GUEST POST: When the Pulpit has a Preacher but no Bible

This post is a guest post by my friend, Charlie E. Dates. In 2011, at the age of 30, Charlie became the youngest pastor of the Progressive Baptist Church of Chicago’s rich 93-year history. Charlie is married to Kirstie and is the proud father of their firstborn son, Charles Edward Dates II. To learn more about Pastor Charlie, click here.

The Scene

The place was packed. He grabbed the microphone and went to the pulpit. He pulled out his phone, read several verses from an Old Testament passage, and then put the phone back in his jacket. He was smooth.

Not long ago I visited a thriving church in Chicago to hear one of America’s top preachers. I mean this guy can do it! His delivery is masterful. He can talk a starving dog off the back of a meat truck. I’m tempted to write his name, but I won’t to protect the guilty. He came with it. He was preaching about justice. (Let’s be clear, justice is a worthy theme to be proclaimed from the scriptures!)

The people around me were visibly responsive, eating up every word. It was the kind of pulpit-pew interaction that most young preachers crave. Electric, exciting, and energizing are a few words that describe the atmosphere. It was the place to be.

The Observation

Then I realized something. He mentioned, almost in passing, that ‘God had seen people through their personal dark night of the soul: racism, classism, sexism and… homophobia.’ I paused, looked around, and wondered if anybody else noticed what he said. Then like ice he smoothly slipped in another statement implying that homosexuality was not sin.

The cheering never stopped. The crowd never paused in their celebration. My conscience grew uneasy. It was that moment. The one when everybody around you is cheering and you want to ask them, “What are you cheering for?!” I realized that although he was preaching about justice, he did no justice to the scriptures.

My Conclusion

The quick conclusion is that this preacher, as profound and gifted as he is, abandoned the authority of the scriptures. He is affirming a lifestyle that God has not. Now before you dismiss me as a homo-phobic hater of people, or label me a narrow-minded preacher, let me assure you that I am not. I actually think it is the president’s job to uphold the constitution. I don’t think we should discriminate against gay people. All people are entitled to human rights. I am NOT in favor of same-sex marriage, but I am just about sure some form of it will be legalized in my lifetime. But whereas it is the president’s job to uphold the constitution, it is the church’s job – and therefore the pastor’s responsibility – to uphold the Bible.

My Concern

Therein lies my concern. Where is the commitment to the scriptures? What will be the authority of the church if pastors start denying the reliability of the scriptures? If this preacher can deny part of the Bible as true, can he not dismiss the whole as false?

These are questions that must be answered by every generation. From Ireneaus to Tertullian, from Augustine to Aquinas, from Haddon Robinson to H. B. Charles, Jr., every young preacher has to land on his convictions regarding the authority of the scriptures. The true success of ministry depends on it. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16).

My heart sank deep within as I watched that crowd cheer louder and louder as this pastor basically debunked the Bible.

Now I am not declaring the decline of a particular ethnicity’s theology. That would go too far. I do, however, want to propose these two questions for your consideration:

  1. If the Bible in its entirety is not true, who gets to determine which parts are true and which are false?
  2. If the scripture is no longer the authority in the church, who or what is the authority?

It’s a sad day when the pulpit has a preacher but no bible.

Feel free to join the conversation in the comments section. 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • HenryThomas

    Bro. Charles, this is s rapid and widespread phenomenon. The popularization of the pulpit or ‘rock star’ option that is available to the clergy has really pushed the church in a direction that has more negative than positive. This very issue has caused me to rethink my initial plans for continued schooling. Blessed by your ministry and thanks for your care, concern and critical eye for our church and clergy. Wow…just realized that was lot of “c’s”. Keep standing & Be blessed!

  • Alesha K. Russey

    Amazing, Awesome and Anointed!

