Sunday, March 26, 2006

Pop-psychology vs. the Systematic Preaching of the Word

In the coming days I plan to elaborate on my journeys growing up in the ministry of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. As has been stated in the initial welcome post, both myself and Matt possess a good deal of experience with the aforementioned church and its related ministries. This includes not only kindergarten through 12th grade, but also four years at Hyles-Anderson College.

For the moment, however, I would like to provoke thought regarding their philosophy of the ministry of preaching. Jack Hyles was certainly famous for grand storytelling, and Pastor Jack Schaap is also quite adept at this art. Now then, before you current members pounce on me to prove me wrong regarding the current leadership there, let me express that I don’t doubt that Schaap may stay closer to his text as a whole than his late father-in-law. The point that I would like to make is this: if we as Christians truly believe what the Word speaks about itself, namely Hebrews 4:12, why is the ratio of pop-psychology application to Scriptural exegesis so lopsided? If one were to visit the chapel sermons section of the college website they would not need to listen for long before finding this to be the stark reality.

This is one that for the life of me I have been unable to figure out since leaving FBCH and its related ministries. In retrospect it appears as such a pronounced wart on their theological nose, yet I highly doubt that the leadership there has thought twice regarding it. For this I am saddened. What I fear is that their reason for avoiding systematic teaching and preaching is that it would "quench" the "fire" of the preacher boy crowd and thus do damage to their numerical and visible results. That would be less than befitting for the "flagship church of fundamentalism", no doubt.

The truth is that nothing is more powerful than the "twoedged sword" of Scripture. What could produce more authentic fruit for the Kingdom of God than a disciplined exposition of the "holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."? Let us endeavor to pray that hearts may be changed regarding this issue.

Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

Joshua Richards


PT Barnum said...

excellent thoughts my brother! I don't pretend to know the motive for the woeful lack of sound expository preaching at FBCH, but here are a few thoughts. It could be simply a reflection of what they have been taught is "good preachin'". They love to point to Ezekiel and the "cry aloud and spare not" phrase. It also could simply be that the training at HAC that 99% of these preachers received lends itself to rank eisegesis instead of sound exegesis. I would love to hear some other perspectives on this issue.


James Spurgeon said...

Expository preaching will kill a soul winning church. Don't you know that?

Scary, isn't it?

I would guess there were several reasons why Hyles was against expository preaching.

(1) None of the great revivalists whom Hyles idolized utilized this methodology. Keep in mind that what Hyles did was innovative - he took the sawdust trail-style evangelism of the camp-meetings and brought it into the auditorium. Church was no longer worship - it was weekly revival meetings. Expository preaching doesn't fit that mould.

(2) It wasn't Hyles's idea. Laugh if you want to, but MacArthur and Swindoll and those "California preachers" brought it back into style and Hyles was jealous of them. So he defended "old-fashioned preaching" (I was there at that Pastor's School where he made a big deal of it in 1986) against these modern "teaching ministries" from California. We were led to believe that the style embodied by MacArthur, Swindoll and others of actually teaching the word was "an attack on old-fashioned preaching" and an abandonment of the ancient landmarks. He referenced those California preachers several times. If you'll remember, it was about this same time that the slanderous and erroneous attacks against MacArthur as a "blood-denier" really picked up steam in the Sword circles of fundyism.

(3) Jealousy. See point two.

(4) Expositional preaching really would "destroy a soul winning church" because expositional preaching would expose these so-called soul winning churches for the shams that they are and call on them to repentance.

That's probably not exhaustive, but should be good to get the discussion ball rolling.

I'm going to give you guys and introduction at the Underground. Look for it today.

rabbi-philosopher said...

Matt, I'm actually a bonafide, honest to John, Ph.D. type psychologist; licensed and board approved in the state where I reside. ( Yes I know I'm probably the devil incarnate and I have some great stories but I digress.)

I DESPISE "therapeutic preaching." I had several cautious conversations with our recent pastor encouraging him to be less "therapeutic" and more about the revelation of God.

Therapeutic preaching, to me, is all about US. Five Ways to Have a More Effective Bus Ministry. Three Keys to a better Marriage. How to make your Sunday School Class come alive.

PUHLEESE! Can we now please abandon therapeutic preaching and begin to stick to the Word of God - which indeed touches on human life and existence but is really ALL ABOUT HIM, not about me.

"To Hell" with therapeutic preaching; literally.

PT Barnum said...


I agree with your diagnosis, doctor! Pop-psychology is NOT the kind of preaching that honors and glorifies God. Typically this is referred to as "helping the people in a practical way". Hyles used to say that you needed to diagnose the illness by counseling and then go to the Bible for a topic that fits the "problem" that the majority of the people were struggling with. Seems like we ought to be more concerned with sound exegesis--I almost forgot that this will open people's eyes to the errors being expounded--wouldn't be in their best interest to do that!

Matthew Richards

PT Barnum said...


You are dead on right. Hyles flamed MacArthur and Swindoll on a regular basis. He also made a habit of going after Bill Hybels and Norman Vincent Peale! Those didn't bother me quite so much! Hyles couldn't stand on his own two feet theologically so he would spend 30 minutes on silly personal illustrations and 15 to 30 minutes blasting someone for something he made up or blew entirely out of proportion.

Those in Hammond today are Hyles proteges and can imitate him flawlessly. They reject anything that resembles scholarship and act like they have all the answers.

BTW, thanks a million for the introduction at The Underground! The dude with the tapered head, ten-gallon hat, and double-breasted suit is definitely Joshua!!!!!

Matthew Richards

James Spurgeon said...

rabbi-philosopher, Yes! I agree with your sentiments regarding therapeutic preaching and absolutely love the way you expressed it.

matthew, I thought that must have been Josh. BTW - Hyles' trashing of MacArthur and Swindoll along with the Norman Vincent Peal's of this world was also intended to paint the former two as liberal as the latter because the teaching of the former two would be liberating to the people of Hammond if exposed to it and therefore was dangerous to Hyles.

jayman said...

As a 22 or 23 year old young man I attended Pastor's School (1974) with my own pastor. I visited the campus of HAC and considered quiting my secular job and moving to Hammond to attend HAC. "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us," prevented me from making such a drastic mistake, (okay maybe my use of Eph. 2:4 [NKJV] is slightly out of context, but not by much). It took me a few years to journey out of the IFBX movement. God has blessed me by allowing me to pastor one of His churches, and I love being free from the IFBX movement. But I have fell in love with MacArthur, Piper, Spurgeon, Jonthan Edwards, Martyn Lloyd-Jones and countless others. Oh, that God might place a man of their caliber in the pulpit of FBCH, LBT, and countless other IFBX churches, of course they would probably not last long. Keep up the good work.

jayman said...

I said I was 22 or 23 when I attened Pastor's School in 1974, I should have '74 or '75, I do know how old I am.

PT Barnum said...


great to hear that you averted a huge mistake like moving to the armpit of America! Just think you could be living right now in beautiful Gary or Hammond, Indiana and attending the greatest church since the First Baptist Church of Jerusalem! I am also a voracious reader of all things Piper, MacArthur, Spurgeon, etc... I would say that we all need to be careful to keep our eyes on Christ and not on even these decent men. I know what you were saying but I thought I would just state the obvious--you have to remember that I am still a recovering man-worshipper :-)