Balanced Preaching?


     In my experiences in preaching, I have heard a lot about "balanced preaching." In fact, of all the possible nuances and facets of preaching to be discussed, I think I have heard more on "balanced preaching" than any other particular. Based on what I have heard, "balance" involves a number of particulars, but they are all juxtaposed as to be equal in some way, to the point to where they equally hold up each other. In the case of "balanced preaching," there are proposed matters that are so positioned or presented so as to have equal exposure and emphasis. In an attempt to understand what is meant by "balanced preaching," I have researched various ones who use the expression. Some say "balanced preaching" is equal presentation and emphasis on "grace and sin." Some have explained it as, "balanced preaching is equal consideration of the ‘milk’ and ‘meat’ of the word." Still others explain that "balanced preaching" is presenting the positive and the negative in a way that they balance out each other or have equal time given to them. Some brethren and churches stress "balanced preaching" to the extent that they will accuse a preacher of being a false teacher and fire any who does not present "balanced preaching." I have asked churches, "On what grounds did you fire brother…," and have been told, "We fired him because his preaching was not balanced."

     This may sound strange that one who has studied the scriptures as long as I and preached full time for over forty years does not know what is "balanced preaching." Now, I know what preaching is that declares the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20: 27). I believe I know what it means to "…reprove, rebuke, and exhort" (2 Tim. 4: 2). I also believe I have some degree of functional familiarity with "…speaking as the oracles of God" and "sound doctrine" (I Pet. 4: 11, Tit. 2: 1). I know about all of this because such is clearly taught and found in the scriptures. However, the expression "balanced preaching" is absent in the scriptures. That is right, this matter that takes priority over all other matters when it comes to preaching is not even mentioned in the scriptures as such! I cannot even find the concept of "balanced preaching," at least, not as thus far defined.

     One attempted to define "balanced preaching" as "…preaching consisting of four elements," said he. "There is exposition of truth; illustration of truth; application of truth; and invitation to truth." Sounds pretty good and, no doubt, there is an "element" of truth in general to his definition.

     Let’s face it, those who so use the term "balanced preaching," have not given the concept consideration, for the most part. They have ended up binding a man-made requirement and requiring a practice not observed in the scriptures.

     There are times when the preacher needs to be very focused and place particular emphasis on a certain subject, problem, or need. Such is evident in I John. Gnosticism was just beginning to exert its influence and from all indications, I John is dedicated to the refutation of Gnosticism. Out of the total 105 verses in I John, about 64 appear to be designed and written to disprove tenets of the false doctrinal system of Gnosticism. Hence, it is well said that I John has the obvious emphasis of treating Gnosticism (some today would call this "hobby riding"). Was John wrong? I ask this because John did not have "balanced preaching," as most use the term. When studied in its milieu, I John certainly did not contain an equal amount of positive and negative, etc.

     I recently read an article that asserted over and over that, "…churches cannot and will not grow unless they have balanced preaching." I find such an assertion both interesting and disturbing.

     To be plain and cogent, my observation through the years is those who clamor for "balanced preaching" usually have a warped concept of preaching and often a personal problem. Their problem sometimes is that they have a sensitivity that they do not want the preacher mentioning with any regularity. It could be worldliness, social drinking, gambling, etc. I have had some in unscriptural marriages say, "You preach on marriage and scriptural divorce too much; therefore, your preaching is not sound because it is not balanced!" Such, in their mind, constitutes grounds for the removal of the preacher. Sometimes there are those who want the preacher removed, but they know they have no real specific and scriptural reason. Thus, they say, "The preaching is no longer balanced; it is time for a charge."

     Speaking of preaching on marriage and divorcement, John the Baptist did just that. "But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done" (Luke 3: 19). "Being reproved" in the original Greek grammar is, nominative case, singular in number, masculine in gender, participle in form and passive in voice. Hence, John literally "…kept on and did not stop reproving" Herod for his adulterous marriage. I guess one could say, John did not have "balanced preaching," using the mentioned ideas as to what is "balanced preaching." In dealing with Herod, John had an emphasis, based on the prevailing circumstances.

