Lately a friend was sharing with me, he visited a church and in the trip, the sermon speaker was rebuking the congregation for leaving their bibles in the church and not bringing their own bibles to church.

My friend was saying, these messages are unedifying to the truth seekers who are sitting in the congregation hearing, and he was saying, such message should be disseminated subtly and on a personal basis, because it will give the truth seekers a “bad impression” of the church.

That was when I was wondering to myself “Is there a good time for a bad news?” My friend seems to suggest that there are. So these questions keeps popping up in my mind, hence i decided to look into the bible to see if there are indeed a good time for bad news.

What is a purpose of a Sermon or Prophesy?

In the modern day churches, we have people speaking sermons, in my church, when preparing sermons, we pray for Gods guidance in the preparation of sermons, when we begin our sermons in the name of Jesus, we are speaking on Gods behalf, to teach the words of God from the bible to the congregation.

In the old testament, God raise prophets among the Israelites (IE: Prophet Samuel, Ezekiel, Isaiah” . May of us will have imagine that to be a prophet means that you have to prophesy about the future, this is a very big misconception, lets us look at the definition of the word “Prophesy”

According to Miriam Webster, prophesy carries more meaning than predicting the future. it can also mean “to speak as if divinely inspired ” and “to give instruction in religious matters”

Therefore, a modern sermon is in fact a prophesy, and that makes all sermon speaker a prophet. And the purpose of a sermon is not just to evangelise to the non believers, it also serves to give instructions to the congregation,

Since the Old Testament to New Testament Gods inspires People to speak for various purpose.
1. To teach his laws and statutes (Deut 5:1)
2. To Edify and Encourage the congregation (Ezra 5:1 )
3. To reveal a persons sin and to urge him to repent (2 Sam 12:1-15)
4. To rebuke the rebellious people (Jer 2:1-3,Eze 2:1-5)
5. To declare Gods judgement and to urge him to repent (Jer 36:1-3)
6. To declare God’s blessing to the people and to teach (Matt 5)
7. To turn the people back to God and to have their sins forgiven (Acts 2:14-38)
8. To predict the future (EG : Ezekiel, Daniel, John )

In fact as I am writing this I can think of more and more examples, but one thing for certain, the speaker must be inspired by the holy spirit and is willing to present Gods message to the people. From the list here, we can also see that sometimes Gods message do contains bad news, and the purpose of sermon speaks goes beyond evangelism. It plays a important part to guide and to rebuke and to encourage the believers to walk closer to God.

Therefore, it is a wrong concept to think that all sermons must be aimed to be only for evangelical purpose. In fact sermon speaking plays a huge part in nurturing the members spirituality and helping them grow in the understanding of the scriptures, it will be even better if the members would learn to practise the word and not be just listener of the word, and only by allowing the word of God to cleanse you

Therefore, it is actually proper and good to have sermons that rebuke the congregation for the wrong that they have done. Fair minded truth seekers will understand that no Christians are perfect and they will also learn from the rebuke. If the church were to only preach evangelistic type of sermons, it will be able to bring in a lot of new believers, yet will not be able to nurture them and present them as perfect before Christ.(Col 1:27-28) Faith could only be established by allowing the members to hear the words of God (Rom 10:17)

When Gods Message Contains Bad News

From the above passage, we can safely conclude that there are sermons in which we are proclaiming Good news, and blessings, those are sermons easily accepted by everyone. It is never too difficult to perform Gods work when it comes to that. But sometimes we also have to preach warning, repentance and rebuke to the congregation. This is the “bad news” I am referring to in this article.

Yet sometimes in the church pulpit we see many self righteous speakers who turn the pulpit to an artillery post and barrage the audience with accusations and rebuke without mercy. Sometimes when listening to their sermon, one cant help but remember the scene with Aargon (in Lord Of The Rings) speaking in Quenya ( the Elvish Language ) “A Eruchîn, ú-dano i faelas a hyn an uben tanatha le faelas!” (Show them no mercy! For you shall receive none!)

I believe that because Christ love her church just like husband loving his wife, he will often use the word of God to cleanse her (Eph 5:25-26). Throughout the times, the bible has recorded many ways in which the prophets as well as the apostles shared their “bad news”

Through Writing of Scrolls And Reading Them Aloud In The Gatherings.

