When to tell a pastor he made a mistake in a sermon

Status
Not open for further replies.

Caroline

Puritan Board Sophomore
So any thought about where the line is for telling a pastor he made a mistake in his sermon? And I mean actual mistakes, not something like, "I think he should have talked more about this subject" or "I disagreed with his interpretation," but just actual factual mistakes--the sort anyone can make when they speak in public often, but hope they don't. (And as a former teacher, I am very much aware of the pain of making mistakes in public, of which I have made a few myself, and probably more than I even know about.)

On the whole, I tend to lean toward, "If I would want someone to tell me, I should tell him." And so sometimes I let things go because they were insignificant. And sometimes I say to a pastor, "Uhhhhh, just so you know, you got your biochemistry mixed up a bit in that science illustration. Not that it is important, but just so in the future you can give a slightly better informed rant on that subject," or "You know, technically, the Bible doesn't say that Noah's neighbors laughed at him. I know everybody says that is in the Bible, but it isn't. I mean, maybe they did laugh at Noah, but there's really no way to know for sure. It might be better to state that more hypothetically in case some people like me are really obnoxiously nitpicky that way. Your point was still valid and all, but just sayin'."

My own pastor never takes that badly, and in fact, his major complaint is that I too often do not tell him if he makes a mistake (if I don't deem it significant enough to mention), and how can he correct it when nobody tells him?

On the other hand, sometimes when I have noted something small to a pastor (even just to ask for clarification), it was met with extreme defensiveness, even if it was meant helpfully, as in, "Your point was good, but you might think about changing your wording here, because I do not think that word means what you think it means, my friend." And he responds, "Why are people always picking on me?" or something to that effect. So I've grown hesitant about offering Helpful Suggestions to pastors who are not confident enough of my esteem to take suggestions as helpful. I generally only mention anything if the pastor in question is a personal friend, and otherwise I consider it outside the realm of Things That Are My Business (unless it is posted somewhere like an internet forum that invites suggestions and comments.)

The current dilemma is this: Suppose you hear a pastor repeat a slanderous lie from the pulpit as a sermon illustration... something that you think he believes to be true, but you know to be false, and could easily have been established to be false if he had simply looked it up? This is not a reference to my own pastor. In fact, I will say emphatically it is NOT my pastor, and therein lies the problem--if it were my pastor, I'd just say, "Hey, uuuuhhhhh.... *ahem* You might want to Google before you sermon-illustrate, because that accusation you made against that guy may not have been as true as one might have hoped. And ... well, bearing false witness and all. It's kind of important."

But what if it is a guy that you really don't know? I'm caught between thinking that with the stricter judgment on pastors, it is really a favor to tell them when they lie from the pulpit even inadvertently, and thinking that on other hand, if it was an honest mistake, it's probably better not to go about punching pastors for Failure to Google.

So I just wonder.... if you are a pastor, would you want someone to tell you? Or if you are a parishioner, would you tell someone? And more generally, when is it helpful and when is it just nitpicky and annoying?

PS Years ago, I heard a pastor (again, NOT my pastor, who finds this story hilarious) inform his flock that "my yoke is easy and my burden is light" was referring to an egg yolk, as in "God is like a good egg". It was at that moment that I became convinced that some pastors, despite their best intentions, needed some helpful information to make sure that they did not hurt themselves. Most errors are not that painful, but it is somewhat common that some mistakes are made here and there. I understand that and I don't mean to be excessively judgmental. In that sense, my intention is to help, not to tear the poor guy down. Preaching is a tough job.
 
Last edited:

Vladimir

Puritan Board Freshman
I just heard a sermon the other day from Paul Washer. Quote:
You owe it to the pastor to go and say that you disagree. Not so that we could explain it to you why you are wrong, but because we really may be in err. I want to learn. I want to grow. And every elder of this church feels the same way.

I think he is right. Many times I would not come up to the preacher and say something just because I did not want to bother them. But that is a problem, since ultimately I am putting my comfort above a possibility for either one of us to correct one another and maybe help us grow in kindness, gentleness, goodness and self-control. After all, 1 Timothy 3:2-3 says that the pastor
... must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome.
That's a man who would take well to criticism.

To sum up, I would say go and be annoying. A brother once told me that there was a time when he used to make a list of things he thought were wrong with the sermon, walk up to the pastor and start criticizing. In the end, he said, there were some corrections to the pastors' preaching and a lot of corrections to the brother's attitude. Win, win.

