A few weeks ago, I came across an excerpt from a sermon where the pastor at a church started “rebuking” members of the congregation for their various faults.
That video has gone viral now and, as I write this, about 600 thousand people have seen it on Youtube. So Christianity Today asked a number of experts about rebuking from the pulpit. I was particularly interested to see Methodist luminary William Willimon‘s take on it:
Prophets such as Amos or Nathan called people to account personally. It’s almost refreshing, in this age of feel-good theology, to see a preacher really get worked up over behavior and get morally indignant in the service of the truth delivered to him to speak.
Well, yes, as a fellow mainline pastor, I agree that it is (sadly) refreshing to see a preacher get worked up and morally indignant. But is it the right thing to do? Albert Mohler said, “I can’t imagine a situation in which it is healthy or wise to attempt individual church discipline or exhortation in the context of preaching in a worship service.” I agree with him more than I do with Willimon.
But my own position is one I’ve stolen from Jim Burgen, and it goes like this: if you can’t put “me too” somewhere in the sentence, then just don’t say it. There are other people in the congregation and they can probably see what the problem is as well as you can. Instead of you thundering “you bad person” from the pulpit, let those other people come alongside and say “I struggle with that too, and here’s how God has helped me.”