As we recall in reading of Jeremiah 36, God instructed Jeremiah to write his words onto a scroll and to read them aloud to Judah when they come to the temple to worship. It is quite a irony that God did not choose a “better” time to declare his bad news, they were declared at the time of temple worship (In the new testament, church service time). Therefore, it would be wrong to say that the Church must only preach against the bad habits of the people (like leaving their scriptures in the church and not taking it back with them) privately. In fact I feel that a fair minded observer will understand that the church speaks the truth, and they will not sugar coat the bitter medicine just to make themselves appear good and righteous before the people.

Many a times, our actions speak louder than words, sometimes i wonder how would the truth seeker feels if they saw the weakness of the church and yet no one had the courage to speak against it. So.. what type of testimony is that?

In fact, in the new testament, we see that the apostles does the same with their letters addressed to the Christian churches. Paul indeed preach and admonish the Corinthians very directly in the book of first Corinthians, and they openly rebuke the Galatians for abandoning the scriptures. How do you think these letters are disseminated into the church? There are not photocopiers and mass printing, could it be possible that they employ thousands of scribe to transcribe the letter, and pass them to every church member? What if the members are illiterate?

I have reasons to believe that when the church gathered together, the letters were read out to the congregation, just like how Jeremiah handle his scroll. Therefore God did not choose a better time to talk about it. I am sure as God added numbers to them daily, there are truth seekers sitting among the congregation, I think the question of whether this will cast a bad impression on the truth seeker never crossed the minds of the apostles.

Other Interesting Ways Of Propagating The Bad News

Do you know that sometimes in order to propagate the bad news, God made his servants do very difficult task. I will just list some of them for curiosity sake

1. Ezekiel : God told Ezekiel the prophet to demonstrate how Jerusalem will be siege by using clay tablets and lying on the left and right 40 days each (80 days in total ) He made him bake barley cakes using human waste and eat it (Eze 4)

2. Ezekiel : God asked Ezekiel to shave his hair to prophesy divide into 3, use the sword to cut 1/3, scatter 1/3 to the wind, burn the other 1/3 (Eze 5)

3. Ezekiel : had to prepare his belongings, carry it around from point A to Point B in the day and from B back to A as if he is in captivity (Eze 12:1-15)

4. Hosea: God told him to take a prostitute as a wife, and name his children to prophesy (Hosea 1)

5. Agabus: Took Paul’s belt, tie himself with it and prophesy (Acts 21:10-11)

Sometimes I wonder what will we do if God wants us to do something like that just to preach his words. And sometimes it makes me wonder why are these people so obedient to God although it is something that will bring them physical suffering.

Love: The Prime Motivation

These kind of reminded me of the hymn “teaching the truth with love” that I shared on my blog sometime ago. When God wants his servants to preach the bad news, it is not to ask them to speak in a self righteous manner and to launch volleys after volleys of artillery barrage onto the congregation. One of my favourite quote from the hymn is

“Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly how we are to share
With our Master’s words of confidence, directly, do we dare?
Should we water down the message, should we tell them only parts?
Will they see Him in our message, will they see Him in our heart?”

It is very important that sermons speaker to speak the truth, and with open rebuke if it is necessary. But at the same time, it is also necessary for us to remind ourselves, we are all fellow servants in the house of God and we are all working toward a good faith grounded in the scriptures. In fact, when sharing the bad news, they face dangers, perils, anger from the listeners. Jeremiah was captured and thrown into prison for speaking. Elijah had to flee from Queen Jezebel when his life was threatened. Indeed to preach the bad news often brings sadness, pain and even tears to the workers of God. But nonetheless let us continue to preach the truth of God boldly.

One final principle I would like to share comes from the term same hymn
“While holding pure motives
And showing that we care
Are we teaching the truth in love?”

This is just like Apostle Paul’s message to the members in Philippi

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Paul (Php 2:3-4)

No one in church likes to be rebuke, or reprimanded. But as speakers who are tasked by God to preach the bad news, let us not do it with self righteous or conceit. Let us esteem others better than ourselves, looking out for the interest of the congregation. Helping to build up the body of Christ.