Preaching: Soft and Hard
He is on to something. If a preacher (male or female; MacArthur doesn't believe in female pastors and preachers, sadly) preaches the deep and difficult things of Holy Scripture, even the painful things, people may, through the Holy Spirit, repent and embrace those things and do mightly exploits for God. I recently heard one of our senior preachers, Kiara Jorgensen, do just that in chapel at Denver Seminary. She carefully unpacked a text that taught that God's people must reach out to the unlovely, the outcast. It was hard, good, challenging, and right.
Contrariwise, when preachers (or, better, pulpiteers) preach an easy word, give a soft and comfortable message, the congregation is not challenged to the root of their being to be holy as God is holy. They then become hard, complacent, comfortable. This, tragically, is most of North American preaching.
Jerram Barrs reflects on the preaching of Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) this way:
I will never forget some of the sermons I heard him preach. The fact that his voice was high and often would crack as he emphasized a point, the reality that no-one could describe him as ‘charismatic’ or ‘strikingly handsome’ in appearance - these things were completely unimportant. I would listen to a message, often for well over an hour, and be captivated by the truth from God’s Word that was communicated with such clarity and power and with such relevance to our own moment of history and such immediate application to my life. One sermon on Rahab often comes back to me: ‘we are all harlots’ Francis declared, ‘we have all prostituted ourselves constantly to other gods.’ There are many others of his sermons that have left this same indelible impression on my mind.
That was hard preaching.
Oh, Christians! Expect more from your preachers. Don't settle for "the pillow prophets" (as David Wilkerson puts it). Don't heed those who cry, "Peace, peace when there is no peace," those who purport to "heal the wounds of God's people lightly." Expect more. Pray for more. Demand more.
O preachers! Forsake all pulpiteering, people-pleasing, culture-aping, dumbed down and entertaining "messages." Whose message is it? Not your own, but God's. As Paul said:
10 Am I now trying to win human approval, or God's approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. --Galatians 1:10.