Top 5 Annoying Things Adventist Preachers Should Stop Doing
Today I would like to get 5 Adventist preacher annoyances off my chest. My bias of course, is that my passion in ministry is secular people. And these are 5 major turn off’s that I see Adventist preachers do more often than I wish I did.
1) Speaking in Adventese. Annoyance number one is Adventist preachers who use conservative SDA jargon as though everyone knows what they are talking about. "Spirit of Prophecy, Remnant, Reformation, Pen of Inspiration etc." These words and terms have zero meaning to anyone who is not already an Adventist and some are even theologically suspect. Not going to get into all the specifics here, but my advice is watch your language. If you must use an insider term, explain it before hand. I recommend you do this even if you are 100% sure that everyone in the room is already Adventist. That way, not only do you develop the habit of talking like a normal person but you also destroy the habit of assuming everyone knows what you are talking about. The last thing you want is for your entire sermon to speak only to the people who already agree with you. That’s not a God-thing, ever.
2) My dear brethren… Annoyance number two is connected to number one, but slightly different. It’s preachers whose sentence structure, phraseology, prose and speech rhythms are identical to people from the 1800's. Its as if they have read so much Ellen White that they have lost their own contemporary speech patterns. Some basic examples are preachers who say things like, “My dear brethren” or, “Let us now turn to the Holy Scriptures.” These are mild examples, of course, because what I am really talking about is not just how a sermon or text is introduced but how an entire sermon is spoken (something that I can’t really reproduce here). But the basic rule of thumb is, pay attention to your sentence structures. If you sound like you could add a top hat and a monocle to your outfit then you need to seriously snap out of it. Other conservative Adventists won’t have a problem, but outside of that most people will find you disingenuous and potentially laughable.
3) Thou wouldn’t, wouldest thee? Point number three is also connected to 1 & 2 and its this: lay off the KJV will ya?
Disclaimer time: I'm have zero interest in a debate over which translation is best. So please, save yourself the effort of pasting that YouTube doco in the comments below. I won’t watch it. What I'm interested in is which language is best. And the best language, hands down, is the one that the people are using. So the moment I hear a preacher whip out the old KJV my immediate thought is, Who in the world is he preaching to?
I recently had a lady stop attending a Sabbath School class because she was from a foreign country, struggled with English to begin with, and had to put up with the class wanting to use the KJV. When I visited her she asked me, “Isn’t the point of learning the Bible to be able to share it with others?” She then read me a verse from the NKJV (a more modern version) and asked me, “What in the world does that even mean? How is this supposed to provide any meaning to my friends?”
I’d say this non-Adventist was spot on. And please, leave the "the KJV is grade school reading level" argument in the bin where it belongs. Grade school reading level for who? I can read philosophical PhD's with greater ease than the KJV (also, here’s an article that debunks that claim). The bottom line is the KJV is not easy to follow and as Christians we should aim to make the gospel as accessible as possible. It's Christ we are called to proclaim, not a bygone linguistic European era.
4) Stop touching my feels! Ladies and gentlemen, the 90’s are over and with them, the one preaching practice that we must - for the love of all that is good - retire, is the cheesy emotional ballad at the end of the sermon. Yes, it get’s people all “feelsy” and responsive, but that has more to do with how the pretty hymn on the piano manipulates emotion than with an authentic spiritual experience.
David Neff aptly referred to this emotional manipulation as “comin’-to-Jesus music” which, in his experience with an evangelist, consisted of “gradually increas[ing] the volume as he turned up the emotional pitch of his invitation.” The downside of course, is what happens when the emotional high collapses and you find yourself in need of another one to feel “spiritual” again. This method was used all throughout my childhood with an addictive effect that had zero impact on our faith. In fact, I remember kids in my youth group leaving the sermon because they were bored, only to return just as the music kicked in (and then go to the front!). It’s not God they were responding to. It was the emotional experience that they craved.
Finally, the culture today is the most advertised to generation that has ever lived. Companies are constantly pulling their emotional strings to get a sale from them. As a result, this generation can spot a sales pitch a mile away. The cheesy song at the end of the sermon? Yeah, totally “salesy”. Don’t do it.
5) Stop “wowing” people. Finally, to all my fellow Adventist preachers, please for the sake of the church’s soul - stop preaching “wow” sermons. Young Adventist preachers are especially prone to this. They hear their favourite celebrity preacher making applications and biblical connections they have never seen before, and then they go to the Bible and try to do that same. In the end, they come up with all kinds of super interesting ideas that make the audience say “wow” but that have zero impact on a persons spiritual health. Don’t be that gal (or guy).
Instead, I leave you with the words of my biblical exegesis professor (which as a preacher you should totally study by the way) Martin Klingbeil. “Dont preach sermons that make people say ‘wow’. Preach sermons that change peoples lives.”
Wise words, Dr. Klingbeil.
So there you have it! My top 5 list of annoying things Adventist preachers should stop doing. I have others, but I’ll leave it at that. Share your own below!