PS. You make great use of capital letters :) Reminds me of Terry Pratchett.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
Could you just send him an email with the proper documentation? As in, "Hi, you said X in your sermon, and it sounds plausible and sometimes I hear people saying it, but take a look at the documentation at this site. I know you want to be accurate in your speaking." The good news is that if he's not your pastor, it doesn't matter too much if he gets mad at you, but he and his congregation benefit if he takes it well. Win-win.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
Last week, my pastor made a comment from the pulpit that went something like, "We don't know if any of the Pharisees, other than Paul, ever become followers of Jesus. The Bible just doesn't tell us about any." Well, my mind went immediately to Nicodemus, who defended Jesus in the Council and helped bury his body. Sounds like a true follower. My pastor had either made the comment without considering Nicodemus, or has not read the book of John closely enough to realize Nicodemus was a Pharisee who believed and to have that stick.

Do I say something afterwards? I chose not to, for the following reasons:
- I know my pastor. Like me, he easily gets too wrapped up in critiques, whether positive ones or negative ones. Once a sermon is over, it's generally healthier for him to move on to the next one rather than mull over the previous one.
- I know myself. I too easily like to show off my superior Bible knowledge and insight. No matter how humbly I approached him, there'd be a little bit of showing off in my comments... and that wouldn't be good for either of us. Better for me to know something my pastor doesn't, yet not feel compelled to tell him.
- I know my relationship with my pastor. One thing about it is that what I say to him generally carries some weight. I need to save even slightly critical comments for when they're really necessary, lest I burden him with too much of that. And I generally need more often to show him not how he failed to pastor me well or preach to me well, but rather how he succeeded at preaching to me well. This is good for both of us.
- The comment wasn't likely to be repeated, so the correction wasn't all that necessary.
- The comment wasn't a theological error.

If I and my pastor and our relationship were different, I might have chosen differently. I think the strengths and sins of the pastor and the corrector enter in to the decision... as does the nature and seriousness of the mistake.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
Some things I'd consider: What is the level of the error? Is it a more harmless mistake of forgetfulness, mispronounciation, or a simple mix-up? Or is it a serious error that actually affects doctrine, theology, etc? Next, I'd want to examine myself - do I desire to correct this man to build myself up?; i.e. "look how wise I am!" or do I sincerely desire to build up my brother and correct a potentially damaging error. Lastly, how can I bring this up respectfully and lovingly?
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
If it's a matter involving a false accusation, then I think yes, it does seem important to offer correct information. Christians are supposed to be scrupulous about not taking up false reproaches: it is one of the distinguishing marks of those who are able to dwell in the church (Psalm 15, etc).
 

Caroline

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thanks. It is a struggle for me to know what to do, Andrew, because even if a mistake is harmless, it can still be harmful in making the pastor look like a fool in the eyes of others. For me, that is part of the question even in minor things--does this make him look stupid? Because if so, maybe somebody ought to gently tell him. It is kind of like if you see him wearing his pants backward, and you think, "I should let him know before somebody snaps a photo and puts that on the internet." So for me at least, there is a protective element to it. I tend to think of it like, "Okay, man, let's not give ammunition to your critics, right? If they are going to hang you, let it be for a good reason, not because you made a silly mistake."

I generally don't say anything if I thought it was truly a one-time thing (as when a pastor said 'a breezed rude he will not break' instead of a 'a bruised reed'--which was obviously just getting words tangled up), but I guess I don't tend to take Jack's perspective that things are likely to be one-time if they are real mistakes. If he finds it a handy illustration, a pastor might say it ten times, fifteen times, in counseling, in sermons, at Presbytery, etc--who knows? At could end up being really awkward.

I'm actually much more hesitant about correcting theological errors, because I think it's less likely that a pastor would make one, and I have to ask myself first whether I'm the one mistaken. It's entirely plausible that a pastor messed up a sermon illustration about biochemistry (which is not his strong point), but not likely he is going to mess up an explanation of sanctification. And I can't even think of a time that I went up against my pastor on something like that and won. His understanding of theology is far superior to mine, and theological debates are heavily one-sided, with me mostly saying, "Ah, yes, I see now. That is an excellent point." But if a pastor gives an excellent sermon with his pants on backward (so to speak), no one is likely to be listening to the sermon, and so hence the agony of trying to decide what is important/ distracting/ etc enough to mention.

