5 Temptations for Successful Preachers

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The moment we begin to believe our own hype, we're in big trouble.

Just because people look at us when we stand to deliver a homily, we must not automatically think we possess knowledge, authority or anything not available to the least among us. They could be listening for God.

Just because they fill the pews to worship God and, in the process, listen to our sermons and say good things afterwards, does not mean they are there to hear us. They could be there for greater reasons.

If they laugh at our jokes and weep at our stories, we are not to think of ourselves as gifted communicators who have mastered our craft. It could be they are people of grace and graciousness.

We are messengers for Jesus Christ.

Anything more is wrong.

And could be dangerous.

In the early days of radio news networking, the Columbia Broadcasting System established a national hookup which allowed newspeople to speak to one another on the air at the same time from different locations across America. What is standard procedure for us was once revolutionary and radically new.

Before they went on the air, news director Edward R. Murrow told his colleagues, “Just because our voice now carries from one end of the country to the other does not mean we possess any more wisdom than when it only carried to the end of the bar.”

When a young preacher is given acclaim for his pulpit work, he may find himself dealing with an onslaught of egotistical forces, powerful voices all telling him how wonderful he is, how brilliant are his teachings, how gifted his delivery, and yes, how superior he is to his colleagues.

The moment he starts believing that rubbish, he’s in trouble. From the moment he sips of that kool-aid, he becomes less and less valuable to the Lord’s work, less helpful to the Lord’s people, and more susceptible to the enticements of the flesh.

The successful young preacher may find himself struggling with these temptations:

1. The temptation to pontificate.

A preacher “pontificates” when he comes across as a little pope dictating behaviour and doctrine to his listeners. Something he said is true because he said it was so. Anyone questioning him risks bringing down the wrath of the Almighty upon himself.

All humility has gone out the window, all gray areas of doctrine have disappeared, and all questions of right and wrong have their solution in his pronouncements. 

Lord help his congregation. The preacher is on the path of Jim Jones of Jonestown.

Joe McKeever After five years as Director of Missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner where he's working on three books, and he's trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way. He loves to do revivals, prayer conferences, deacon training, leadership banquets, and such. Usually, he's working on some cartooning project for the denomination or some agency.

More from Joe McKeever or visit Joe at http://www.joemckeever.com/mt/

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  • Dayo Akintunde

    Great message for every Preacher of the Word!
    We certainly all need to be more humble as The Lord lifts us.
    Pastor Dayo

  • philip lazar

    I think all 5 point calvinist is fallen under first temptation.

    • Joe Rhoads

      I’ve heard non 5 point calvinist pass judgment on 5 pointers, even to the point of saying they are not saved. Sounds like pontification to me. And saying all 5 point calvinist fall under the first temptation does the same thing.

      • philip lazar

        So both the non-calvinist and the 5 point calvinist r trapped in unavoidable temptation according to joe makeever. Let us pray for him not to pontificate his thoughts which had no biblical support.

  • Asher Israel

    Amen!

  • Pastor Ernie

    In our generation there are many people who use the fact that God is love to do anything that they want to do. But God is also a God of justice. And God’s love does not excuse us from the responsibility of obeying the commands of the Bible. Jesus also said if you love me, keep my commandments. Pastor Ernie

  • ed

    While I HOPE some of this was an exaggeration to make a point, I do disagree some with point #2. Anytime I’ve ever seen a “polished” preacher with his wife, she’s anything BUT lacking in material possessions and style!

  • David T Morehead

    I have never posted here before but this article really bothers me. It seems as though the author himself is “pontificating” about some rare injustices he has witnessed or experienced. I pray he is healed from the disappointment his is pouring out on others. Because as, “I have travelled this great country of ours” I have observed that ministers, while never perfect are striving the do their best for Christ and his people!

    • Joe McKeever

      Thank you, Brother David.

  • Philip H. Troutman

    Perhaps this is an article that speaks more to some preachers than to others. In our case, I am an overseas missionary doing fund raising and prayer team building. I speak, and I “relate”, and I promote; that’s the nature of funding the mission today. In the midst of this, I find that the temptations mentioned in this article are real ones for me, and I imagine they may be for some other preachers, too. Regardless of which temptations any one of us finds most acute, we ought all frequently to reread Paul’s caution in 1 Corinthians 10:12, and then pray: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

    • Joe McKeever

      Thank you, Brother Philip.

  • LARRY PEARSON

    as usual joe, only those that have been in the ministerial fray can appreciate this concise and to the point article. i have seen just such over the last 40 years.keep up the good work. in my pastorates, i have encountered these sycophants in whom the milk of human kindness has curdled.

    • Joe McKeever

      Very much to the point, Larry. Thank you.

  • http://www.turnaroundpastor.com/ Bud Brown

    Thank you for reminding me what I’m likely to find in the mirror when I take my eyes off Jesus.

  • showright

    I am a student of bible and praying that God should give me the grace to serve him better but of great important is this article because it will serve as guidance for me wen the time comes. Brother weldone and may GODnbkess and increase you.

  • Pastor Moses John South Africa

    Let the truth be told. Execellent message Joe. This is really absolutely true that some preachers not all have lost the plot. Not to mention the grandeur style that some live. Nothing wrong living prosperously, but its dangerous when that takes over. I know of some well know preachers that wouldn’t preach unless the honararium is a sizeable amount in the bank first. What about the one’s with body guards. Not to mention the one’s who cannot carry their Bible to the pulpit. I saw in a meeting once that someone had to wipe the preachers face as he preached. Preacher, humility and servanthood goes hand in hand. Jesus Himself showed servanthood, Why Shouldn’t we?

  • PASTOR CHIKE

    i thank GOD for this wonderful message. pls Lord give me grace not to compromise in this work AMEN

  • Chad

    Points 1-5 have some merit. Point 5 has no merit. Sounds like a rant that needs, rather than posted on this site, laid at the foot of the cross. (My article will be called: 5 Temptations for Bloggers – 1. Make Sweeping Judgements 2. Assume my way is the best and only way 3. Write to sound confident so to hide my own insecurity) … Anyone have an idea for points 4-5?