I would normally never suggest that a preacher should quit. In fact, I’ve spent many years encouraging preachers. Through fellowship and friendship, books, conferences, and especially our Bible college, I’ve often tried to encourage preachers to be faithful in their service to the Lord—even during times of discouragement. We have a vital message to share, and we must continue to proclaim the Gospel.
Yet, one of the biggest challenges we face in witnessing is the proliferation of false teachers in these last days. It seems that every day, there are preachers who take truth to lower depths as they change God’s message to fit their agendas. These false teachers do great damage to the name of Christ, and their mishandling of God’s Word greatly confuses and disillusions the lost.
The presence of false teachers is why we must learn to exercise discerning love. Paul explained to the church at Philippi how he was praying for them: “that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9–10). Paul wanted these Christians to abound in love, but he emphasized that theirs should be a discerning love.
There are preachers who use the names “Christian” or “Baptist,” but they are wolves in sheep’s clothing, using a good name to their own advantage. Frankly, they should quit preaching. Here are three types of preachers who should quit:
Preachers who sensationalize
Jude 16 speaks of these men who are “murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.” These men use their positions in the ministry to sensationalize and exaggerate things to build themselves up. They use “great swelling words of vanity” to impress ignorant people (2 Peter 2:18). Their words or the issues on which they pin them may be impressive, but they fail to preach the truth.
Preachers who sensationalize issues to gain a following or to gain publicity are self-promoting and narcissist. They are trying to gain attention rather than to be faithful to the Word of God.
Two recent examples of those who sensationalize are the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, who picket the funerals of our fallen heroes, as well as Terry Jones and the Dove Outreach Center who recently burned a copy of the Koran. While I am not against picketing or publicly standing for the truth of the Gospel, doing so in a hateful way that dishonors and misrepresents Christ is wrong and turns people away from the Gospel. Indeed, we must be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13), but we must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Preachers who rationalize
There is a tragic amount of rationalization in churches. Pastors will sometimes rationalize allowing open flagrant sin to continue without confrontation in the church in order to please those who have influence—political or financial. Paul dealt with this very issue in 1 Corinthians 5. The church at Corinth was aware of fornication going on in the congregation, but was doing nothing about it. Pastors must deal with sin that is open and affecting the entire church.
Another form of rationalization takes place when pastors are aware of an abusive situation but do not report it to authorities. This sin is often against children or minors. Every young person deserves a loving and protecting environment at home and at church. When it comes to abuse, pastors simply can’t rationalize, “Well, this is a family matter.” They must stand in the gap to protect the young members of their flocks—even to the point of involving the authorities who can protect a young person (Romans 13:3–4).
Preachers who rationalize church sin or abuse grieve the Holy Spirit and severely limit their ministries and the power of Christ in their communities.
Preachers who apostatize
These preachers are often men who at one time identified themselves as fundamentalists, but were either never saved or became full of bitterness and are now turned from the truth. They downplay doctrine but teach “damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them” (2 Peter 2:1).
They may have “a form of godliness” (2 Timothy 3:5) as they conduct services and emphasize ministry outreach, but they deny the power of the Cross as they reject the core doctrines of the Christian faith, including the very deity of Christ, the inspiration of Scripture, and salvation by grace through faith.
False teachers and apostates use people to their own personal gain. Second Peter 3:2 says of them: “through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.” Charles Spurgeon wisely observed, “It is a remarkable fact that all the heresies which have arisen in the Christian church have had a decided tendency to dishonor God and to flatter man.
These three types of preachers—those who sensationalize, rationalize, and apostatize—hurt the name of Christ and confuse the lost. Men and women who see the inconsistencies and pride in these messages and lifestyles determine they don’t want Christianity and reject Christ Himself.
We must “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). And in the midst of sensationalism, rationalization, and apostasy, sometimes that answer includes explaining to lost co-workers or family members why we do not identify with these false types of ministry and biblically defining our position by the true Gospel. In this day of compromise, may God give us grace and courage to take the right stand in the right way, holding high the banner of the Cross.