bits from bob....

Yellow Sermons

by Robert J. Young
©, 2005, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Did you find the title intriguing? What came to your mind? If you share the same religious heritage I share, my guess is that your first thought was of cowardice--sermons that fail to confront sin, or don't make the truth clear. Perhaps you thought of sermons that fail to clearly define the gospel conditions of obedience.

I remember my first personal experience with a yellow sermon--an experience too personal. I was a young preacher--no more than a year and a half past a baccalaureate degree in Bible. One Tuesday at the area preachers' luncheon, a guest speaker who was in a gospel meeting at an area congregation spoke to us about the rampant liberalism creeping into the church--especially in redefined roles for women. This was 1971!

Sunday came, and when the time for the opening prayer came, there was an embarrassingly long silence. The man who was assigned to lead the prayer was not present (we'll call him Jim, not his real name), and no one had made certain that someone was prepared to lead the prayer. After too long a silence, Jim's wife spoke up and said, "Jim is sick today so someone else will need to lead the prayer." A prayer was spoken and the worship continued.

That was enough for this green (yellow?) preacher. The more I thought about what had occurred, the more certain I was that this was the time to cast aside the sermon I had prepared (although professors had warned against the practice except in exceptional circumstances). What could be more exceptional to justify "winging it" than a woman who was obviously out of place--attempting to direct the affairs of the church?

My mind was made up. The sermon was not the one I had prepared. It was instead some kind of review of what I had heard at the preachers' luncheon five days earlier. I hadn't been preaching five minutes when Jim's wife got up and stomped out (wood floors--I'm sure she stomped!).

Fortunately, when the sermon had concluded and the people had been greeted, I knew what I had to do. Even before lunch, with heavy heart, I went to Jim's house, sat down, apologized, and we prayed, and life went on, perhaps even better than before in my relationship with these dear people.

As I think back on those events, I call that a yellow sermon. I think it parallel to yellow journalism. There is a place for public rebuke (1 Tim. 5). There is a place for calling a spade a spade. Genuine Christianity, however, is marked by a depth of relationship and love and concern that goes first to a brother or sister, settling things in private before they are made public. Jesus himself says so (Matthew 18). Even if what happened may have happened in public! Broken relationships are repaired in private if they are repaired. When the matter is public, reparation is more difficult. Someone has egg on their face. Accusations, defensiveness, demeaning talk.

I still hear yellow sermons from time to time--mostly on tape. I still read far too much yellow journalism in the name of Christianity--reports that put events in the worst possible light rather than the best, believing the worst about a brother rather than the best, and never checking. Some would say that the Bible doesn't demand checking with a brother before publicly criticizing in print. If the Bible doesn't, common sense does. A man was recently criticized in print for something he did 12 years ago. He has changed, but that doesn't matter to a yellow preacher or yellow journalist. Today the phrase from Hebrews about finding no place for repentance too often applies not to the sinner, but to the brothers who won't let others repent. No wonder Satan is having a heyday in our time! He is winning the battle for our hearts--and we don't even know it! Shame on us!

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Last updated November 20, 2005.