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Saturday, December 5, 2009

book review: Pulpit Crimes

It has been a while since I posted, and since I picked on a bad book not long ago, I thought I'd recommend an excellent one: Pulpit Crimes by James R. White.

Pulpit Crimes is a fascinating look into what is wrong not just with the church in general, but with the pulpit in particular. As has often been noted, as the leaders go, so goes the church. And nowhere is leadership as pronounced and influential as in the pulpit. By looking at preaching and pulpit errors, James White insightfully and accurately addresses a wide variety of “pulpit crimes” that plague the church.

The subtitle is “The Criminal Mishandling of God’s Word”. We’ve all heard preachers who mishandle the Bible. Many men have taken verses out of context, twisted the meaning, or failed to preach the whole counsel of God. The chapter titles are provocative; some of them are: Pandering to Pluralism, Cowardice Under Fire, Entertainment Without a License, Felonious Eisegesis, Body Count, and Warranty Fraud. Each of them addresses a real issue in the pulpit.

White doesn’t name names – which was a bit frustrating to me, because it is a pastor’s job to warn the flock of error, and it would be helpful to know just who is guilty of at least the most serious errors. However, it isn’t his point to get in a big argument or to stir up trouble, but to rightly address the issues, which he does very well.

This book is for every elder, every church leader, and indeed for all who love the church, the preaching of the Word, and most importantly the Savior of the church. It will increase your discernment and give you an appreciation for the faithful and regular teaching and preaching of Holy Scripture. And it will help you help your friends who may attend churches that violate some of these principles. It is worth your time to read.

A few quotes from the book may whet your appetite:

One of the greatest things the lay person can come to realize is their vital role in the worship of the church. By coming to the gathering of the body prepared, expectant, ready to hear from God and bless others, we add to the worship immeasurably. How often do we rob ourselves of blessings, and those around us as well, because we stumble into God’s presence almost by accident rather than approaching Him with purpose and preparation!

More directly to the issue is the reality that the New Testament speaks of church discipline, of putting people out of the fellowship for reasons of immorality, apostasy, and false teaching. It is hard to put someone “out” when you can’t define what it means to be “in”.

Minister, do you wish to have a clear conscience? Then proclaim the fullness of the message, even when you know men will be offended thereby. Who would you rather offend, sinful men, or the holy God?

There is something unnatural about speaking of eternal judgment, redemption, forgiveness, lordship, and life in the context of light-hearted entertainment and Hawaiian shirt informality.

While scandals used to be the big problem in this area, now the real perversity is shown in the open: unashamed teaching that it is God’s will that Christians be rich and possess the things of the world. The “name it and claim it” heresy is one of the greatest pulpit crimes of the modern era, and it is a sure sign of judgment upon our culture.

The pulpit is a sacred place where God meets with His people, instructs them, and gives them guidance as they worshipfully gather to hear His truth. To replace that high and divine purpose with the worldly and the commercial is high treason. … Yet this is exactly what we see in the largest portion of the church today: entertainment has replaced worship, amusement has replaced the sober contemplation of God and His ways. This is a pulpit crime of immense proportions.


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