Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Should pastors do news-prophecy updates?

I've been thinking a lot about pastors who do prophecy updates. This is when pastors speak from the pulpit regarding current events of the day, such as the Syrian civil war, or a major earthquake, or the eclipses coming up, or Egypt's coups, etc. The speak about this news from the pulpit during service and relate the news back to the bible.

Should pastors do this? Should they refrain from updating their parishioners on the news?? It is a difficult question. As with all hard questions (and easy ones too) let's look at the bible first. The role of pastor is to include:

--Care to those whom he has been entrusted (1 Peter 5:2-3).
--A pastor is a shepherd of God’s flock who is to instruct, teach, and protect the people under his charge. In John 21:15-17, Jesus said to Peter, feed My sheep, tend My sheep, feed My sheep.
--Acts 6:4 those who lead the church are charged to give themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word.
--Acts 20:27 declare the whole counsel of God
--2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
Though pastors have many duties as defined by the bible, teaching and preaching the word of God to the flock is number one. It is the major way they tend the sheep, and feed the sheep. They also protect the sheep from wolves, by guarding the congregation from false doctrine and the people who bring it. Feeding the lambs with the bread of life is uniquely given to elders/overseers.

Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." Mark 13:31. The only enduring thing in this world are the words of Jesus, and shepherds are entrusted to pass them to the people, to explain, to use as encouragement and rebuke, for training in righteousness.

Prophecy is part of that general mandate. Too few pastors preach the prophetic passages or even mention them in passing. Somehow prophecy has gotten a bad reputation. This is likely because so many crazy people have set dates and brought shame onto Christianity by being a fringe element. Others are too shamefully gleeful at the wrath parts of judgment in prophecy and do not demonstrate the love of Christ by counterbalancing His wrath with talk of His grace and mercy. Or, many pastors don't want the 'taint' that has besmirched prophecy in general to taint them, so they shy away. Oftentimes, it is also because seminaries do not teach pastoral students the importance of prophecy or preaching the prophetic passages, calling them unknowable, or controversial, and they ignore them altogether. Thus, new pastors don't feel equipped to preach on them and they never do, even as they mature.
Frontspiece to "America A Prophecy"
William Blake 1793

As for the sheep, us, many have gotten discouraged by the hype that too many eager pastors have promoted with prophecy. Or, they have picked up on the general taint and they frown meanly from the pews when or if a pastor preaches it.

Yet the bible says to preach the whole counsel of God. Preaching the prophetic is encouraging because it shows God's sovereignty, His careful attention to detail, and His everlasting covenants. When was the last time you heard a good sermon from, say, Obadiah? I listened to Phil Johnson preach from Nahum last weekend, and I loved every minute of it.

However that said, there is a difference in preaching prophecy and preaching secular news. As an example, John MacArthur has been preaching for 46 years, 44 of them at one church. All of his sermons he's preached since 1969 are online. I've listened to a healthy sampling of them from each decade, including the ones from 1969, from the 70s, and 80s and 90s and 00s and beyond. In a bare few, he mentions current events. For the most part, he simply does what the bible says, preach the word. The word is always fresh. When he expounds on it, I literally cannot detect which era the sermon is from. It is as fresh as if he delivered it today than when he did 45 years ago. It is all edifying.

I applaud and honor those pastors who occasionally relate something happening in the culture or the world to the bible. John MacArthur did this in 2012 when he preached two sermons pointedly on America's downward slide into immorality. They were "sermons on the spiritual and moral decline being championed by our country’s leaders." The introduction to that two-part series states,

"If you’ve followed John MacArthur’s teaching for any length of time, you know he rarely says much about politics, culture, or society. It’s not that he’s uninformed on those topics. It’s that they’re often an intrusion upon the teaching of God’s Word. Evangelical Christians are already too easily distracted from the Great Commission in order to engage in partisan politics."

However, sometimes mixing the current news and the bible is called for. Dr MacArthur stated

"I’m not one to talk about politics as such, but I was essentially amazed that one of the historic parties here in the United States adopted the sins of Romans 1 as their platform. This is a new day in our country. Parties which used to differ on economics now differ dramatically on issues that invade the realm of God’s law and morality."

Even at that, the bulk of those two sermons were mainly focused on the Word of God and not the news of culture. And the rest of his sermons are focused totally on the word of God.