The element of slander in this mistake is disturbing, and as Heidi noted, false reproach is a serious matter. Perhaps something ought to be said for that sake, even though I'm still convinced it was an honest mistake.
 

reaganmarsh

Puritan Board Senior
Speaking as a pastor, I would want to know. I try to check my illustrations for factual integrity beforehand, but on a couple of occasions, I have found afterward that the source wasn't reputable, or the story I read was more biased than I realized. A couple of church members have gently brought these to my attention a couple of days later. One time, I was completely unaware; and the other time, I had realized my error on Monday morning as that particular news story developed further. Both times I was grateful to the folks for their kindness to me in wanting to help me. They spoke to me in gentleness, love, and humility, and also encouraged me with how the rest of the sermon had instructed and aided them in loving Christ. I publicly corrected my error before preaching the following week, so that I would not be guilty of ongoing deception (though it was unintentional). I have to say that I appreciated them coming to me.
 

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
Last week, my pastor made a comment from the pulpit that went something like, "We don't know if any of the Pharisees, other than Paul, ever become followers of Jesus. The Bible just doesn't tell us about any." Well, my mind went immediately to Nicodemus, who defended Jesus in the Council and helped bury his body. Sounds like a true follower. My pastor had either made the comment without considering Nicodemus, or has not read the book of John closely enough to realize Nicodemus was a Pharisee who believed and to have that stick.

Do I say something afterwards? I chose not to, for the following reasons:
- I know my pastor. Like me, he easily gets too wrapped up in critiques, whether positive ones or negative ones. Once a sermon is over, it's generally healthier for him to move on to the next one rather than mull over the previous one.
- I know myself. I too easily like to show off my superior Bible knowledge and insight. No matter how humbly I approached him, there'd be a little bit of showing off in my comments... and that wouldn't be good for either of us. Better for me to know something my pastor doesn't, yet not feel compelled to tell him.
- I know my relationship with my pastor. One thing about it is that what I say to him generally carries some weight. I need to save even slightly critical comments for when they're really necessary, lest I burden him with too much of that. And I generally need more often to show him not how he failed to pastor me well or preach to me well, but rather how he succeeded at preaching to me well. This is good for both of us.
- The comment wasn't likely to be repeated, so the correction wasn't all that necessary.
- The comment wasn't a theological error.

If I and my pastor and our relationship were different, I might have chosen differently. I think the strengths and sins of the pastor and the corrector enter in to the decision... as does the nature and seriousness of the mistake.

I agree with you about Nicodemus, and I would also point out Acts 15:5 as evidence that some Pharisees believed. "But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” Regardless, I think you are wise to exercise restraint in this situation because this is obviously not a serious theological error. Besides, if you come to your pastor and complain about every little thing, what will happen when there really is a serious issue? He will likely not take you seriously because he will think that you are just a complainer.
 

Eoghan

Puritan Board Senior
I once very gently suggested that the subject matter of a sermon might be better based on a different text. [ i am of the opinion that a sermon's authority increases the closer it sticks to the text].

The next time I met that individual was at a ministerial recognition panel. (I am and have been for 30 years a teacher of chemistry and biology)
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
Spurgeon on the critic (from his Lectures to my Students, "The Blind Eye and the Deaf Ear"):

A sensible friend who will unsparingly criticize you from week to week will be a far greater blessing to you than a thousand undiscriminating admirers if you have sense enough to bear his treatment, and grace enough to be thankful for it. When I was preaching at the Surrey Gardens, an unknown censor of great ability used to send me a weekly list of my mispronunciations and other Slips of speech. He never signed his name, and that was my only cause of complaint against him, for he left me in a debt which I could not acknowledge. I take this opportunity of confessing my obligations to him, for with genial temper, and an evident desire to benefit me, he marked down most relentlessly everything which he supposed me to have said incorrectly. Concerning some of these corrections he was in error himself, but for the most part he was right, and his remarks enabled me to perceive and avoid many mistakes. I looked for his weekly memoranda with much interest, and I trust I am all the better for them. If I had repeated a sentence two or three Sundays before, he would say, “See same expression in such a sermon,” mentioning number and page. He remarked on one occasion that I too often quoted the line “Nothing in my hands I bring;’ and, he added, “we are sufficiently informed of the vacuity of your hands.”
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
I think Jack offers some really helpful advice.

