Sunday, January 7, 2024

Pastor, Please Stop Giving Us Straw

For the past 47 years I've been training pastor-teachers. Not alone, of course. Dozens of evangelical seminaries have been doing the same thing. Our goal is to train the next generation of expository teachers. 

Frankly, we have not done well. I'm not alone in this assessment. 

I'm not referring here to the liberal preacher who will stand behind the pulpit this morning. That's obvious enough. I'm talking about the evangelical pastor who believes in "Thus Sayeth the Lord" preaching and then says anything that pops into his mind. Furthermore, I'm not saying that congregations aren't being fed. The question is what are they being fed? In Jeremiah 23, a very disturbing passage, the Lord says, "I have not sent these prophets, yet they claim to speak for me. I gave them no message, yet they say their words are mine." He adds, "If they are 'prophets,' they are prophets of deceit, inventing everything they say." 

As a farmer, the phrase in this chapter that jumps out to me is when the Lord asks, "What good is straw compared to grain?" (Jer. 23:28). Straw may fill a stomach but it will not nourish. Grain nourishes. Show me a farmer who feeds his livestock straw and I will show you a farmer who cares not a whit about his animals. When we preach straw, people may think they're filled but they are empty. But grain? It can make a great deal of difference in their lives. 

Preacher friend, please stop giving us straw. And yes, we know the difference. We know when you are preaching from the canteen of Saturday night or from a reservoir of Bible knowledge. So please avoid the straw at all costs. Even if it means benching yourself for a while. Only the pure grain, cleansed and winnowed, is God's word. It alone has solid, abiding substance. Everything else is chaff.