Can We Have Too Much Positive Preaching?

Greg Gwin

We readily acknowledge the importance of positive preaching.  Brethren need the “comfort of the Scriptures” (Romans15:4).  Paul sent Tychicus to the Ephesians so that he could “comfort your hearts.”  Timothy was dispatched to Philippi (Philippians 2:9) and Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:2) in order to comfort the brethren.  Clearly, this kind of positive encouragement is essential.  The Bible has much to say about it, and we know no one who denies it.

 There are, however, some among us who are determined to only preach positive things.  They have decided to specialize in positive preaching and to emphasize only those things which are designed to “build up” the hearers.  They will not deal with controversial topics, and they refuse to spend time rebuking the weaknesses and sins that exist in men’s lives.

We submit that this “positive” approach fails to present the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).  At least two serious consequences will follow when we neglect to deal with certain necessary “negative” things:

 1) Christians will not be admonished to root out the evil that is in their lives.  Maturing as a child of God requires one to “put off the old man” (Colossians 3:9).  We will never become the “new man” that we ought to be (vs. 10) until we have been instructed adequately in this regard.

 2) The constant emphasis on “positive” things will condition Christians to only want this sort of teaching and preaching.  After having a steady diet of positive preaching, brethren will lose all tolerance for forceful preaching on important doctrinal and moral issues.  The apostle Paul anticipated such a scenario: “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” (2 Timothy 4:3).

 Those who would teach and preach the Word of God are not at liberty to be “specialists” in only one aspect of the work.  If we emphasize the positive while neglecting the negative, we have not done “the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5).  Our job involves both the positive and the negative.  We are to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” (vs. 2).