  • Patrick J. Oliver

    Pastor Dates — while regretful, this isn’t at all surprising. Many have already highlighted the heart of your well-written blog… i.e.the necessity of honoring what was (is) indispensable to the Redeemer remaining indispensable to the redeemed (G.A. Smith). Whether due to narcissism, relevance void of reverence (1 Sam. 15:24), hero worship, or a blanket liberation hermeneutic consumed with recalibrating a dehumanizing eschatology & combating oppression with NO VIEW of liberation from self — each day it seems this unimpeachable principle is being amended by many who claim to have a warrant from the pierced hand (W.E. Sangster). I greatly admire your clear demarcation maintenance between the POTUS (Constitution) and the Pastor (Bible). Contrary to popular press, President Obama’s position on same-sex relationships did not “evolve”; it was nurtured in a faith tradition who for decades now does not view a person’s sexual orientation as a moral issue & rejects the Bible’s divine authority and views those who embrace a high view of Scripture as falling on the wrong side of history as they (we) uphold an ‘ancient oppressive text/theology’. I’m glad to be counted with those whose engagement w/the world and/or those who don’t share our hermeneutic demonstrates an equal measure of love and truth and humility and compassion. Great job PastorDates!! Appreciate you H.B.!!!!!

  • Reginald Belton

    Well written, the preacher only helped prove the Bible is entirely true. This type act should not surprise us at all scripture is being fulfilled. “2 Timothy 4:3-4
    For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

    • admin

      Amen Reginald.

  • Buffy

    Matt. 7:15—Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

  • Bongomin Alex

    Thanks H.B. Charles.
    My comment is that, when a preacher went to the pulpit but has no Bible, he is not a preacher of God’s word.

  • Reebi1

    Whoa…wow! As a lay(wo)man with sound biblical teaching, thank God for Pastor H.T.Rhim, I would find myself in this situation too often. Visiting other churches for various occasions, family/friends day, Mothers Day, etc. I had to stop accepting invitations. It hurts my feelings to hear anyone stand in the pulpit and preach anything save thus sayeth the Lord. I would hate to imagine how it makes HIM feel.
    Thank God for the MEN who are not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ

  • c.s.

    It’s the blind leading the blind and they will all fall into the same ditch.

  • Daryl McDonald

    Thanks Pastor Dates. I as well have noticed this trend growing. And while you noted that in this case the “Preacher” appeared smooth and polished, which would suggest some form of study. For me there is a greater damage done by those other preachers who would not only witness but attempt to emulate him yet have not given themselves to any form of training or study.

  • Barney Lewis

    Preacher you hit on something that I have noticed in the church for some time now. I some time blame myself for being to analytical or critical of preachers, But as a pastor, we have a God given responsibility to watch over the flock in all areas of their spiritual growth. One thing I picked up from my former pastor was this, Listen to a preacher more than one before you put him/her up before the people God has entrusted to your care. My pastor use to say, “I want to see how he/she sits first. One final thing, Just because a preacher is popular does not mean he/she is biblical. Still praying.

    • whoopless

      If “she” is preaching then we know “she” is not biblical, my brother.

  • Guest

    Preacher you hit on something that I have noticed in the church for some time now. I some time blame myself for being to analytical or critical of preacher, But as a pastor, we have a God given responsibility to watch over the flock in all areas of their spiritual growth. One thing my picked up from my pastor was this. Listen to a preacher more than one before you put him/her up before the people God has entrusted to your care. One final thing, Just because a preacher is popular does not mean he/she is biblical. Still praying.

  • Adron Robinson

    A sound word to those who are called by God to preach His word. Thanks Charlie and H.B.

  • Stephen G. Brown

    Well thought out and written. I wish to add that what you experienced, is in fact, biblical. The people’s ears are itching (2Tim4.3), and preachers are lowering the preaching standard to SCRATCH! Those of us who refuse to lower the standard must remain diligent.

  • calvin lubin

    Great word, unfortunately this isn’t an isolated incident, when the word of God is no longer the authoritative standard for living for christians, we are in trouble. Thanks for sharing, and thanks h.b for posting.

  • Sheldon L. Caldwell

    Love it Pastor Charles, in a day when so many have little to no Biblical Integrity it’s refreshing to those who believe in Sola Scriptura…

  • Jeffery Ferrell

    Great insight, and very good questions for consideration!

  • Curtis

    The time has come when dumb dog preachers (Isaiah) is now preaching to a very large litter of its whelps. But God always has faithful Rams In the Bush!

  • Nicole Clark

    Very well said. Very deep, gives the TRUE people of God something to think about.