     Some have defined "balanced preaching" as equally dealing with the Lord’s church and denominationalism, the true plan of salvation and false plans; how to and not to live as a Christian. Some preachers I know and of whom I have read maintain meticulous weekly and annual sermon planers in an effort to give equal time and emphasis to matters just mentioned.

     What preacher in the New Testament can be offered as an example of "balanced preaching," as so defined! Can Paul, Peter, Stephen, James, John, or Jude? What preacher equally in time, emphasis, and coverage dealt with matters earlier seen to be said to be "balanced preaching?" Beloved, not a single preacher! The phraseology and concept of "balanced preaching" is a man-made concept. The need of the audience or church and the judgment of the preacher are the determining factors and influences in arriving at subject matter.

     One of the best texts relative to preaching is the first five verses of 2 Timothy 4. Consider what Paul enjoined on Timothy as a preacher, one who was to preach to the church at Ephesus (cp. I Tim. 1: 3):

     "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry."

     May I kindly point out that no where in this instruction or any where else for this matter, do we read something to the effect:

     "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. Be sure to equally treat all subjects, thus having balanced preaching."

     The too often problem is every Tom, Dick, and Harry think they are authorities on preachers and preaching. Members who have no real experience in the endeavor of preaching, yet they possess definitive knowledge. They have brought a sermon or two in the absence of the local preacher, but they have very limited exposure to the real world and work of preaching.

     Having said the foregoing, please allow me to now come back from a little different slant. I personally strive to mention the "whole counsel of God" with some degree of regularity (cp. Acts 20: 27). If I find myself concentrating of man’s duty over a period of time, I like to come back and focus on God’s part (cp. Eph. 2: 8-10). Do I provide equality in time and treatment? It would be futile to seriously attempt to provide exact equality in time and treatment.

     I recall the elders and I met with a disgruntled couple who did not like the preaching. Their charge was, "the preaching is not balanced." The real problem was I had placed over several months emphasis on worldliness and they were worldly and they thought they could control the preaching by providing the charge, "He does not have balanced preaching." They had done their home work, I will give them credit. They had by using tapes of sermons taken the sermons over a period of three months and documented that about 75 percent of the sermons were negative in that they hit on worldliness. My reply was, "So what?" They really did not seem to know what to say next. They finally replied: "Do you admit that you have been guilty of not having balanced preaching?" My reply was, "If by ‘balanced preaching’ you mean that I have had a certain emphasis to smoke out and hopefully cause to repent certain worldly members such as you, I stand guilty. But your concept and charge is man-made and not taught in the scriptures." To their credit, they repented and relented. The elders happened to be trying to follow the scriptures and they supported the truth in this case.

     "We need balanced preaching" is often the plea of the weak backboneless preacher who will not with force and concentration deal with a particular need in a local church or even the brotherhood. He makes himself feel and look better by labeling those who do love the truth and have the courage to forcefully present it as "Flawed preachers who lack balanced preaching."

     I recall one article in which the preacher taught: "The faithful preacher will see to it that he presents an equal fifty-fifty mixture of negative and positive." I had the opportunity to be around him not long after his material was published and I asked him, "What verse do you use to arrive at the fifty-fifty formula you bind?" He replied, 2 Timothy 4: 2. When I pointed out that depending on how one applied "reprove," 2 Timothy 4: 2 presents what appears to be a sixty-six formula, sixty-six percent negative and thirty-thee present positive (I do not believe 2 Timothy 4: 2 is thus meant to serve as such a binding formula).

     We must have preachers who "preach the word" and who are "instant in season, out of season" (preach it when brethren want it and when they do not want it). Men who will, "Reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4: 2). We have too many hirelings in the pulpit who are looking for justification for their cowardice and too many members who want such soft peddling of "truth," just enough truth and just often enough to make them feel secure, but not "too much" truth and not "too often" to make them miserable. Besides, "balanced preaching" is an impossibility!