Self-Control in the Pulpit

What I’m about to describe has and is happening. In fact, it is exacerbating and complicating the problem of anger in our homes. A preacher gets angry in the pulpit, or uses anger in his preaching, or has an angry spirit while he is preaching. “How do I know?” Because I’ve been guilty. But I’m afraid I’m not alone. In fact, I have been in meetings where the “Amens” were the loudest when the preacher was the most angry. And I’m not against “Amens!” Sadly, most preachers who have this problem are like James and John. They don’t know it. It’s easy to get confused and think that the emotional high of anger is the same thing as the power of God upon your life.

Some people who hear an angry preacher preach know that he’s angry. But many men in the congregation have the same problem and therefore don’t know it. For a strong Bible preacher to have an angry spirit is not only an accepted thing in our day. It is also, in some circles, a strongly promoted, encouraged, and expected thing. Preachers have said things like: “If you don’t get in the pulpit and have a royal fit once every few months then you’ll have carnal, worldly church members and your church will never be all it ought to be.” So the use of the carnal, worldly weapon of anger is supposedly proper and powerful to fight carnality and worldliness. Sometimes the angry spirit is heard in the things a preacher says, or the way he says them, or both!

Why do we use anger? Every preacher would have to answer that question for himself. But it’s easy to use anger as a substitute for study. If the point is not well supported with Scripture, Scriptural principle, Scriptural illustrations, strong reasoning, or other illustrations . . . . just use a little anger to drive the point home! Then, if a fellow is really talented, he may use some humor to gloss over the hurt being caused by his anger. Like a father trying to get a child to laugh after he just said or did something cruel or hurtful. Humor may wisely be used to make truth more acceptable. But humor should not be used to make anger more acceptable. Incidentally, anyone who says anything in anger will probably say the wrong thing. BUT, if you do say the right thing it will probably be said the wrong way. Proverbs 14:17 says, “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly.”

What are the results of this angry spirit in our pulpits? There are several of them:

(1) Continual strife among pastor and deacons, and pastor and people, and people and people. Remember that Proverbs 29:22 says, “An angry man stirreth up strife.”

(2) Empty pews and people going to churches that don’t teach and preach the Bible just to get away from the angry spirit in the Bible-believing church. One preacher said to me, “I don’t believe all the people I ran off for years and blamed it on them when it wasn’t anything but my own angry spirit.”

(3) A plague of anger is spread throughout homes, businesses, and society.

I was very careful how I chose those words. Anger is like a contagious plague! Since the anger is behind the pulpit, it must be right not only for there but for anywhere else. But that’s not the worst problem we have in this area. We are not simply defending and justifying a carnal work of the flesh. We are also promoting the spread of something that God himself says is contagious like a deadly disease. Proverbs 22:24-25 says, “Make no friendship [the Hebrew word means to pasture or feed] with an angry man [the Hebrew word means “ruler” or “leader”]; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: [WHY?] Lest [means “beware] thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.” When a preacher stands in the pulpit with an angry spirit, the fathers in the church “catch it” and don’t know they have it. Then many of the youth rebel against their parents and we can’t figure out how or why it has happened. I know this isn’t the only reason for problems in our churches and homes, but it is probably a bigger one than we realize.

(4) Vengeance is being handled by someone not Biblically qualified to handle it. An angry preacher may think he is giving reproof and correction. In reality, he is exercising vengeance upon God’s people.

(5) It causes us to lose the battle to spread God’s truth among the nations of the world. Our spirit of anger weakens or neutralizes our presentation of the truth.

The truth of the spirit is not the most powerful when it is presented with a work of the flesh. The truth of the spirit is the most powerful when it is presented with the fruit of the spirit.

A pastor said to me, “But couldn’t the intensity of our presentation of the truth cause people to think we’re angry when we’re really not?” My reply to him was this: “Our love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance should be so obvious that there would be no question about our being angry.” The Holy Spirit knows better how to use His Sword than do we! Let me make clear what I’m saying here. I am not against strong, clear, plain, powerful, bold preaching. I’m for that. I am for preaching that exposes sin and Satan. What I am saying is this: It may be a fine line, but there must be a line drawn: between being emphatic or being enraged; between being fiery or being frightening; between being watchful or wrathful. There must be a line between correction and condemnation; between intensity and indignation; between reproving and raging. I’m not suggesting passivity. No great leaders in the Bible were passive men. I am suggesting that our attacks and our defenses be filled with spiritual propriety and humility and a heart of concern. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you, a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

Luke 4:22 tells about Jesus’ message in the synagogue at Nazareth. What was it that stood out about Jesus’ preaching? “And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.”

From the message, “Freedom from the Spirit of Anger” by Dr. S.M. Davis