One of the most important things I do as a good Pharisee pastor is to provide opportunities for younger preachers to get experience preaching in church. I think it is good for them to get a chance to speak before a real church audience instead of their school buddies and it is good for my people to have a break from the normal routine of my preaching. So once a year I invite a young Pharisee preacher to step into the pulpit and share a word. After what happened last week, I may be forced to discontinue this practice. Keep in mind that this is the pulpit over which God has made me an overseer and my first job is to protect the sheep under my care from error. Young preachers today are getting more and more liberal and compromising and our Pharisee denomination has not been spared in the slide to worldliness. At the same time these cocky youngsters are becoming more defiant of the age, experience and wisdom of their elders. Let me tell you what happened.
The young man came into the church and introduced himself well enough, but when I asked if he were going to dress before he got up to preach, he looked at me as if I had asked if he had two noses. He seemed to think that he was already dressed, even though – and this will come as a shock to you, I’m sure – he was not wearing a tie. I loaned him one of my extras from the office and nearly gagged on my rebuke at his lack of appreciation. He looked at the tie as if he had never seen one before and said he had been hoping for a clip-on. Imagine a Pharisee preacher who doesn’t even know how to tie a tie. I don’t know what they are teaching them in seminary these days but it must not be much if they aren’t learning to dress properly.
Things went steadily downhill from there. He started to set up a computer and a projector and I thought he was going to lead us in some of the modern praise and worship choruses before the sermon which is bad enough. That would have been nothing compared to what he ended up doing. It turns out he did his entire sermon on PowerPoint slides. This was bad enough but he not only included his scripture and notes but he also had songs that played on cue, animated text and graphics and worst of all – movie clips. He then made an appeal for anyone who was touched by the message to come forward and make a public spectacle of themselves (actually he called it a “commitment” but we all know what he meant). I was pleased to see that none of my folks were taken in by this theatrical performance and only a few of the younger members and teens shook his hand on the way out.
After church, I always take the young preacher boys out to eat but with this fellow I wish I had not. Our discussion over dinner centered on his use of worldly methods of preaching the gospel and how his compromise with secularism was watering down the word of God. At first he listened patiently as the young should when being addressed by their superiors. He objected to what I said of course, but he then went on to lecture me about being stuck in the 19th Century as if I were the one at fault. Our exchange got more and more heated until the volume had risen beyond the level of civil conversation. About this time I lost my appetite and stormed out of the restaurant leaving him with the check. He quickly paid and followed me out only to continue his tirade on how we need to use new methods to reach a new generation with the gospel. I told him that he was not welcome in my pulpit and would never be invited back and I would do my best to see that he never preached in another Pharisee church again. He accused me of being so picky that, “If the apostle Paul came to your church you wouldn’t let him preach in your pulpit.”
Aside from the fact that this young man was no apostle Paul, his words are without any basis or foundation. I would most certainly invite Paul to speak in my pulpit and would be glad to have him. I am convinced that Paul would be willing to exchange his robes for a suit and tie and dress with the necessary ministerial dignity and decorum. He would have to lay his rabbinic phylacteries and tasseled prayer shawl aside but other than that he would be most welcome in our church. There are a few things I would watch out for like:
- He would need to keep his sermon under 40 minutes and not go on past midnight like he did in Acts.
- He would have to swear allegiance to our brand of Pharisaism in order to be welcome in our church.
- He would need to avoid controversial issues like election and predestination.
- He would have to use the right version of the Bible and not any of the contemporary translations like he did in his own day.
- It would probably be best if he were to marry since he should be the husband of one wife as taught in his letter to Timothy.
- He couldn’t work for a living like he did in Corinth or else it would compromise his full time minister status.
- He ought not to let women teach men like Priscilla did when she helped Aquila teach Apollos in Corinth.
- He will need to refrain from meddling in internal church disputes like he did in Philippi with Euodia and Syntyche.
- He will need to take a firmer stand against slavery instead of telling Onesimus to go back to Philemon and be a good slave.
- He will need to keep himself out of prison.
- He will have to avoid causing riots.
- He will need to restrict himself to preaching in the church and not going into the streets and market places and institutions of higher learning and preaching there.
- He will have to stay out of synagogues, temples and other Jewish houses of worship since no good Christian would ever do as he did in the New Testament and preach the gospel first of all to Jews before going on to Gentiles.
Other than these and some other minor things, I would have no trouble with the apostle Paul preaching in my church. Clearly, the writings of the apostle are what provide the foundation for my ministry. I am a very doctrinal and theological preacher. Most of the other books of the Bible do not contain doctrine in a systematic manner like the Pauline epistles so I rarely preach from them. Instead I rely heavily on the words of Paul. So it only seems natural that if I am going to preach from the writings of Paul that I would be willing to have Paul speak at my church. I would even be happy to loan him one of my ties so he would be properly attired for ministry.
You are looking only on the surface of things. If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as he.
2 Corinthians 10:7 (NIV)