Caroline, there is nothing wrong with occasionally pointing out an error to a pastor, but you should be careful to guard yourself from having a critical spirit when listening to sermons. I am not saying you do, but often, the little faults I might here in a sermon, have nothing to do with either the point the preacher was making or the overall point of the sermon -- which is where our focus and attention need to be.

I once had a woman in my congregation who was very knowledgeable about the Bible and who often felt the need to point out areas where she thought I had gotten it wrong. And good number of times, she was right. But it was usually some minor detail dealing with the minutia of the text or some technical point about something that really wasn't what I was talking about. Unfortunately, this is about all she would ever say to me. Which gave me cause for concern. It was as if she sat there waiting for me to err, without ever really listening to God's Word or the point I was trying to draw from it.

We must remember that "Knowledge puffs up" (I Cor. 8:1), and I often find myself doing the same thing this woman would do to me when listening to other preachers. We must all guard ourselves from this temptation.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Speaking as a pastor, I would want to know. I try to check my illustrations for factual integrity beforehand, but on a couple of occasions, I have found afterward that the source wasn't reputable, or the story I read was more biased than I realized. A couple of church members have gently brought these to my attention a couple of days later. One time, I was completely unaware; and the other time, I had realized my error on Monday morning as that particular news story developed further. Both times I was grateful to the folks for their kindness to me in wanting to help me. They spoke to me in gentleness, love, and humility, and also encouraged me with how the rest of the sermon had instructed and aided them in loving Christ. I publicly corrected my error before preaching the following week, so that I would not be guilty of ongoing deception (though it was unintentional). I have to say that I appreciated them coming to me.

Being humble and approachable about mistakes is the next best thing to being perfect; and perfection eludes the grasp of us all (even Spurgeon).

If the matter is simply a mental or verbal slip, something trivial, or if it's a question where there are differences of interpretation, I don't typically get involved; but no decent minister would wish to unwittingly further slander.
 

Cymro

Puritan Board Junior
There is a crack in every pavement, and no Pastor is beyond making a mistake.
There has to be discernment of the temperament the Pastor has. I know a Minister
who can quite easily slip into a depression if challenged. I hear him infrequently and
if he says something disputable, I wait till the next occasion we talk personally and steer
the conversation not to his sermon but to its subject matter and give an alternative slant
to what he said. Then I let it rest with him.
But there are others who give a wrong impression in their sermon and must be graciously
told because a bucket full of poison will poison a reservoir. A congregation can go away with
error multiplied by the size of the congregation!
For instance, I heard recently that Isaiah saw the glory of God. Now no man hath seen God at any
time. So I directed the Minister in a kind way to take John 12 into consideration, which states that
Isaiah saw Christ high and lifted up. It should not be used to expose the Minister, but the weaker in the
congregation must be considered. Also of course to be borne in mind, ' that he that is without sin cast
the first stone. We all come under the counsel of Psalm 141 -----
"Let him that righteous is me smite,
it shall a kindness be;
Let him reprove, I shall it count
a kindness unto me."
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
My congregation at International Evangelical Church (Reformed) in Limassol, Cyprus was small enough that I could tell them if they heard me say something in error in a sermon they could raise their hand and correct me (that wouldn't work well in a larger church), or speak to me afterward. I qualified that to say if it was just a disagreement they had with Reformed doctrine (we were the only Reformed church in the city, and only one of two in the nation), I'd be happy to talk with them after the service.

We had one Cypriot who was dispensational, came to our services very infrequently, and he would presume to disagree with me over eschatological matters – during the sermon! – and I would simply say, "Thanks for sharing, Mr. Y.... – we can talk about that later." He was a dear friend, and was loved by all, so it was not a problem.

I had a false brother (it turned out) from Yemen who disagreed with me about, I think it was limited atonement, and I said, "Please share your reasoning with me after the sermon, I'd like to hear it." But he took off.

Once when I did make a mistake – momentarily confusing the drunkenness of Noah with that of Lot – a dear Hungarian friend in the congregation began shaking his head and quickly leafing through his Bible, and I then realized I had to backtrack and correct that error, and I praised that brother for his alertness.

Once my wife caught me in an error – my asserting that when the term, "the LORD was with [so and so]" or "God was with [so and so]" it always referred to a saved person – and she told me that such had been said of king Saul. But she told me in private, and I had to later tell the congregation of my error.

I wanted to drill into them that they had to hold the pastor-teacher accountable to the word of God, and they should not hesitate to do so, but respectfully. We were all – save some false brethren that came and went – very close, so it was not hard to do.

