10.12.2011

Of MOHAWKS & MINISTERS: What is a Pastor Anymore?

A while back, I attended a gathering of “pastors” from a variety of different churches in a local community. As I surveyed the crowd of pastors, I was deeply disturbed by the sad way the office of Pastor was represented. I saw everything under the sun: ripped jeans, flip flops, untucked shirts, tattoos, and even a pastor with a mohawk. My colleague reached over and whispered, “what does it even mean to be a pastor anymore?” It was very disturbing. An office that should be held in high esteem by those who are privileged to serve in this capacity is being thrown to the dogs. The whole experience inspired me to do a brief write-up on the warning signs of a pastor who has not been truly called by God to the office.

1. No Formal Theological Training: We have a whole generation of churchgoers not asking or caring as to whether their pastors have been properly trained. Anyone who “feels” called to do ministry, does it. We wouldn’t, of course, just do this in any other occupation. I would be negligent at best if I sent my sick loved one to a self-proclaimed medical doctor who just “felt” called, effectively bypassing medical school and the MCAT. But this hasn’t stopped us today in Christ’s church. As long as the pastor feels lead, has a big heart, and can motivate the people, he is given the title of pastor.
Here are a series of questions you should ask your pastor: 1) From which reputable seminary did you receive your Masters of Divinity Degree? 2) Which faithful church body confirmed your internal calling? 3) When were you ordained to the office and hands laid upon you? 4) Did you learn the Word of God in the original languages? If the pastor took some classes from some Bible college, or other religious university, and skirted the hard work of obtaining a Divinitatis Magistrvm (Masters of Divinity), why would you expect him to labor faithfully every week in the Word to rightly divide the truth to the glory of God and the profit of your soul?

2. No Creed: What your pastor believes is crucial to the well-being of your soul. I Tim. 4:16 commands a pastor to take heed to himself and to the doctrine, for in doing this he will save both himself and those who hear him. So what is your pastor’s doctrine? Since no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation, to which historical and collective expression of what Scripture teaches has he promised to honor? This is why Protestants produced creeds and confessions. The Holy Spirit has worked powerfully in Christians who have gone before us. If a pastor has no desire to formally commit himself to some expression of the historic Christian faith, he is making a strong statement that the truth is irrelevant to what he is doing. In that case, run.

3. No Preaching: Is your pastor committed to preach the Word as it is in truth, the Word of God. How central is the Word to what he is doing? Does he confront sin? Is there a proper balance of the law and the gospel in his preaching? Or, are you getting sermon series like the following: Living on Empty? Going Off-Roading With God, Church Is a Verb, Like is a Marathon, etc. If the Word is being used like a giant fortune cookie from which the pastor pulls a few verses to support his topic, that is exactly the kind of ear-tickling the apostle warned against (see 2 Tim. 4:1-5). The assumption is being made today that the most Spirit-filled churches are led by pastors who can best determine for the people what they need. In this way the pastor thinks he is being relevant to a post-modern culture, when in reality he is only pandering to the wants of assumed seekers. If your pastor is refusing to preach through the Word of God, he is a false shepherd. God gave us books and stories for a reason.

4. No Holiness: Pastors are called to set an example of godliness in all aspects of their lives. How does your pastor look and act? Does his life demonstrate that he is concerned about your soul? Does he strive to push you heavenward as a pilgrim here on earth? Or is he virtually indistinguishable from the world? I am wearied of seeing forty to fifty year old pastors’ dress and act like teenagers. This strange, what I call incarnational hipsterism, has overrun the church with worldliness. Age denial is one thing, but it’s quite another to live out that denial in an artificial and insincere manner as a pretext of doing ministry in a relevant way. Our love as pastors should be without hypocrisy, that is, without masks.

5. No Ecclesiology: How important are the three marks of a faithful church to your pastor: 1) the pure preaching of the gospel, 2) the right administration of the sacraments, 3) and church discipline? The greatest evidence of whether your pastor is called by God will be witnessed in his convictions about the doctrine of the church. Does he care enough to discipline wayward members? Is he more concerned about what the church looks like than its holiness and catholicity? Is he more concerned about being relational rather than theological, subjective rather than objective? Does he avoid all polemics and defense of the truth? Does the fruit of his work show that he has been successful is creating a niche event for a particular age group? What do the demographics of his ministry really demonstrate? And finally, does he care more about making the worship service a program, a show, rather than feeding the sheep with the Word, and nurturing them in their struggles against sin?
Being assured that your pastor is called by God is crucial to the well-being of your soul. Hopefully, some of the above questions will help you determine if indeed you are sitting under a faithful minister of the Lord Jesus Christ.

