Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ear-itch, or Heartburn?

“’We don’t want sermons,’ say the program chairmen of many religious meetings today, as well as many editors of religious periodicals and leaders of youth meetings. Sermons are no longer a drawing card. ‘Put on a picture or have a celebrity in the pulpit to pack the house.’ Then maybe the preacher can give a gospel message. But plain, old-fashioned preaching cannot stand on its own, to hear some people tell it. It must have a crutch to get along.

My Bible does not say, ‘How shall they hear without a brass band?’ It says, ‘How shall they hear without a preacher?’ If preaching won’t do God’s work, nothing else will. We have fallen upon all sorts of carnal devices to pack the house with the argument that the end justifies the means. It is an admission that we have failed to follow the New Testament pattern. God’s method is to use a Spirit-filled church. Rather than pay the price of being Spirit-filled, we substitute false fire and worldly expedients.

It is not the duty of the preacher to fill the house; it is his business to fill the pulpit. The church members should fill the house by being there and bringing others. Lacking a Spirit-filled membership, fervent soul winning and a separated testimony, we are hard put to devise other means to secure the desired ends. Of course, the preacher may also be at fault in the state of his heart or the content of his message, and he may need to build a fire under the pulpit in order to warm up the church. But preaching is still the appointed means; and although we are in a day when men will not endure sound doctrine but have ‘ear-itch’ instead of heartburn, let us not forget that the command in that very connection is “Preach the word” and that God manifests His Word and His will through preaching.

Let us hope and pray that the people of God will grow weary of stones and seek bread. We do not better ourselves by aspersions cast on great preaching or by lowrating giants of a past generation; we could use a few today. “

—Vance Havner, condensed from The Standard

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