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Preacher to Preacher: Turkey Tenders and Preaching

  • Dr. R. Leslie Holmes A contributing editor to Preaching, teaches preaching at Erskine Theological Seminary in Due West and Columbia, South Carolina.
  • 2011 31 May
Preacher to Preacher: Turkey Tenders and Preaching

Buddy and Clancy love their Turkey Tenders. The packet of those Turkey Tenders explains why that might be: "Turkey Tenders are made from 100 percent turkey breast fillets—the best part of the turkey." I should explain that Buddy and Clancy are two of my favorite grand dogs. They live with our son, Gary, and his wife, Catherine. I will confess there are times when Clancy and Buddy almost persuade me to believe in doggy election! Now, please don't try me for heresy yet.

You see, Buddy was a stray hound, perhaps a bit of beagle with some basset and maybe a bit of who-knows-what-else make up his gene pool. When he showed up unannounced and uninvited at Gary and Catherine's back door one afternoon, he was dirty, smelly and scrawny with not very much to commend him except that he looked pitiful. A campaign of local advertisements did not bring forth anybody to claim him. From there, he kind of wormed his way inside, and soon it seemed that calling him Buddy was a fitting thing to do. So they did.

Today, Buddy is clean, with just the right amount of doggy fat, a brand new color, all the right shots, loved and seems to be very happy. Buddy reminds me a lot of what it will be like when I get to heaven's door—just an old stray with nothing to commend me—dirty, smelly, hungry, looking pitiful. They'll take me in, love me and maybe even occasionally say, "Hey Buddy," when they look in my direction.

Turkey Tenders look and smell good, but somehow when I open the packet to give one to Buddy or Clancy they make me think about a friend of mine, former Burger King Corp. President Charlie Olcott. Charlie used to say of the local Chinese take-away, "It tastes good going down, but there's not a whole lot of long-term nutritional value."

This, it seems to me, is one of the marks of much that is being called preaching in our time. A lot of Turkey Tender treats are being served under the guise of genuine gospel truth. Initially it tastes good to us, but there is not much spiritual nutrition for the long term. God's Word is being adulterated down to the level of the shallow, ignorant and spiritually obtuse pew warmers through jokes, cute stories and poor imitations of the kind of entertainment one can see on television. "In which dark corner of hell," I find myself wondering, "was the lie birthed that we preachers need to amuse in order to get a few more people in our congregation or a few more dollars to keep the church treasurer content?" Such preaching, were it poison, would be so diluted that no one would be sickened. Let the entertainers tickle ears, Preacher. Your job is to preach! Just preach!

"Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10). Last month, I stood at a church outside Rome's old walls at Paul's burial site, where his remains were placed after they chopped off his head. I realized anew there can be a high cost to telling-it-like-it-is preaching. Being the Rev. Congeniality was never on Paul's bucket list. His preaching left no room for feel-good special treats. His message never was watered down to please the spiritual palettes of his hearers or readers. Paul had no buddies!

For Paul, a sermon simply was truth told, truth illustrated and truth applied. Preaching was the apostle's top priority and primary task just as it is until this day for the whole church. The church never has had a higher calling than that of being a preacher. We must never—not for a moment—allow ourselves to forget that. When I've preached my last sermon, I want Jesus to take me in—dirty, smelly and undeserving as I am, and call me Buddy. Don't you?