46 comments:

  1. Nicely done Chris! However, are you going to speak more on what the pastors' gathering was about? That would be interesting (probably sad, but interesting).

    I absolutely loved, "I am wearied of seeing forty to fifty year old pastors dress and act like teenagers. This strange, what I call incarnational hipsterism, has overrun the church with worldliness. Age denial is one thing, but it’s quite another to live out that denial in an artificial and insincere manner as a pretext of doing ministry in a relevant way. Our love as pastors should be without hypocrisy, that is, without masks." Very nicely said.

    Thanks for the post.

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  2. Thanks, Mark. Look forward to seeing you soon. We'll talk about the gathering.

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  3. Oh man...I was just shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch, picking out some cool new clothes for our classis meeting, when I read this post. I guess I better put my hipster shirts and sweet jeans back.

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  4. If I remember correctly, you're already accustomed to Quicksilver and Pumas--hip, but just a little behind.

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  5. Maybe I'll break out the Quicksilver sweatshirt for classis. Oh, by the way, have you turned in your report yet on the OCRC synod?

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  6. Pastor Chris, this is Steven Christensen.
    So obviously, the apostles had the best training from the best trainer/teacher available, before resurrection and after! Is this to correlate to today's pastor's education in "seminary"? Is there a biblical example to be formally trained in a "formal school"? And please elaborate on "Did you learn the word of God in the original languages?"- is this to ask does one read, write, and understand in Hebrew, Greek, and Arabaic? Would you state that unless a "pastor" meets all the requirements of our questions/interrogations (LOL) above that the particular pastor claiming the office CANNOT possibly have been called to the pastorate? Some scripture significant to your 1st warning category would be helpful. Please.

    Beyond this, we'd also have to say the seminary and theological camp from which one obtained HIS degree also matters. Lots of Arminian pastors out there with degrees... lots of pastors out there with degrees... not that any of them are called to the office... just pondering some of the ramnifications once this onion is peeled apart to its core.

    Great stuff. Great education. We need to ask more questions and demand answers regarding the care of our souls regarding issues like these. Thank you for the boldness and really seeing what is happening out there... thank you for your "soul-care."

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  7. I didn't know they still made Puma...

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  8. Hi Steven, the best method of doing training today is to set aside pastors who are ordained as Ministers of the Word to train up other men. This is essentially what seminaries do to assist the churches who should be responsible for overseeing all training of a candidate for ministry. Yes, I do believe ministers should be trained in the original languages to rightly divide the word of truth. I will explain later our examination process which screens carefully those aspiring to ministry with the goal of determining if the Lord has called the man in question. Thanks for the question. Chris

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  9. who determines what you should wear as a pastor? what you are wearing is differnt than what pastors wore in the early 1900's so shouldn't you be looked down upon for what you wear?
    what did the disciples wear in the bible? did they dress differntly?
    God see's the heart not the tatooos and ripped jeans. You are judging someone from the outside. and thats not right. If someone with ripped jeans can bring people to christ, isn't that whats important?
    so what should pastors in other counties wear then? because if a pastor in africa doesn't have your kind of clothes should they be looked down upon because they don't look much different than there people?

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  10. talking about pastors and going to school, what do you say about people who are preaching God's word in other counrties that haven't gone to school like you, are they not considered pastors? i just read about people in Iran and they all coming together to read Gods word, so who is allowed to be the pastor of those groups? only someone who has done what you have done by going to school and learning hebrew?
    If i hear you correctly your saying then that someone who "feels" called to preach Gods' word (like people in Iran) to his people may not truely be called a pastor because he hasn't been properyly trained like you? so i should question some guy in Iran who doesn't have the privilage like you to go to school? Because God himself and His word isn't good enough to teach him.

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  11. Abounding Grace Daily Broadcasts January 3-7, 2011
    Monday January 3, 2011 Ephesians 5 The Role of the Christian Wife
    Tuesday January 4, 2011 Ephesians 5 The Role of the Christian Wife
    Wednesday January 5, 2011 Ephesians 5 The Role of the Christian Wife
    Thursday January 6, 2011 Ephesians 5 The Role of the Christian Wife
    Friday January 7, 2011 Nicely Forgotten Preaching--What Ever Happened to Declarative Authority

    Look at what you just did about your sermon on the radio, you just did exactly what ncctk does. how is preaching on the radio and preaching directly to people different. why not have a title that will grab peoples attention?

