Friday, December 22, 2006

Poetic License In The Pulpit

Growing up in IFBxdom, I have always been accustomed to hearing fantastic stories told during sermons. These seemingly innocent little tales became legends that I could recount nearly verbatim to my children even today. Most of these stories happened while "Preacher" was very young and living in a state far, far away or while he was out of state preaching at a special meeting. While I was in the thick of this, I completely believed every story that was told--I think there was something inside of me that wanted to believe that MY pastor would always tell the truth especially while preaching the Word of God to his people--now I am not so sure.

Once I left the realm of IFBx I began to wonder about these fantastic stories that were missing from the sermons at my new church. I began to re-listen to sermons and re-read portions of books written by my former pastor and those who patterned their ministries after him with a more discerning heart--I was troubled by what I found. I struggled with the notion that I must have been so gullible to believe such perfectly orchestrated illustrations. I even remembered how my IFBx pastor would comment after telling a fabulous story about how the reason some people thought he made those stories up was because they were not yielded to the Holy Spirit--if you were REALLY under the Spirit's guidance these things would happen in your life too! Does that sound at all like emotional manipulation to anyone else? I digress.

I can still remember the day when I told my wife for the first time that I did not believe all of Hyles' illustrations--needless to say she was absolutely shocked. I went on to tell her that I believed that he was lying and embellishing more often than telling the complete truth. After the initial "blasphemy"of such an accusation wore off, she slowly began to understand where I was coming from. forward to 2006

I had not really thought about this particular aspect of the IFBxers until recently. I rarely take the time to listen to sermons preached by IFBxers--I have had more than my fill of the yelling and storytelling even though it is quite entertaining at times. Having spent over 20 years under this kind of preaching and sitting in homiletics classes at HAC that teach this style, I have developed a certain resistance to it. I have heard the constant drone over the past few years how that things have changed in Hammond--here is yet another area where it seems like it is just more of the same only a heap more of it...!

All of this brings us to these basic questions: As a preacher of the Gospel is it OK to fib during a sermon (or anytime for that matter)? As a preacher of the Gospel is it OK to exaggerate during a sermon (or anytime for that matter)? As a preacher of the Gospel is it OK to embellish during a sermon (or anytime for that matter)? As a preacher of the Gospel is it OK to exaggerate, embellish, lie, or whatever else you want to call it as long as you motivate your listeners? Anyone who knows me or has read even a little bit of Bread and Circuses knows where I stand on this, but I am curious if anyone else following this story has a different take.

Personally I would take it a step farther and say that the typical topical style of preaching that is so prevalent among hysteric fundamentalists lends itself to this kind of perversion. Notice I did not say that ALL topical preaching includes lies--nor did I say that all stories or illustrations were wrong. What I mean is that the man-centered flavor of topical preaching that I enjoyed for all of my growing up years included countless lies, fibs, exaggerations, embellishments, or whatever other word you want to use--bottom line is that every man is commanded to speak the truth PERIOD.

Sadly, Hyles and Schaap are not the only ones who have told whoppers from behind the sacred desk. Recently I was told about a fabulous sermon that was preached recently during a chapel hour. The reason given for its appeal was that the preacher shared details about the 40 day fast he had just completed and the countless things he had given up recently to be more "holy". There are many clones and HAC graduates out there who are doing the same thing. Certainly there are preachers from other institutions and denominations who play loose with the truth--I am willing to bet that there is a much higher percentage from HAC circles who participate in this practice.
Many will give preachers a pass on this type of poetic license from the pulpit--I fail to see one shred of Scriptural reason to do so. Many will cry that the results are so awesome and the numbers motivated so large that these "little white lies" are inconsequential. Many especially among our hysteric fundamental brethren will shout that the end (an altar full of motivated people) justifies the means (a lie or two).

I completely disagree with all of the above excuses for lying based upon my understanding of Scripture. There is no such thing as a "white lie"--embellishment and exaggeration are tantamount to a bold faced lie.