I thought of this adage today – you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. It occurs to me that the same goes for preaching and teaching also. After all, people don’t respond well to vinegar. Interestingly, I posted this on Facebook and it generated some passionate discussion. One pastor was insistent that the church today needed a strong word, suggesting that there were too many slothful people sitting in the pews. He also cited examples of Jesus rebuke of the Pharisees.
Now I do believe there is a place for reproof and rebuke. Confrontation of false teaching in the church is certainly grounds as well as a willfully sinning brother or sister. But I’m also reminded from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that it is scripture that reproves and rebukes. And the work of the Holy Spirit!. Moreover, Jesus confronted hard hearted unbelieving self-righteous group. That is different than believers who need to learn and grow. If the preacher adopts a consistent tone of anger, I can’t help but think there is something of self-interest involved even if it wears a spiritual dress (like filling seats, getting more volunteers, alignment with pet agendas, etc)
Moreover, if the congregation responds to an angry tone to do whatever the pastor is pounding the pulpit about, is it because of fear and a desire to make the pastor happy OR is it because of true conviction from the Holy Spirit? I think the former will only foster legalism so that everyone conforms to demands while the latter produces true growth. Anger can actually get in the way of the spiritual growth.
Except in rare cases, I don’t think preaching needs to be done with anger.