3 Myths about Bold Preaching
by Travis Bookout
The church began with bold preaching and desperately needs bold preaching today. Bold preaching is not easy, but it is necessary. Peter and John were bold preachers (Acts 4:13). Paul was a bold preacher (Acts 28:31). Early Christians often prayed to be bold preachers (Acts 4:29; Ephesians 6:18-19). We need more boldness in our pulpits throughout the world.
That being said, it seems that there is a lot of confusion today about what it means to preach boldly. Here are three myths commonly believed about bold preaching:
Myth #1: Bold Preaching is Opinionated Preaching:
I have strong opinions on what constitutes modest dress. I have opinions on political issues and candidates. I have opinions on which words are appropriate and inappropriate. I have opinions on which movies Christians should avoid. But other honest, thinking, Bible believing Christians have opinions on these things too. And these opinions do not always match perfectly.
When a preacher preaches an exact, absolute standard of what clothes Christians ought to wear to worship, or which presidential candidate is the “Christian” choice, or which MPAA ratings all Christians must avoid, they have entered the realm of opinionated preaching. I have actually heard a sermon which listed “unknown euphemisms” and condemned every utterance of those words. Yet precisely none of these specifics can be found in Scripture!
Opinionated preaching is a great fear I have. I am absolutely convinced with every ounce of existing internal certitude that if everyone obeyed my opinions, the world would be a much better place. But I try very hard not to preach simply what I wish everyone would do. That’s not my job.
It might sound bold for a preacher to thunderously proclaim condemnation to the immodest, movie-going, euphemism speakers of the godless political party, but bold preaching comes from Scripture. Certainly wisdom, experience, and practical common sense can be shared. Sometimes, there is even a place for opinions in the pulpit; provided they are good opinions and they are taught as opinions.
But true boldness needs to come from Scripture, and keep the opinions in the realm of, well, opinions.
Myth #2: Bold Preaching is Rude Preaching:
I have sometimes heard “bold preaching” used synonymously with what was rather obviously “rude preaching.”
I remember listening to a sermon one time on Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” This sermon quickly derailed into an angry, venomous, diatribe about all the other churches in the area. Literally, the words “stupid” and “idiotic” were used to describe the other churches.
Volume, fist pounding, insults, and a heaping dose of condescension might be enough to persuade some people to follow your version of Christ. Some people are very attracted to that kind of bravado. But that has nothing to do with “bold” preaching.
If you are a shouter and a pulpit pounder, great! Have fun. But that doesn’t necessarily imply boldness. It implies some good pipes and a sturdy pulpit. Volume is a poor substitute for content. If you like to insult and dehumanize those who disagree with you, that also doesn’t mean you are bold. It probably just means you’re a jerk.
Bold preaching can be done quietly or loudly. It can be done with a scowl, a smile, or a tear. Bold preaching can be kind. It can be polite, respectful, and loving. In fact, that’s generally the best way to do it in our culture.
Knowing the sensibilities of your listeners is important; trying to communicate truth in the most effective way possible is your responsibility. There is a difference between preaching the truth, and preaching the truth well. Boldness has nothing to do with rudeness.
Myth #3: Bold Preaching is Negative Preaching:
Finally, there seems to be some confusion that bold preaching is always negative preaching.
Interestingly, the New Testament speaks about boldly preaching good news. No matter how you spin it, good news should not be a negative thing. Even the hard topics are not necessarily “negative” topics. All preaching is positive preaching as long as the goal is to bring people closer to God.
However, clearly there are some topics that are harsher than others and people generally associate them with negativity. Hell, sin, divorce, homosexuality, division, greed, hatred, and many other topics are often called “negative preaching.” And those who solely focus on them are often called “bold preachers.” That, however, is not necessarily the case.
Going back to the Philippians 4:13 tirade about other churches, a comment made after the sermon was that it “really stepped on all of our toes.” I didn’t feel that way. Instead, my toes felt awesome. They never had any pressure at all, because I was not in those other churches. And the other churches’ toes didn’t hurt either because they were not in our building.
It’s extremely easy to preach negative topics about the “outsiders.” I can rail on outsiders all day long, but very rarely does it help anybody. And it requires no boldness.
It’s extremely easy to preach negative topics to those who already agree and love hearing negative topics. That kind of preaching is often just tickling ears. Yes, harsh and negative preaching can tickle ears too.
Bold preaching focuses not on what people want to hear, but on what people need to hear. Sometimes that may be negative. Sometimes the good brethren may need to be told to repent and straighten up. They may need a 2×4 to the back of the head. But bold preaching can also be about salvation, security, love, grace, and forgiveness. Bold preaching can be about faith and hope and kindness.
A church that neglects the poor needs some bold preaching on love and generosity. A church that has suffered a tragedy needs some bold preaching on hope. A church that is brimming with guilt needs some bold preaching on grace.
What is Bold Preaching?
Bold preaching is preaching God’s word with confidence: to confidently proclaim the Gospel of Jesus in the best way you possibly can, attempting to inspire change in the hearts of people and bring glory to God. Bold preaching is not defined by opinions, volume, slurs, or negativity.
Bold preaching is about presenting what people need to hear. This can have consequences. You might be called “hateful” by some and “liberal” by others. You might never be invited back to speak. You might lose your job. Some have even been killed. But bold preaching will go on, that’s what makes it bold preaching.