Preaching With “Freedom”

The last hymn is sung. The prayer is said. The people mill around in the back of the church chatting and herding their offspring towards the church doors and the promise of Sunday dinner. The pastor stands by the door shaking hands and sweating profusely from the effort he has just expended in the pulpit.

He wipes his brow with a hanky and smiles at one of his adoring flock.

“I felt real freedom to preach today,” he says.

The congregant smiles and nods. This phrase is standard pastor-speak and not to be thought about too deeply. And the line at the local buffet is growing longer so there’s no time to dawdle.

But for those of us who are peeking in this little scene, the question remains: what exactly did the pastor have freedom from while he was pounding on the furniture and yelling himself into apoplexy this morning?

Was it freedom from common decency and common sense?

Freedom from goodness, meekness, and gentleness?

Freedom from “human logic” and the confining bounds of actual meaning of the text before him?

Freedom from critiques and questions from those listening as to how he managed to get an entire sermon point about the evils of imported cars out of Ezekiel?

And most importantly of all, did the truth of his sermon leave his people feeling as free in the pew as he felt in the pulpit or did that “freedom” merely wrap them in tighter chains of bondage?

“I just felt a lot of freedom up there today,” the pastor repeats as the next church member in line smiles and nods and scurries away.

It must be a nice feeling. If only everybody else had felt it too.

96 thoughts on “Preaching With “Freedom””

  1. The point most uber-fundies miss is that they try to put the restrictions they place on themselves onto everyone else. If you don’t believe (or at least act) like they do, they then mark you as being less than spritiual/holy/as good as they are.
    The closer I get to Jesus, the more I want to please Him with my actions, not some blowhard MOg.

  2. My dad always called this hadalottaliberty (had a lot of liberty but he fused it all into one word) e.g. “Had a great time preachin’ today. The spirit moved ‘n and I hadalottaliberty. It was a good service.”

  3. What do they preach about when they don’t have this ‘ real freedom to preach’? ❓

  4. Any time the exercise of “liberty to preach” does not fall in the guidelines of “Only use not liberty as an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another”(Gal. 5:13, KJV) then you know that the “liberty” the preacher felt was not of God.

  5. My question is how they keep the open Bible in their hand like that! Is there a preacher boys class about that?

    1. It helps if you use one of those floppy Bibles that Fundies prefer.
      If you wave around an open Bible that has stiff boards for the cover (like a normal hardcover book), it’s likely to slam shut.

      One of my former pastors used to refer to Fundamentalists and Charismatics as “those people with the limp Bibles.”

      1. every real Christian knows that it’s not a REAL bible unless it has a leather cover….

      2. You know what they say, Limp Bibles, Limp…

        Well, you can finish it. 😉

    2. Its a physics equation. Let x represent the center of gravity of said floppy Bible. Now, let y represent the center of the human hand. To make it simpler, we will assume a static disposition, as I am not up to speed on my differential equations. Now, in order to achieve said effect, one simply applies .42317 grams of ester of cyanoacrylate on y, and press firmly against x. Problem solved.

      1. Let’s get something straight – they did not teach you that in the classroom – correct?

        1. Of course it was in the classroom. They certainly aren’t going to teach anything relevant in the classroom.

          I think earlier the syllabus has them talking about why using Binaca is holier than using breath mints.

  6. GREAT post! I have been noticing lately that their “freedom” usually means enslaving someone else in the name of God…I just sigh and move on with my life.

  7. I’ve watched quite a few of the video clips of IFB preachers on this site. Only one that I can recall, Joel Mullenix, has a style of delivery worthy of the historic line of distinguished Baptist ministers. I don’t care for some of his theology, but at least he’s “polished” and has a sense of the dignity of his office. It seems like all of the rest of them at the very least yell, and the worst of them pound, rant, get red in the face, and work up a sweat. Not my idea of good preaching. I very much doubt that it would have been back in New Testament times, either.

    1. @ Weary – You must have saw a good one of Mullenix. I went to visit my sister at PCC and heard him preach at a chapel service. The most boring, monotone service I have ever sat through.