In the few cases if a secular news event is mentioned in an older sermon I am listening to, it's jarring. It dates the sermon and makes it seem old and creaky. It kind of ruins the whole thing. Tying news into preaching is a bad mix, kind of like the iron and clay toes in the statue of Nebuchadnezzar that will not stay together.

There are some pastors who choose to speak a prophecy update each week, or quarterly. I have more concerns about these. I truly thank these preachers for doing weekly prophecy updates, I know their heart is in the right place. I know they love the Lord. But to work news back into the bible and claim meaning from it regularly is a dangerous activity, in my opinion. When a pastor has committed to a weekly prophecy update that includes the news of the world, their attention is necessarily divided.

I believe pastors should walk a fine line when it comes to preaching the news. They spend time reading newspapers instead of reading the bible. Tying news articles to the word means we think we can see what the Lord is doing or that we know his ways. But His ways are far above our ways. The pulpit is for God's word.

Pastors should be excited about His appearing though, and talk much of our new home based on what the bible says, and look forward to the era to come. But they throw ALL prophecy out with the bathwater and never mention that this earth isn't our home! Instead of preaching news stories from the pulpit, they go too far in the other direction and never preach the bible's prophetic passages, either.

As far as news goes, we have come to the prophetic brink so often since 2008 and then the Lord saw fit to retreat the world from the prophetic brink. Russia is rising, Middle East is inflamed, the world economy is tanking, Damascus is dying, Egypt is failing, we can see the prophetic indicators.

The pastor's role is to preach the word in season and out, ALL of the word, and this is on them- when
St Bernard preaching from a pulpit,
G. Martini, 1470
they do not preach prophecy passages from the bible they are not fulfilling the command to feed His sheep the whole counsel of God. But the word does not command shepherds to feed us news. So many pastors unwittingly get drawn away when they include secular news to their sermons from the pulpit. They start looking at the news and not expending their precious time on learning the word. Satan will take anything, even something good, and make it bad. If they feed us the word then we will understand and see the times. Jesus chastised the Pharisees for being able to tell the weather from signs but not His appearing from the fact of His appearing! (Mt 16:3). And Paul said -

"But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober." (1 Thess 5:4-5)

So the pastors preach the word, the whole word, and the Spirit illuminates the times for us.

It is a shame that so few are excited about His appearing. Paul mentioned it constantly! I talk about it a lot at church. I think He is coming soon. Not because the news indicates He is coming back soon but the bible says His return for His bride is imminent. It is something to get excited about! Not the news but simply the eagerness of going to our new home or the fact of His coming to get us. It is a sad thing that too few Christians look eagerly to that moment. If Paul and the early Christians did, how much closer is it today! Every NT book except Philemon mentions the prophetic future of our being raptured to Him and the new era. Christians who long for His appearing even earn a crown! And that is a shame, that so many brethren won't share the joy of anticipation. I speak it from the bible, though, not from the news.

I do believe that the Lord is returning soon. I believe the rapture will be any day. I have believed this since I read it in the bible. The events today look to me like they are pointing to our last moments on earth under the Age of Grace. But, it's been 7 years since I first thought that and it could be two years from now or another ten or I could die tomorrow and go to heaven anyway. We just don't know. We look at the seasons and we look for His appearing and this should give us urgency to witness. But when I go to church I want to hear His word explained, there is no better way to spend time than hear the word. It is the only enduring thing on this earth.

What's your opinion on the matter?


15 comments:

  1. My opinion.....I'm not sure if you're talking about JD farag or if it's a general post but here's what I think, JD farag does the update AND an expository verse by verse teaching. that's fine, other preachers who constantly say "this is it" are to be avoided. I have no problem with updates so long as it doesn't come at the expense of teaching Gods Word

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  2. I believe that there are many "pastors" who are afraid too say to much. A lot of that may stem from some of the conditions of 501(c)3 status, which IMHO is a mistake, because it regulates what can be said in part from the pulpit. And according to this site is unnecessary.
    http://hushmoney.org/501c3-facts.htm

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  3. Hello,
    I just love your blog it’s such a blessing. I agree with you the word of God tells us the catching away of the church is an imminent event and always has been. With that said I think we are in the last of the last and I don’t think we could have said that 10 or 5 years ago. I say this because today we have a country and a world where Christians are being persecuted, yes we have always had this but it’s intensified. And now we have laws that celebrated same sex marriages where 7 years ago we didn’t. Wrong is celebrated and right is persecuted. Again always had this but not with the level of intensity. We have apostasy like never before getting worse and worse. The signs that have always been there, since it’s been the last days since Christ finished the work on the cross, are now more intense and getting so every day. It may not be tomorrow, no one knows the hour nor the day but I don’t think it will be another lifetime I think it will be within ours. Even so Lord Jesus come quickly!