In another city of that country, in an Anglican church, a friend stood up in the large congregation and reproved the priest (vicar) for betraying the Gospel of Christ with his liberal nonsense. He then walked out, but the vicar called the police and they sought out the man, who said to the Cypriot cops the man was a false teacher and needed to be confronted. They let him go.

It is good to nip error in the bud, and as noted above, the Scripture says it is a good thing to be corrected when in error. But one should do it in an appropriate manner.
 

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
I will gladly speak to anyone who disagrees with something I say or who finds me to be in error after the service, but if you interrupt my sermon, I will be asking you to leave.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
Suppose you hear a pastor repeat a slanderous lie from the pulpit as a sermon illustration... something that you think he believes to be true, but you know to be false, and could easily have been established to be false if he had simply looked it up?

That should be corrected - hopefully in a more gracious and gentle manner than I would use. And if he should react poorly, that's his problem, rather than yours. I'd be more inclined to let lesser errors slide. In a Sunday School class, I'd be less circumspect.
 

Caroline

Puritan Board Sophomore
It is a difficult question, and I think even the range of responses illustrate that. When I ask myself the rule of love (what would I want someone to do for me?), I tend to say something, because indeed, that is what I would prefer if I were in their place. When I used to teach, I offered extra credit for anyone who could find a mistake in my work, because my greatest horror was not there being a mistake (there would be occasional mistakes, because everyone makes mistakes, especially in public speaking, which is stressful), but that students might actually take that home and think it was correct and spend three hours trying to make their (correct) answer match my (incorrect) answer on something. I wanted someone to tell me. Also, if I was sweepingly wrong, I didn't want that to carry over from one class to another to another until I realized I'd been giving the wrong answer for fifteen years.

On the other hand, not everyone is like me, and some people are exceedingly sensitive, so the rule may not be "what would I prefer someone would do for me?" but more "what would this person prefer?"

I have seen overly critical people who just tear a pastor down over tiny things, and I think, "Why can't they ever let anything go?" I suppose how it is done matters a lot. I do always try to make a point of starting off the conversation with, "You know my husband and I love you and your wife and your kids and even your pet fish, and we think you are an awesome pastor." (Or something along those lines), and I usually end by telling my most embarrassing public speaking story (I once taught a class on a hot day at a whiteboard and got marker on my fingers, which I then wiped across my sweaty face, leaving great blue streaks all over my face--which no one in the class told me about, and I only saw when I went to the restroom after class. It was not subtle either. I'm part Cherokee, and at that moment, I looked like I was going to war). And then I say, "So in the future, if you ever are tempted to feel bad about yourself, just think about that and say to yourself, 'Maybe I was wrong about something, but, hey, at least I've never preached with blue marker streaks all over my face.' And then you will feel much better about yourself by comparison to my idiocy, I promise. Mistakes happen to the best of us, man, but blue marker only to me."

So that's the way I tend to handle it, and I always hope that they see the intent is to protect in the long run, not to tear down. My view is that in making a blunder in his sermon, he just loaded a gun and accidentally pointed it at himself. If I love him, I'll point that out and help him diffuse the problem. If I leave it alone, the next person who comes along and discovers it may not care about his well-being, and who knows where that will end up?

But the painful thing is trying to know what to do when it is someone to whom you can't say, "You know we love you and your wife and your kids and your pet goldfish," because you don't even know that person. Or if you just really don't think he's an awesome pastor and frankly, you've never gotten along well. Or if it is actually a potentially sinful error (like slander). Or maybe he did something unethical to you personally (has happened to me, even in Reformed circles, although very rarely, and never by my own church). There's no pre-existing friendship to which you can appeal, and/or it is a personal grievance (and personal grievances are far more difficult for me to address than simple inadvertent mistakes).

I'm meandering all around here, so I'll just close. But thanks for all the comments. It is helpful in thinking these things through to hear many perspectives, and I am impressed by the number of pastors who said they'd rather be told.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
I will gladly speak to anyone who disagrees with something I say or who finds me to be in error after the service, but if you interrupt my sermon, I will be asking you to leave.

The times I've seen this happen, it's been possible to handle it without resorting to bouncers. While less than ideal, if dealt with calmly and graciously it can be an opportunity.
 

Vladimir

Puritan Board Freshman
[BIBLE]Proverbs 12:1[/BIBLE]
PS. I personally always thought that one of the job requirements for a pastor is 'Wanted: Male who takes well to people hating him'.
 

