Editor’s Note: Brother Ron Halbrook emailed an article by Tom Roberts, which first appeared in Watchman in June of 1998, to many individuals this past August. His email led to an exchange on what constitutes an appropriate tone in preaching and a defense of the gospel. This is brother Halbrook’s contribution to the discussion.
Thanks for your thoughts. I am not offended by your remarks but am thankful that you are concerned enough about me to write. I am always open to consider anything you wish to offer. I do not dismiss criticism out of hand, nor do the men I know and work with, though your post implies we do. As you have spoken frankly w/o bitterness, I will try to do the same. We speak as friends, not enemies: “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17) . Just as you hoped I would not dismiss your concerns w/o giving them thought, I hope you will not be guilty of the same.
FIRST, let’s consider the issue of “positive” and “negative” preaching and teaching.
Ironically, your post is what men call “negative” in protesting what you regard as negative. It has the tone and content of a “watchdog” message in that you identify and protest things which you think need to be corrected. This always has been a valid function and duty of God’s people (Ezek. 3; 1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Tim. 4:1-5; 1 Pet. 5:8). You probably did not stop to think or worry about whether your message would be perceived as so-called negative or positive, or whether you might be labeled as a watchdog, but you simply addressed a need as you see it. So it is with what those you criticize preach and write. We are little concerned about how people perceive what we say, but our focus in on “speaking the truth in love” so as to please God not man (Eph. 4:15; Gal. 1:10).