    Celida

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  4. Hi Elizabeth,

    I too appreciate the general "timelessness" of MacA's sermons. I don't mind hearing current events in light of the Scripture, especially given the times in which we live, so long as (like hartdawg put it) the "THIS IS IT!!!" preaching is avoided.

    With regard to teaching on the rapture, it is easy to get burnt out by over eager "date framing" brethren, and also discouraged by reformed brothers and sisters, a great many of whom believe the false teaching of amillennialism, and often are quite disparaging toward anyone with premillennial beliefs, or who wants to discuss the rapture.

    So I poke around here, and listen to MacA (since he is reformed, but is correctly premillennial), and a precious few other ministries that I know and trust have sound doctrine. And of course our home church, as our pastor is premillennial.

    -carolyn

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  5. I am going on my fourth decade as a Christian and during all those years of sitting in the pew, I cannot recall my pastors ever discussing in depth the book of Revelation, much less bible prophecy in the Old Testiment. It is a fine line to walk by focusing on current events while tying it with eschatology~one can easily be distracted from the Word while searching for His nearness in the world. So many bible teachers who are focused on end times events try to put God in a nice, neat box in terms of how events will come to pass. The truth is we simply don't know and we are not meant to know. The rapture will happen when it happens. In the meantime, we can still learn from the living Word of God to help steer us in these tumultuous times.

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  6. I agree most pastors do not teach prophecy much less Revelation. I've been told to steer clear of Revelation by pastors already, telling me it would be too hard for me to understand. Through prayer, the Lord lead me to understand it and show me the teachers and studies to help me understand. If pastors would teach more of Revelation, so much more of the bible would be understood better. All of the books work together and if you don't study them all, you don't get the full picture. I've read some articles by pastors who tie current events into the bible, and as long as they aren't date setting, I don't mind. But this is only because I look to see what scripture they are referring too so I can research it myself to prove or disprove whatever is said. If they don't refer to scripture, I don't pay much attention. I agree though that when the word of God is taught without being constantly tied to current events, a clearer perspective of the "world" can be seen.

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  7. MacA is joining the ranks of the doctrinally unsound crowd,to see these once mighty stalwarts slipping into apostasy only confirms how closest are to end times prophecy fulfilment.
    See the latest posting by Jacob Prasch at moriel.org
    Shalom
    Stan

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    1. I didn't see any latest posting at moriel.org related to any alleged apostasy of John MacArthur. However, I have to say firmly, and definitively, that I listen, read, and watch Dr MacArthur's stuff several times per week, and do the same with his older pieces, and have never seen one whisper of apostasy. What I see is a great biblical example of a teacher and a pastor who expounds solid doctrine- every time

      If you have concerns about him, as I said regarding another commenter who made claims about another preacher, please provide evidence. BIBLICAL evidence.

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    2. Elizabeth, I found the link Stan referred to:

      http://www.moriel.org/articles/

      "How the Mighty Have Fallen", by J.J. Prasch, 10/16/13

      I listened to the 5 min video which accompanied the article. What I will say is this:

      According to the written word, I believe MacA (and Howse and DeYoung) are incorrect on the point discussed in the video. Scripture seems clear to me that those who take the mark are finished (Rev 14; Rev 16, Rev 20). But I believe from the written word that there will be people in the last half of the tribulation who will not take the mark, but will be able to survive. One example - the Jews hidden at what is commonly called Petra. So I'm not in a twist over this issue.

      However, MacArthur's view (shared by DeYoung and Howse) does NOT mean those men are "slipping into apostasy", as Stan charges.

      There is a WORLD of difference between a faithful preacher occasionally erring (which EVERY preacher - and every believer - will do, we are only fallible humans!), vs a false teacher constantly spewing false doctrine.

      Just as there is a WORLD of difference between a born again believer who sins (which EVERY believer does, but their hearts have been made right with God and there is fruit of repentance), vs an unsaved soul who wallows in sin ("practices sin") as a habit of life.

      Personally, I've listened to at least 100 MacA sermons, spanning 3-4 decades, both on the radio and some from online at GTY. Yes, I have heard him say a few incorrect things, but not often.

