What Makes Preaching “Negative”?

Every preacher is concerned about maintaining a “balance” in their preaching. In particular, they are sensitive about the criticisms concerning too much “negative” preaching. With this in mind, we ask the question: What makes preaching “negative”?

First, let us observe that the very same sermon will be regarded by some as positive and by others as negative. Every preacher has experienced the situation where — following a lesson — some praised the message for its uplifting content and others complained that it was a discouragement.

It seems clear that much of this is “in the eye of the beholder.” Those who are striving to live faithfully for God, who are trying to rid their lives of sin and wickedness, who really want help with overcoming their spiritual weaknesses, will be thankful for anything that moves them in those directions. If there is a “hard” lesson that exposes and denounces sin, they will appreciate it as simply one of the things that will maintain their resolve to be the best they can be.

Conversely, if a person is not living right, and has not been putting forth a sincere effort, they will feel that the sermon was “aimed” right at them, or that the preacher was “picking” on them in some way. Often the preacher does not even know that he “stepped on their toes.”

Think of it this way: A preacher preaches a strong sermon condemning the sin of gambling. There is one brother in the congregation who recently overcame the temptation. He thanks the preacher and tells him that the lesson will be a big help in maintaining his determination to quit gambling for good. For him, the sermon was “positive.” Another brother, who is still plays the lottery, gets mad about the lesson. He gripes (but usually not directly to the preacher) that the preacher is too “negative,” and that a lesson like that simply will not do any good.

Do you see it? Yes, we need “balance” in our preaching. We need lessons that encourage and build up hope as much as we need lessons that condemn and expose sin and error. But please realize that your reaction to a specific lesson probably says as much about you as it does about the preacher.

Adapted from Greg Gwin