Paul urged Timothy to preach the word in his final letter. One of the reasons he gave was that the time would come when people would not endure sound teaching, but instead would accumulate teachers to suit their own passions. Itchy ear preachers. Here are some possible itchy ear preachers:
1. Preacher Myth – this is one Paul referenced, preaching that strays into the realm of speculative mythology. We have our own versions of this today. Sensational, conspiratorial, and often offering insight that nobody else can offer.
2. Preacher Fun – this is always going to be attractive to people, the preacher who is just plain fun to listen to. There is nothing wrong with your humour coming through as you preach, but if that is your defining quality, perhaps something is broken?
3. Preacher Easy – this is the preacher who makes the listener feel like life and Christianity is without cost, an easy road. The Gospel is a message of cheap grace that does nothing to a life except take away consequences. The listener can be what they like and do what they like, because it doesn’t matter anyway. In reality the Gospel transforms lives and following Christ can be extremely painful at times, but this preacher seems oblivious to that. (Please note that I wrote the Gospel transforms lives. It is not up to the preacher to twist arms and achieve conformity, although that is an itchy-ear option…)
4. Preacher Hard – hang on, isn’t this contradicting number 3? In reality, no. Preacher hard is like an old school personal trainer at the gym. This preacher piles on the pressure and appeals to the religious fleshliness of the listeners. They will typically walk out after being burdened with duty and responsibility, stretch their arms and grimace, “Wow, I needed that!” Our flesh loves the idea of our autonomy, which means we love the idea of being pressured to be better people.
(Both Preacher Easy and Preacher Hard are essentially appealing to the flesh of the their listeners, speaking of which…)
5. Preacher Rich – this is the preacher who loves to highlight out of context promises of blessing for the nation of Israel under the Palestinian Covenant and promise the listeners that God wants nothing more than for them to be ridiculously wealthy and perfectly healthy. (The pressure is on them to believe enough though, so it ends being combining both types of worldly fleshliness – both the desire for pleasure/possession and the desire to self-strive and be independently religious).
Do you see yourself in any of these categories? If you do, please take a serious time out from ministry, soak in the Bible and get together with God . . . you don’t want to be the kind of preacher Paul was warning Timothy about! Next time we’ll consider a further five . . .