    If the Word is being used like a giant fortune cookie from which the pastor pulls a few verses to support his topic, that is exactly the kind of ear-tickling the apostle warned against (see 2 Tim. 4:1-5).

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  12. Dear Anon,we have many people training up pastors in seminaries for ministry in Iran, Africa, etc. Those who just "feel" called to preach without any training should not be considered pastors. Who has laid hands on them? How have they been tested? How do you assure they have been called? I had many friends in seminary from Muslim countries who left their families for more than a few years to get a proper education before returning to minister there. Your excuses don't fly with me, I saw what they sacrificed to be properly trained.

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  13. Dear Andy, You must not have listened to the programs as they are expositions of specific Scripture passages, especially Ephes. 5. I exposit through books in my preaching, radio does not necessarily equate. You will have to do better than this if you want to engage the discussion.

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  14. Dear Anon, you write, "If someone with ripped jeans can bring people to christ, isn't that whats important?" That is sheer pragmatism. You just suggested the ends justify the means, completely contrary to Rom. 10, 1 Cor. 2, 1 Pet. 2, etc. Pastors should wear what is appropriate to their noble calling in their respective countries.

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  15. so where are these people who are training the pastors in other countries getting there information from, where are they basing there belief whether someone is a true pastor or not?? i hope its from the bible,and if so then why does some guy need another man to confirm that he is a pastor, wouldnt the bible tell you?
    again the disciples did not get trained by anyone but Jesus himself and the word, they didn't have to get anyone else to teach them.

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  16. where does it say that pastors should wear what is appropriate to their noble calling in their respective countries in the bible?
    i'm sorry to me a pastor is a sinner just like me who is no better than me, who has just been called to preach Gods word. i don't quite understand why a pastor has to look different than me in order to share Gods word. i just don't see jesus looking down upon someone who's heart is for the Lord and wants to save someones soul and he say, hang on a minute there pastor, you aren't dresses properly for your position how dare you look like the people you are talking to you, you should Look different. I think God cares more about your heart, mind and soul being different than the world then some fabric.

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    1. Obviously, you're one of those in the "come as you are" crowd. If you ever went before a judge in a courtroom hearing, I hope you don't wear your ripped jeans. Or maybe if you were invited to tour the White House, you would wear your flipflops?

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  17. 2 peter 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
    so why do we need some man to tell you that you are a pastor? if the holy spirit does the work?

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  18. Sorry pastor I just am a little confused because from what I understand is you don't like how a church picks a topic to talk about but on your radio station website you have a list of series that you have talked about. I myself is trying to get answers so for you to say I must do better than this?? What did I do wrong I am just confused and would like a kind answer not some attacking comment, you are coming across very defensive if someone questions you.

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  19. Andy, I apologize for coming across too strongly. My answer is simple, I only exposit specific Scripture passages in my preaching and radio. Yes, I do believe that what I do on radio as opposed to Sunday are two different things. One is authorative proclamation of the Word by the appointed means of preaching, the other is explaining the Word in the method of teaching. But even in radio, there is nothing remotely similar to what ncctk is going. In other words, though my radio series on the role of the Christian wife is more topical in name, I always work through the specific teaching of Scripture in a more systematic way on radio. That is nothing remotely close to "going off roading with god" series. Just listen and compare. One is Christ centered, the other man centered. Thanks for the question. Best, Chris

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  20. Dear Anon, I will not let you make dress THE issue here. It is an issue in so far as it is a symptom of a bigger problem, namely, that many who claim to be pastors are not called by God. If you want to see this, study the OT prophets who decried the same phenomenon. As to your other question, I would refer you to 1 Tim. 2, the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, it recognizes and received those whom Christ has appointed to be pastors. Without that recognition, and testing, your pastor may be a minister of Satan appearing as a minister of light (2 Cor. 11). To say there is no standard for ordained servants is irresponsible at best. Chris

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  21. Dear Anon:

    We are save by grace. A means of grace is the preaching of the word of God. Why would I want to listen to a man who has not been called, instead of a pastor that has studied the word, the languages, and has been thoroughly tested out in his seminary exams, and ordination exams? It is the equivalent of going to see a doctor. Would you go to a doctor that has been through medical schools, and has passed his medical exams, or to a person that thinks he can heal you, and has not been properly trained
    As far as the dress goes, we have been way to casual, as to how we approach a holy God. We dress better to go to dinner or to a concert, than to go worship a holy God. I have a problem worshipping in a church where the pastor does not consider that he is speaking God's word to us, and he does not take in the holiness of our mighty God, and think flipflops and torn jeans are appropriate.

