Dr. Henry B. Waiters: What preachers have become
During the Classical period of Ancient Greece, the Sophists (a class of teachers of rhetoric, philosophy and the art of successful living) perfected the art of speech writing and public speaking. Central to their study was rhetoric which is defined as the skill of using language and speech effectively and persuasively.
Sophists were experts, professors, teachers and authorities on presenting arguments, earning a reputation of “extravagant displays of language for astonishing audiences with their brilliant styles, colorful appearances and flamboyant personalities.” Frequently a Sophist, as a professional orator, would offer his services for pay, generally for legal purposes or entertainment in the public square. They razzled and dazzled the audience with their mastery of persuasive discourse.
The Sophists became controversial for several reasons, particularly for their view of truth. For them, truth was not found in transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality, but in the persuasive power of words projected, rather than objective truth. In other words, skilled Sophists became the source of — as opposed to the tools or bearers — of truth. In this sense truth is not transcendent, but subjective intervention.
There is a sense that the majority of current preachers have become modern-day Sophists, concerned with the use of flattering words in the pulpit, as opposed to gospel truth, with the intent to entertain an audience that would rather have amusing discourse than preaching that “Convicts, Converts and Subverts.”
With the “platform grandstanding and showmanship” adorned in polished rhetoric, they preach to itching ears rather than wounded hearts. At the end of the day preaching becomes an act of entertainment in the interest of delighting the audience. Truth is dressed up with lavish garments of eloquence and style, turning it into something else.
Preaching is not to amuse but to amend the hearers. It is not manipulating the crowd using techniques that excite and stir and move people’s emotions to achieve results, but being the messenger of God with God’s Word and God’s Wisdom in God’s Power preaching the Scriptures.
The absence of this kind of preaching moved God in 698 B.C. to command Isiah to: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgressions and the house of Jacob and their sins” (Isa. 58:1).
God in 609 B.C. spoke to Jeremiah about the faithless shepherds: pastors, prophets and priests. Of the 40 verses of Jeremiah 23, verses 1, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 21, 22, 25, 30 and 31 describe too many in 2017.
The Holy Ghost in A.D. 66 moved Paul to command to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4: 2,3). “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear” (1 Tim 5:20).
God’s Messengers fail to preach God’s word in God’s Power for more than one reason: Insufficient courage to please God when men reject the truth, security and retirement are also factors to consider. Truth rejection is called Apostasy (falling away) and is the act of professed Christians who deliberately reject revealed truth (1 John 4:1-3, Phil. 3:18, 2 Peter 2:1). Paul says: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn their ears from the truth and shall be turned to fables” (2 Tim. 4: 3-4). Paul then further describes the age of Apostasy which is our present experience: “This, know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those who are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim. 1: 1-5). Apostates depart from the faith but not from the outward profession of Christianity (3:5). Apostate teachers are described in 2 Tim. 4:3; 2 Pet. 2:1-9; Jude 4, 8, 11-13, 16. Apostasy in the church is irremediable and awaits God’s judgement (2 Thess. 2 10-12; 2 Peter 2: 17, 21; Jude 11-15; Rev. 3: 14-16).
Dr. Waiters can be reached at 704-636-3369.