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
I will gladly speak to anyone who disagrees with something I say or who finds me to be in error after the service, but if you interrupt my sermon, I will be asking you to leave.

The times I've seen this happen, it's been possible to handle it without resorting to bouncers. While less than ideal, if dealt with calmly and graciously it can be an opportunity.

I do regularly get heckled by my 3 year old son, who likes to loudly ask "is it over yet" several times during the sermon. I haven't kicked him out yet, so maybe I could deal with other hecklers as well.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
I will gladly speak to anyone who disagrees with something I say or who finds me to be in error after the service, but if you interrupt my sermon, I will be asking you to leave.

The times I've seen this happen, it's been possible to handle it without resorting to bouncers. While less than ideal, if dealt with calmly and graciously it can be an opportunity.

I do regularly get heckled by my 3 year old son, who likes to loudly ask "is it over yet" several times during the sermon. I haven't kicked him out yet, so maybe I could deal with other hecklers as well.

That's the spirit!
 

reaganmarsh

Puritan Board Senior
[/QUOTE] I do regularly get heckled by my 3 year old son, who likes to loudly ask "is it over yet" several times during the sermon. I haven't kicked him out yet, so maybe I could deal with other hecklers as well.[/QUOTE]


That's too funny! I love it! Our 5-month-old daughter inevitably starts "talking" while I'm preaching during our sparsely attended evening worship service, and immediately all 15 sets of eyes are no longer on me, but her. It's even more fun when our 4-year-old son starts giggling at her...you just learn to laugh about it! :)
 

Hamalas

whippersnapper
Spurgeon on the critic (from his Lectures to my Students, "The Blind Eye and the Deaf Ear"):

[quoteHe remarked on one occasion that I too often quoted the line “Nothing in my hands I bring;’ and, he added, “we are sufficiently informed of the vacuity of your hands.”
[/QUOTE]

This line cracks me up! :rofl:
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
This thread was brought to mind as I was reading through Martin Bucer's work "Concerning the True Care of Souls." Bucer has a lengthy portion in the book that deals with the criticism of sermons and I think he strikes a good balance:

Against thoughtless and wanton criticism of teaching.
This is why Christians are first of all to ask the Lord with great earnestness to grant them faithful ministers, and to watch diligently in choosing them to see that they walk in accordance with their calling and serve faithfully; and when these ministers come to warn, punish, teach or exhort in the Lord's name, not to dismiss it thoughtlessly and despise this ministry, as sadly many are wont to do today. Such people are so kind as to object to and judge the sermons and all the church activities of their ministers, just as if they had been appointed to do so and the only reason for hearing sermons was so that they might in the most unfriendly way discuss, distort and run down what had been said in them, or anything else which had been done in the church. In such people you do not observe any thought of approaching sermons in such a way that they might in some way be moved by what they have heard in them to acknowledge their sins more fully, or to commit themselves more wholeheartedly to Christ and seek more earnestly to improve their ways; all they do is to judge and criticize anything which is said which applies to them, or which in some way they consider not to fit in with their carnal impudence (and not Christian freedom). And when they praise something in a sermon, it is generally because it applies to other people, whom they like to hear criticized; and they take from such sermons nothing beyond an excuse to run down those they do not like, and not so that they might be warned or built up.

It is true that everything must be examined in order that only what is good should be accepted and retained, but that must be done not thoughtlessly and impudently without regard to love or honour, but in the fear of God, with earnest prayer and genuine humility. Then everyone would take into account his own weakness and ignorance, would value very highly the ordinance and gifts of the Lord through his ministers, and would judge them according to their love and the precious worth of their ministry. If he heard or learned something which did not seem good to him, he would be glad to go in love and trust to speak about it with the ministers, pointing out in a friendly way what has offended him, and receiving a further explanation. And he would not condemn as unchristian anything that he had not entirely understood. Then the Lord would grant to us that no-one would deceive us by means of sheep's clothing and false appearances into false doctrine or hypocrisy of life. And in this way all disorder, all impudent criticism, disobedience and contempt of the Lord in his ministry would be prevented. If the churches were provided with elders like those we have described above in the fifth chapter of this little book, chosen from all kinds of honourable, God-fearing, well tested and really keen people, it would be very easy for all those who possessed something of the Spirit of Christ to distance themselves and turn away from hastily suspecting, judging or despising Christ's ministry in doctrine, correction and discipline.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top