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  22. I am receiving some angry ad hominem responses to this post. I removed my comments policy a few months ago, but will reinstate if I continue to get angry resposes. To the charge that I am church bashing, I ask those who feel that way to read the pastoral epistles. Exposing wolves along with their errors is a responsibility of every true Christian. I have said over and over that I am not picking on one particular church but rather exposing what has become an acceptable model of worship across the board in communities around this country. It's time people stop the pc tolerance of practices that are in direct disobedience to the Word of God. That is the issue, not any secret agenda to promote the church I serve.

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  23. Decent, modest apparel in public and a proper Genevan gown in the pulpit. Problem solved.

    A few years back, a Dutch minister dressed in a black suit was upgraded (without his asking) to First Class when flying to North America--seems the gate attendant had him pegged for a "man of substance". Indeed.

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  24. I am dazed but not surprised at the types of rabid responses to Chris's treatise on true pastor ship- it seems that the minute a godly warning is given to apostasy that the apostates become agitated and as the chief priests and Pharisees did to martyred Steven begin to gnash on him with their teeth - preaching the truth was always a dangerous exercise and those that hate the Gospel the most are not the atheists ,or the profligates but those who are in the church self righteous - my advice - repent and bow your selves before the Holy God - become a real follower of the Savior - take His yoke upon you and learn of Him for His yoke is easy and His burden is light-Amen

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  25. I was just wondering....does anybody know where Jesus got his masters of divinity degree from? I couldn't find the name of the institution anywhere in scripture. I didn't see the copy of his degree anywhere in there either. Hmmm.

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  26. And I don't think the disciples had degrees either....

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  27. I don't think I recall Jesus saying I needed a degree to be qualified to share the gospel. Is that in scripture anywhere? Just wondering...

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  28. Jesus, true God, is the Word and dispenser of all truth, and the disciples were under his training. But your comments demonstrate perfectly the need for theological training. Go share, but leave the preaching to those who can rightly divide the word of truth. Best

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    1. I have been listening to you Chris for many years I formally lived in Surrey BC and we are now in NB. I guess it is time to agree to disagree with you. What about Spurgeon, he did not have any formal Theological training, what about Martin Luther, he was a Catholic Monk, he had theological training but in the traditions and doctrines of the Catholic Church, it was through his personal studies that he came to his revelation about justification, and the same was the case for most of his theological awakenings. What about the wonderful stories of missionaries who devoured the Word of God and did amazing things on the Mission Field with little or no formal training.
      About clothing, you better wear your suit and tie everyday unless you are just meeting with God on Sundays, (which I know you are not). Steer clear of legalism, steer clear of religion unless it is pure and undefiled before God (James 1:27)I am now living in a very Catholic area and I have seen and heard of the damage legalism and man's tradition can do. Yes we absolutley need to be able to rightly divide the word of truth, especially Pastors, even Pastors in jeans witnessing to the forgotten drug addict on the streets and even the Pastor who is a biker witnessesing the love of Christ and the truth of the gospel to the Hells Angel member...these men are out there I have seen and heard them, rightly dividing the word. There is some weird and not so wonderful stuff being preached especially in street ministries but this has always been and will always be, it is really everywhere in the churches. But nowhere in the bible does it say even a Pastor needs a Degree in Theology, it only says he needs to be able to rightly divide the word of Truth, Spurgeon did (with no degree) and lots of us agree he was one of the greatest preachers that ever lived. There are many others too. Have a good weekend! Jan