    2. We were at PCC during the pulpit-search that brought us Neal Jackson. Honestly, Mullenix was our favorite fill-in preacher. I know he’s not expositional, and I don’t really enjoy his end-times messages, but I felt he truly was one of the better speakers we had during that time. Can’t speak for how things are now with him as the interim pastor since we left a couple months before Jackson did. This won’t be popular, but my absolute favorite PCC preacher was Lloyd Streeter. It took a while to get used to his style, but I felt I actually learned something whenever he preached.

    3. Mullenix doesn’t do any histrionics, but the dude is a horrible speaker. If your monotone can be substituted for white noise to get poeple to fall asleep faster, it’s not a good speaking style.

  8. This is a great post Darrell.

    Whenever I hear preaching and freedom together I get ready to hear how IFB preachers won’t have the freedom to preach anymore. You know, the liberals are going to put an end to free speech. Who is going to stand for Jesus then?
    I have heard that crap too many times from a pulpit.

    BTW – I hate airports 👿

    1. @Scorpio. You and my husband could be friends. His hatred of airports is legendary.
      I am sorry for you.

    2. @Scorpio. You and my husband could be friends. His hatred of airports is legendary.
      I am sorry for you. 🙁

        1. Not a double post, the addition of the emoticon in the second makes it, “Once more, with feeling!” 😆

    3. You hate airports? That’s odd, given that it’s at airports there are airplanes.

  9. To enhance the “freedom mystique”, some pastors have adopted the wireless microphone attached to a set of headphones. this technique allows them the rove the entire platform area while reading their prepared sermons from a teleprompter.

  10. The pastors that enjoy this “freedom” always seem to make sure to tell visiting missionaries not to take more than 15 minutes and then time them as a “test” to see if they know how to obey authority. “Oops, you shared the great things God has done and took 16 minutes- no support for you!” What a joke!

    1. One of the things that bugged me so much was on Wednesday nights when taking prayer requests, the MOG would say, quickly someone else, quickly, as if the bloviating that would follow was more important than the folks’ prayer requests.

      1. Oh, my, Greg, what a flashback. I HAVE heard pastors saying that and it WAS annoying, feeling rushed and pressured to get through the requests. (Of course, there were some loquacious folks who I WISHED would cut their requests a bit shorter!)

        1. heh, I love that word! There is a woman at my parent’s church that is totally loquacious. Even when she leaves a message on the answering machine it can be measured in minutes. No joke, they’ve done it before.

  11. Liberty is like, “The Force”. When you “feel” it then you will be able to defeat the “dark Side”. In reality this is how he uses God to excuse his behavior during the sermon. Be it when he was being extra hard on sin today or if he did something really ridiculous. He would never say I let things get out of hand today and crushed too many people 😕

    1. +1 That’s kinnda how I envisioned it as well. There were like 100 Jedi Knight/ angels surrounding the MoG as he preached. If the Jedi Knights were “strong” that particular Sunday, freedom was felt. If they “failed to protect” no freedom was felt.

    2. It’s all about how the ManOGawd feels, not if the sheeple were fed, and encouraged.

  12. I think, very simply, that the preacher felt good about his preaching. Fundamentalism is very feeling oriented. He felt good, he felt powerful, he felt right, and so he judges that he was given some sort of spiritual freedom. It usually proves to have been quite the opposite.

    1. I agree 100%. For many IFB preachers, yelling and pacing around the pulpit and feeling the power of being “God’s mouthpiece” are huge emotional highs.

  13. Good post. I pray for preachers, not that they’d have “liberty,” but that they’d be bound closely to the text and controlled fully by the Spirit. Those qualities are worth a thousand times more than perceived “freedom.”

    After all, Paul didn’t preach out of “freedom” but under the control of the love of Christ – II Cor. 5.14.

    1. Funny thing… I remember being told to pray that preachers would have liberty from the pulpit. I never understood exactly what it was we were supposed to pray for in that sense…he didn’t look in any way restricted to me.

  14. The preacher was sticking to the script of the prepared sermon he received from the headquarters of the Truly Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Churches of North America (The TIFBCNA, not to be confused with the TIFBCA which excludes Canadians). This week’s sermon was on the television show “Glee” (Gay Lies Everyone Endures) and the gay agenda. The sermon was going great, when the preacher went off script and attacked “So You Think You Can Dance”. He was able to put his own idea into the sermon. What a sense of freedom. As of today, no one from the TIFBCNA headquarters has called the preacher to complain. But the two spinsters who sit in the front row (who also live together and share the same bed to save money) were disappointed. The preacher told the spinsters, the Fox network was evil but Fox News is good.

