Steven Furtick recently caused a stir while preaching on Mark 6:5. Mr. Furtick preached, in short, that unbelief is more powerful than Jesus.
I wasn't shocked that the megachurch pastor created controversy (again). I was willing to cut him a little slack because as a preacher, I've said things off the cuff from the pulpit that I later regretted. But, after listening to the pertinent sermon in full, I was shocked that Mr. Furtick didn't just make one verbal faux pas but made the central point of his message one that is frankly heretical!
In the NIV, Mark 6:5 reads, "5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them." So, what's the big deal? If Mr. Furtick had bothered to have studied this passage carefully, he would have come to a markedly different conclusion.
First of all, Mr. Furtick doesn't place the verse in Biblical context. God does perform miracles in front of unbelievers such as Pharaoh, Darius, the prophets of Baal, etc. So, obviously something else is going on in Mark 6:5. Second, a study of the parallel accounts, the greek, etc. would have cast doubt on his hasty conclusion as well.
Yet, the Charlotte based Christian celebrity is not alone, fellow megachurch pastor Andy Stanley has also recently made a series of unfortunate statements. Mr. Stanely argued the church must "unhitch itself" from the Old Testament. He went on to assert that the faith of the early church was not based on the Bible but the event of Jesus' death and resurrection.
Mr. Stanley went on Dr. Michael Brown's radio show to try to clarify his remarks. He stated he was just trying to point out that the Old Testament law does not apply to Christians. Again, a little study would have helped Andy prevent driving into a theological ditch.
First of all, theologians have long maintained the "tripartite division" of the Old Testament law. It is true that most of the laws found in the Books of Moses do not apply but a number of them do and scholars refer to these as the moral code. For example, many of the Ten Commandments still apply to the church. Second, the early church did have a Bible, the apostles quote the Old Testament, rightly understood, as authoritative and as the only way to place Jesus' life, death and resurrection in context. Moreover, we see the early church leaders quote both the Old Testament and the New Testament liberally. Thus, the church, then and now, has always been a community based on God's inspired Word.
Neither of these points are based in "obscure," "hard to find" texts. It appears as though these two pastors simply did not study these issues with any care. Unfortunately, they are not alone.
I see preachers everywhere passing off sermons they copy from podcasts or Youtube as their own. I see them buying sermon outlines. What's wrong with this?
the Bible is clear that in order to preach and teach, a man must be able to handle the Word with care (see 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1) and recognize sound doctrine. This takes study and study of God's Word means the ability to study Hebrew & Greek, put the Bible together as one meta narrative from Genesis to Revelation, understand why the church has held certain core doctrines since its founding, etc.
Yet, I often hear from people that education and a commitment to study are not important. They just want (want, not need being the operative word) "authenticity" and someone who can hold their attention (see 2 Timothy 4:3).
Effective preaching and teaching do benefit from personality, charisma and the willingness to be transparent but, despite what I hear from many, that's not all it takes. It takes training, discipline and hard work as well. Church history is replete with charismatic and "authentic" individuals who split the church and brought dangerous doctrines into the assembly of God's people.
When looking for preachers, whether locally or online, do not just look for popularity (in fact, two fo the most popular preachers on iTunes are heretical), but look for those who take God's Word so seriously that they study it with the care it deserves.