      As for Prasch, his article below the video, he seems rather disparaging toward MacArthur, Calvinists, and those who adhere to pre-tribulation rapture teaching.

      For the record, I do not consider myself a Calvinist, as I disagree with aspects of and issues related to Calvinism, but I did not find Prasch's attitude toward Calvinists to be appropriate. The statement that MacA and others like him have "become false teachers propounding serious error " is way out of line.

      Prasch, from his own comments, appears to believe in a prewrath rapture.

      -carolyn

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    3. carolyn, thank you! I read it and listened to the clip.

      Mr Prasch titled his piece on Dr MacArthur, "How the Mighty Have Fallen" which is impertinent at best and cravenly gleeful at worst. That is not how we speak of a brother who we THINK is falling into apostasy, as Mr Prasch does. If it happens, if it is true, we mourn.

      Secondly, Mr Prasch does not believe in Calvinism or cessationism- both of which are biblical. He does not believe the pre trib rapture, which he believes is "invented" by a Jesuit. So that tells me a lot about Mr Prasch I didn't know before.

      But most importantly, I ask the following. Show me in the bible where it says that anyone taking the mark CANNOT be saved. We have always assumed that to be so, me included. We have written, spoke, taught, and thought it to be so. But in reviewing Dr MacArthur's statement, I want to take another look. Does it say anywhere that those with the mark will *not* be saved? Let's take some time to reflect on what the bible says on this issue.

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    4. Hi Elizabeth,

      YW for the link. As I said, I do believe Scripture is clear from the passages relating to the mark as found in Revelation 14, 16, and 20, that those who take the mark are finished. I guess you can read the passages for yourself. I am comfortable with my understanding, and don't have any problem accepting that good, solid Bible teachers can be wrong from time to time, MacA included.

      Thanks, and take care,

      Carolyn

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    5. Thanks for the references. I read Rev 14:9-11 and that is very clear, as you say. So I wonder what's up with Dr MacArthur saying the opposite. Chalk it up to "I dunno what's up with that".

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    6. The clip Prasch is referring to is from 1980, 33 years ago, and the piece was from a Q&A (not a sermon). Here, http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/1301-I/

      He preached it rightly in 1993, here
      http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/66-48, referring to Rev 14:9 and stated flatly that if you take the mark you'll be tormented by God's wrath forever.

      And I would surmise every time it was mentioned after that date it was also preached rightly.

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  8. Pastors must strike a balance between preaching the Word in its entirety and allowing the church to "watch" collectively in anticipation of our Lord's return. As a believer, I've been learning to find that balance in the last few months. I found that I've been to fixated on the daily headlines that other aspects of the ministry don't interest me anymore. Discernment, finding the right balance in all things, is what we are called to do.

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  9. When Biblical prophets spoke they prefaced it with "This is the word of the Lord". Because only the Lord knows the future and if the prophecies didn't come to pass they were considered false prophets and were to be put to death. Hmmm, wonder how that would work out today.
    Prophecy in the Bible is all related to Israel, they are God's proverbial time clock. That clock has stopped for now and will start up again when the time of the Gentiles has come to an end and God picks up His dealing with the Jewish nation in the Tribulation. Jesus told the apostles that they should recognize the times of that season when He would return(Second Coming, not rapture) but wouldn't know the exact date. They knew what the Old Testament said and where they were in that prophetic time clock. They knew that Tribulation would come before the Messiah would come to rescue them. So Revelation tells of that time of God dealing with the Jewish people.
    So what prophecy update do we need? Biblically there is nothing that has to happen before the Rapture occurs. I think that these times are just indicative of man in general. Nothing new under the sun. Evil still abounds daily and has been since time began. It ebbs and flows. I wonder what people thought when the Jews were murdered, not just in the Holocaust but the pogroms, and the Dark Ages.
    Sooo, while the updates seem relevant much of it is just how it's been. The only update is wondering if man could get any worse.
    There really is no need to look for anything outside the Word of God because that is the only place where Truth resides. Otherwise, it is just a roller coaster ride of guesses.
    I think true believer's are just looking for any sign that something is imminent but Paul tells us that we are out of here in the twinkle of an eye. Then things that are prophetic that are to be fulfilled will begin to happen. I think that most of us who check out the updates are just anxious for that moment of the Rapture to occur.
    I know I am.
    Maranatha!

    pam

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