the preacher/teacher affirm the Gospel or does it sound like a personal rant or tirade masquerading as “a word from God?”  If it is a rant, then the speaker is in the flesh and not the Spirit as he speaks.  Ignore him.

Remember this… “Knowledge puffs up, love builds up” (1 Cor 8:1b).  If you aren’t being built up in your faith then you probably should ignore what’s being said.

I read one time that the preacher should always deal gently with the sheep.  It is ethically wrong for a preacher to beat up the Bride of Christ (The Church) in the act of preaching.  The Holy Spirit is fully capable of convicting of sin as the Word is preached faithfully… in love… with patience.  He doesn’t need a preacher to yell, scream, rant and rave in order to convict anyone of sin.  As Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:1-2… 

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (Personal note: I’ve never observed anyone who is patient or speaking the truth in love who is also yelling, screaming, and condemning anyone!)

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2 comments on ““Pulpit Cowards”

  1. Searching says:

    Well said with compassion and conviction! Soli Deo Gloria! We are here to glorify God!

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