  15. I always thought “having freedom” in the pulpit meant something along the lines of not being scared. Not that most fundy preachers seem too afraid to speak out about whatever they want, but that was how I always took it. Probably I took it that way because humans in general interpret things in the light of their own experience or personality and I often hold back on saying things because I’m worried about what the other person might think.

  16. “Freedom” and “Liberty” from the IFB (or conservative fundy) pulpit actually means: “My opinion about things I don’t like or take away from my power and control was effectively shrouded in the ‘Gawspowl’ reading, so that none of my congregation can question what I say.” Hay-men? 😀

  17. It’s called rhetoric, a subject not likely to be taught in IFB schools. For those who have something like a classical education, these “nonsense phrases” have entirely different meanings. For example, the “freedom” thing is quite baldly an excuse for poor time management, poor speaking ability, and poor sermon writing. By phrasing these failings as if they are the result of a special relationship with God, the pastor accomplishes two rhetorical objectives – he protects himself from correction and implies that those who disagree have less of a connection with the Divine.

  18. I don’t want to be a wet blanket here, and I have read all the comments, and have mostly agreed with them all, but no one has mentioned that there are serious dark, evil spiritual forces that do not like the gospel and spend all of their time attempting to thwart the gospel message. I think as most here do, that these MOG are not referring to this spiritual darkness when they say they had freedom to preach” but I can certainly imagine that at times this evil menace does attempt to “limit” the gospel message.

    This is another area that the IFB’s don’t cover really well, the fact of demonic forces loose on this planet.

    1. If I were a demonic force (which, contrary to my brother’s opinion, I am not) I would have no desire to stop a typical fundy preacher from speaking. They’re preaching drives so many people from the gospel and convinces many more of a false gospel – isn’t that what Satan wants? People to believe a false gospel?

    2. greg wrote: “there are serious dark, evil spiritual forces that do not like the gospel and spend all of their time attempting to thwart the gospel message.”

      Where do you think the Fundamentalist top ten topics came from—just repeat the prayer to be saved, soulwinning is the sum total of a spiritual life, slacks on women are a sin, you have to keep yourself right with God, you need to be in church every time the doors open, music with a certain beat is evil, etc., etc. That’s the crowning irony. Fundamentalist preaching is ANYTHING but liberating.

    3. Even if such forces existed, how could they prevent the preacher from preaching the gospel

      –in his own church
      –to parishioners that agree with him
      –backed up by the choir?

    4. Greg, you are right on. From my Pentecoatal experience Freedom to Preach means that the devil has been defeated and has not been able to limit the preachers ability to use the right words etc. to bring home the message that the HS has for them today…….

      1. The devil was defeated by Christ at the Resurrection. And–as the devil cannot defeat God–the devil canNOT defeat the Holy Spirit.

      2. Please don’t encourage this kind of thinking. God is not dependent on a preacher to have just the right words to manipulate someone into walking an aisle.

  19. I think I know what those preachers are talking about. I took Pulpit Speech at fundyschool and, when preaching sermons in that class to a panel of judges including men who grew up in fundy preaching contests, a preaching professor grading my sermon, and no one who actually needs to hear the message I’m preaching, I did not feel very much freedom to preach. But after that class, when preaching in church and youth group where people just want to hear a good message and enjoy things such as modern translations, references to contemporary culture, and practical applications, I understand what freedom to preach is all about. I CAN FEEL IT AMEN!!

    1. Hey Nate, I know what you’re talking about. I play in a gospel group at all kinds of churches, I’m not sure if I would call it freedom or not, but sometimes I can feel “a good spirit” about a certain place and other times not so much, I know “feelings” can be subjective, but you feel, what you feel, right?

      1. Nice! I know what you’re talking about. It’s good to actually feel freedom if you’re going to say you did. It’s a whole nother ball game when you’re just talkin out yer butt.
        Do you play for TobyMac’s Diverse City?

  20. I just endured a free preacher. 55 minutes of preaching and a full 5 of them had content. The rest of the time was filled with bad jokes and wild stories. I was sincerely moved… to blog about it.

