Unusually for me I was watching the tele early on Sunday morning and I caught an episode of Dr Charles Stanley preaching on his television program. Now I know this guy has come under some criticism for his personal life, and that is not unimportant, but it is also not something i can comment on, not knowing the facts. His preaching is however something I can comment on, at least the one sermon I did watch.
He started off by reading 2 Timothy 1:3-7. Which is a passage from the Bible, so far so good. He then spent the next 30 minutes or so talking about his mum and what a great example of a Christian mother she was. Now nothing he said or suggested was wrong, but none of it actually came from scripture, least of all the scripture he read from at the beginning. It was a lovely talk on how Stanley's mother raised him as a Christian despite considerable difficulties and it contained many useful nuggets of advice on raising Christian kids. All very nice, it might have made a nice booklet on parenting, or a seminar on raising godly kids, but it had NOTHING TO DO with the scripture he read out. 2 Tim 1:3-7 was just a convenient spring board for him to talk about his topic. What made this worse, was that not only did he imply that he was teaching from the Bible by starting with a scripture, he continued to read his notes from the open Bible he held in his hand, but he never again read from the Bible, it was just a convenient place to hold his notes. This technique was highly symbolic of the whole 'talk' ( I dont think i can use the word sermon), the Bible was merely window dressing for what Stanley really wanted to say. Why do I have a problem with this?
1: A preacher should not suggest his/her authority to preach comes from the Bible if their message does not come from the Bible. It is dishonest.
2: Such preaching disempowers the congregation because they know full well they could never read 2 Tim 1:3-7 and get a Christian parenting manual out of it. They leave church that morning none the wiser as to how they can read and understand the Bible for themselves.
3: Such preaching obscures the true character of the Bible which is plainly not a document interested in American family values or childcare. The message may be harmless of itself, but by taking the place that should rightfully be filled with the proclamation of God's saving work in Christ it does great harm to the church and world that needs to hear.
I rest my case. (Let me know what you think :-))