Preaching Truth - Tough! Tender! But Never Timid!
- 2005 1 Mar
"Courage," said John Wayne, "is being scared to death but saddling up anyway!" Our politically correct contemporary moral climate does not favor a fibrous faith as tough as that taught and demonstrated by Jesus and His apostles. We've all known those preachers who could walk on a crate of fresh eggs without so much as cracking one. Maybe that is one reason why the church has lost much of its impact on today's society. Maybe that's why those TV depictions of preachers are often less than complimentary. Maybe this is why around 1,500 preachers resign every month in America to pursue something other than preaching.
They called him "Fightin' Frank!" While pastor of Pittsburgh's First Presbyterian Church, Frank Paxton once was approached by a man who needed to cross a picket line to earn enough money to purchase medicine for his sick wife. Strikers on the line threatened to beat the man up if he tried to cross the line. What to do? The Reverend Doctor Paxton rose from his seat and ordered the man to come with him. At the picket line, Frank Paxton removed his coat and loosened his clerical collar. Raising his arms to fisticuffs, he announced, "This man needs to go to work to support a sick wife. Any man that would stop him, step forward!" The picket line opened as if powered by some supernatural force. Come to think of it, maybe it was a supernatural force, just like that one that empowered those two disciples before the Sanhedrin. From then on, he was known as "Fightin' Frank the preacher!" What's more, he was respected throughout the city.
There are times when turning the temple tables is the only way to make a point; when fisticuffs, whether verbal or otherwise, may be the best demonstration of love. The delicate, brittle, softy "Christianettes" produced in our spiritual comfort zones today are hardly to be compared with the committed, expendable believers who once gave their witness, and sacrificed their lives because they really believed. The problem often begins in our pulpits. Too timid to tell all the truth, some preachers have compromised the message of new life and asked their hearers to give to Christ that which costs them nothing. The result is a generation of weak faith adherents to an unbiblical faith that on occasion looks a bit like Christianity. So, saddle up! We can do better!
Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone,
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known!
Many mighty men are lost,
Daring not to stand,
Who for God had been a host,
By joining Daniel's Band! (Philip Bliss)
____________________Robert Leslie Holmes is pastor of Saxe Gotha Presbyterian Church, in Lexington, SC and a contributing editor to Preaching. His new book, "When Good Enough Just Isn't Good Enough: Pursuing Organizational Excellence" (Ambassador-Emerald Intl.) is available now. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org