  21. As a former fundy mog, I can’t quite describe the freedom that this post is talking about. It is similar to “being in the zone” or “being in the groove”. It is difficult to define but you know it when it happens.

    I noticed that I tended to have more “freedom” on the days that I was properly prepared, rested, relaxed and had a nutritious breakfast. My main problem was always nerves. I am a shy person so public speaking was not natural for me. I found the best way to overcome this was through extensive preparation.

    Preaching is an exhausting, stressful activity and a lot of things can throw you off. For instance, someone dozing off on the front row, people talking and distracting others, people scratching in bizarre places or babies crying etc. You learn to deal with these things but they can derail you if you are not careful.

    Once, when I was preaching at a very small church in Kansas, a man seated on the front row removed both of his shoes and spent the entire service scratching the soles of his feet. I forgot who I was, where I was and what I was doing a few times during that service!

  22. Okay, maybe I’m wrong, but you can see it either way if you look hard enough.

    1. I wondered the same thing. The way the light plays off his shoes indicates that he is facing the camera.

      The sheet makes me think he’s not really a fundy. The only floor-to-ceiling piece of fabric a fundy would preach in front of would be a giant American flag. Unless he is trying to hide the ugly brick wall in his tiny, storefront church for the purposes of posting all his sermons to YouTube.

  23. “Lloyd Steetor” – I went to a Baptist Church across the river from the one he ran in LaSalle. I knew people who he kicked out of church while they were on vacation. I also know another family, that got kicked out of his church because the Dad smoked in his car in the church parking lot and then on the street. He spews hate and intolerence on facebook. We have a mutual friend. My FB friend has a niece who finds Lloyds flavor of Christianity totally distastefull.

    1. When he left PCC, we were told that he wanted the school to be more “militant.” I was just saying that I learned from his preaching because he actually exposited the text, though I do vaguely recall a message about fundamentalism. When you are trapped at FundyU, you are just happy to hear a sermon that actually lets the text speak for itself rather than a message that uses the text as merely a springboard.

    2. He “kicked someone out of church” cause they smoke? I’m very glad I don’t know this idiot. Was gonna say person, but that’s not a very human way to be have…

  24. I wonder if it’s just a personal code phrase to mean “I’m just happy nobody made faces or shook their heads when I went on for an hour and half about nothing and everything at the same time, instead of sticking to what I should have been preaching about.”

  25. The church in LaSalle changed a lot when Streetor was there. He let a new member (who happened to own a HUGE nursery) dictate that the church couldn’t have a Christmas tree, because it was an idol. Instead they put up a lot of poinsettias!

    It was a shock when he left the church to go to PCC. I believe the pastor the church has now went to Hyles-Anderson.

  26. Here’s an example of preaching with freedom in a congregation where the preacher is not allowed to get away with onstage shenanigans or expected to whip everybody up into a frenzy.

    This past Sunday, naturally, the topic of the sermon was the Ascension of Our Lord. A few minutes into the opening illustration (which was about the priest’s young son confusing moving to Alaska with going to Heaven), a preteen girl in the front row raised her hand and asked, “Why did Jesus go back to Heaven so early?”

    And the priest paused, looked thoughtful, and said, “That’s a good question.” And she led the congregation in discussion until we arrived at the conclusion: Jesus went back to Heaven so early so that we wouldn’t be sitting around staring at Him, waiting for Him to do stuff for us. After the Son ascended, we received the Holy Spirit, which is also God. God is love; love is a verb. With the Holy Spirit in us, and as members of the body of Christ, we are to get up and be about God’s business on Earth. And what did God do on Earth? Why, feed the hungry, clothe the shivering, visit the imprisoned, heal the sick . . .

    1. A great example of REAL freedom in preaching.
      (No little smiley face because I’m not kidding.)

  27. This is a phrase that I hear several times every Sunday for at least 4 years now! I thought that instead of “liberty” one should instead be “bound” to stick to the scriptures. Hearing it bothered me so much I actually emailed the pastor about it several months ago for some clarification.
    He responded with: “Liberty in preaching means that there is no outside hindrances, demonic oppression causing it hard to get the message across. In other words, the Word goes forth free to do what the Lord intended it to do.”

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