By V.O. Agan
There are as many ways to preach holiness as there are preachers, congregations, and individuals. But there are certain definite fundamental principles which must be adhered to by all who preach true holiness. The Holiness preacher is the only one in the universe who can show the way to perfect soundness.
I wish that God could show all of us how to prepare to preach the Holiness message so as to lead others into this crisis experience. It is time for rekindled enthusiasm and not flagging confidence or substitute aims. There are special principles which govern holiness preaching. For the ability to preach creatively, every man ought to be grateful, but such ability spawns heresy unless matched by the humility of the life-long student and a sanctified preacher is predisposed to such humility.
In preparing to preach holiness a person’s library is important. For a holiness preacher to own a big car and a little library bespeaks something that is out of proper balance. Select carefully and prayerfully sufficient tools to work with. Now for many years we have been told that the message of Holiness was cloudy in many a pulpit and church. We are far enough along in church programs to see the havoc of a cloudy ministry of holiness; divisions, strife, rifts—much of this would have been avoided if the message of holiness emphasis had been clear. Only a revitalized generation of holiness preachers will save the church of our day. The new members, if not sanctified, will either desert the denomination or bury it. A holiness preacher must study his people until he knows what is molding their thinking, and what is influencing their choices—and then he treats the disease that the patient has, not the disease that he had last year.
We have been told so many times that “Worldiness does not consist in what one wears or where one goes, but in the attitude of the heart.” Here is the thin edge of ethical relativism with its practical antinomianism and current popular situationism. Really, the outward is an expression of the inward. Let us show that this is not a standard of poverty, but one of abundance. When we develop a lopsided ministry it results in a distorted concept of holiness. Preachers have bred a complacency by failure to preach the Law of God. There is an inherent need for law as a guideline for love. Pastors need to be aware of “situation ethics” and expound its paganism. Our people need to know that the love which is not subordinate to revealed law is not Christian and leads to a sordid bondage. When holiness is genuine, the marshland problems of movies, TV, and the accent of fashion and petty cliques and snobbishness will disappear. Let us not coddle out people into believing that they are sanctified and yet remain in the wilderness of vacillation, chronic fretters, and longing for Egypt’s pleasures.
Specific preaching on the crisis Experience is the hub of holiness preaching—all other themes are spokes in the wheel. We need to tell our people that holiness will deliver from selfishness and carnal ambition, restless pride and from ill will. Holiness will bring new courage in doing the will of God, and a new willingness to accept the consequences. A new day will dawn in your church if you so lead your people that they, after the experience, will develop into the graces of the Spirit.
The end of Holiness preaching is to bring men to perfection. If we desire better performance in the pulpit, we must begin with better understanding in the study. The magnitude of the holiness preacher is intrinsic. Preachers can be less than holiness preachers, but not more. All other goals are smaller not bigger. Only foolish pride could flee the reproach of the holiness ministry—for the judgment of eternity will show that the holiness preacher is the world’s greatest benefactor. How foolish men are who do not want to be true holiness preachers.
Today’s holiness preaching is less definite than previous years. Some holiness preachers honestly desire to be effective but haven not acquired the skill. When they try their emphasis is unbalanced. Their solution is a return to the basics. Improvement is not the result of sentimental wishing. Many preachers have never read a book on public speaking. No one method of preparing and preaching is so certainly the best, that one should neglect other methods—for there is a direct relationship between the principles of presentation and effectiveness. Every preacher should understand the laws which govern sermonic structure. If listeners find themselves reacting unfavorably to the man in the pulpit they are likely to react unfavorably to what he says.
Do not preach perfection as if it were flawless performance, but flawless motives. John Wesley strongly admonished Charles that “to make the standard too high was the surest way of driving Christian Perfection out of the world.”
If the pulpit fails—only one generation stands between a holiness church and an ex-holiness church. Holiness is the only remedy for sin. We must preach it regardless of the cost. We cannot please a holy God without displeasing an unholy devil and his slaves. Holiness begins in repentance; is perfected in sanctification; and completed in glorification. While men are looking for better methods, God is looking for better men. The real test of a man is his manhood. We should be a better man than any sermon that we can preach. Every holiness preacher ought to make people feel that it is great to be a Christian and especially a sanctified one. We cannot help but mourn over the low state of present day holiness professions and preaching, but a new and better day can dawn when we awaken and stop looking for a tombstone to write the epitaph on—but thrust our very best into preparation and preaching with new vigor and clarity and consistency the greatest message that can be propagated in our day or any day—THE MESSAGE OF HOLINESS.