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    2. Hi Jan, I've always appreciated your kind notes, thanks for commenting. A few thoughts. You seem to be suggesting that the exception is the rule. Not so. But even in cases where ministers were not trained, there was ecclesiastical recognition of the gifts through the laying on of hands. There are circumstances like this, but they are not the rule. The church has always had methods for training ministers. Since this oversight falls under the responsibility of elders, there is an implicit responsibility that the gifts and talents be recognized and that comes through training. This is what Paul went away three years for before his missionary journeys. You seem to be suggesting that this is not necessary. I remind you of the sectarian nightmare we are facing in the church today, largely a result of the very problem that you are downgrading, uncalled men are taking on the role of pastor. This leads to the question that really needs to be answered: so what standards should there be for the ministry--just love Jesus? As stated in the post, if you had cancer would you go to a doctor who merely "felt" called. I think not. You might read Spurgeon's comments on the downgrade controversy, he discusses this very thing. Not all are called, and the church has always maintained that ministers need to be trained. As to the comments about legalism, I think this is being thrown around way too irresponsibly today. I have written and taught about the problem, but again, to suggest that there is should be a standard for how a pastor presents itself in in total keeping with the law of God. This is why ministers in the pasts wore robes. But the mainpoint here is that legalism is NOT the same thing as obedience. But I would caution you of the other danger, namely antinomianism--everyone becomes a law to themselves, with no standards. I trust you don't believe that, but your post suggests this on many levels. Hope all is well up there, Blessings, Chris

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  31. Thank you for the post, pastor.

    It has finally come clear why this whole situation is so troubling. About half way through his sermon, http://www.ligonier.org/rym/broadcasts/audio/feed-my-sheep/, Dr RC Sproul makes an excellent point about “seeker sensitive” churches. He quotes from Romans 3:11 and makes the point that seeking God BEGINS at conversion, it does not precede it. The application therefore is that Sunday morning belongs to the Christian and that ministers ought to take care to feed the SHEEP and NOT the goats.

    I believe RC is correct and that you have observed is that churches today are largely active in goat feeding and not sheep tending.

    Praise God for those tending the sheep faithfully.
    Ian

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  33. Judge not lest ye be judged Matt 7:1

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  34. Good grief, Tony. So you're suggesting that it doesn't matter if so called pastors are trained, have a creed, look and act like teenagers, and hold to a faulty doctrine of the church? To not judge in this regard is called licentiousness. You forget that Christ also called us to "judge with righteous judgment".

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  35. Who trained the second and third church generations?
    I went to college and have a B.A. in religion, who trained me? men. The Holy Spirit rightly divides the word. You should join up with ol Harold and take your show on the road.

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  36. Actually, you just proved my point. Harold had absolutely no theological training and look at the nightmare that followed. And btw, he also said what you said about the Spirit. See my articles posted on the subject. So, what standards should there be then, any? Sounds like your show has already been on the road for quite sometime.

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  40. "I was just wondering....does anybody know where Jesus got his masters of divinity degree from? I couldn't find the name of the institution anywhere in scripture. I didn't see the copy of his degree anywhere in there either. Hmmm."

    GLW: Jesus didn't need a Masters of Divinity degree, because He is the Master and He is Divine. Obviously the same cannot be said of us. Scripture commands that potential church officers be tested (see qualifications for office as listed in Pastoral Epistles; for example, 1 Tim. 3:10). The apostles did not receive an M.Div., but they received extensive ministerial training in the school of Christ; and while the apostle Paul did not have the privilege of following Christ during His earthly ministry, he was very well educated in the Scriptures even prior to his conversion. Requiring pastoral candidates to have a seminary education (or its equivalent), and requiring that they be tested by other pastors and elders, is a way of seeking to fulfill the biblical requirement to guard Christ's sheep from wolves in sheep's clothing. Untrained, unaccountable, self-appointed "pastors" (especially those of the celebrity hipster variety) have done much to damage the cause of Christ and His kingdom.

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  41. GLW: Many "pastors" today lack authentic ministerial gravitas. Obviously a man's faithfulness to the Word and heart for God are more important than how he dresses, but outward dress and demeanor very often reflect the state of one's heart and one's level of maturity (or lack thereof). Pastor Gordon's point that a Minister ought to dress in a manner that befits the dignity of his calling and office is absolutely spot on. We are way too casual today in the church. Think about it: Do we really expect unbelievers to take the Word of God seriously when it is delivered (for example) by a middle age dude with receding hairline and bulging love handles who is covered with tatoos, wearing ripped jeans, casual button down shirt (chest hair exposed) and flip flops, and obviously trying desperately to be "cool/hip"? Do we really expect believers to tremble at the Word when their "pastor" is uber-casual and laid back in the way he preaches the Word (even if he actually does preach the Word, rather than simply give a motivational speech sprinkled with a few Bible verses and under the guise of a "sermon")?

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