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5 Temptations for Successful Preachers

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.