Fact Checking Your Preacher

We’ve warned that your should never trust your preacher. It is not that preachers are dishonest (although some are) but that your soul is too important to entrust to anyone other than Jesus.

After all, preachers have no innate authority other than that which flows from Scripture. They are just as fragile and breakable as anyone else.

The obvious question is: “How do I know if my preacher is speaking truth when he preaches?”

The media likes to fact-check politicians. They compare what officials say against the known facts. You can do the same with your preacher. This is not disrespectful. Your minister should appreciate the fact that his people are listening carefully to what he says and are willing to dig into Scripture to discover pure truth.

Here are 5 ways to fact check your preacher.

Listen Carefully and Without Distraction

It is not fair to give half your attention to the sermon. He has worked hard to prepare his lesson and you should be able to devote the requisite time to hear his words. Pay careful attention. Note the flow of the lesson and note the points which build to his conclusion. Later, you will want to analyze his study and see if you reach the same Biblical conclusions that he has.

It can be impossible to control distractions around you. A cute, playful, child, chatty people, folks getting up and going out constantly, all these can rob you of your attention. The solution is amazingly simple: Move up! As you move forward you will be putting those distractions behind you and you can listen carefully.

You cannot fact check the preacher without an accurate hearing of his lesson.

Take Careful Notes of the Sermon

What the preacher says must be backed up by the Bible. Listen for the “book, chapter,and verse” of every claim he makes. Jot the reference down and then you can compare his statement with what the text actually says.

I once preached with Wendell Winkler in the audience. He sat near the front in the center section. As I began to speak I saw him draw out his pen and pad and begin to takes notes as I spoke. It staggered me. Why would he take notes? What could I say that he hadn’t heard a million times before? I never asked him about those notes but I would venture that he was fact checking the young man in the pulpit.

Your notes will serve as the basis for your analysis of the sermon. You will note the following:

  • The Big Idea – what is the main purpose of this lesson. If someone asks what the preacher spoke about you should be able to explain by stating the big idea.
  • The Text – what is the primary, foundation text of the lesson. Is it from the Old Testament or the New? This matters because of the way we receive the message. The New Testament is our guide for today while the Old is our teacher.
  • The Main Points – each well-crafted sermon is usually composed of 3 to 5 main points. What are they? How do they relate to one another and how do they support his Big Idea?
  • The Scriptures – Every point must be backed up by Scripture. I can think of no exceptions. Collect the passages together with the points they make and compare. Does the passage, in its context, really say what he is teaching?
  • The Conclusion – All of the points with their Scriptures should support his conclusion. If it does not, there is a problem.
  • Your Questions – if a question pops into your mind, write it down for later study.

Pray, Pray, and Pray Some More

God has revealed his word through inspired Bible writers (2 Peter 1:21). He has also promised help for those seeking to know the truth. He has also promised that we can find him if we seek him because he is not far away (Acts 17:27ff).

The Lord has also promised wisdom as we study (James 1:5-8). Here’s a bit of wisdom from Solomon (Proverbs 2:1-8):

My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
2  making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3  yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
4  if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5  then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
6  For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7  he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
8  guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.

Notice the necessity of seeking truth and the promise that we can understand and know the knowledge of God.

As you approach the Scriptures, do so prayerfully. You are not seeking to prove or disprove anything. You only want to know truth.

Analyze Your Notes

After the sermon, analyze your notes and fact-check every statement he made. This step cannot be done during the sermon. If you try, you will miss important teachings. Do this at home. It is a far better use of your time than that Sunday afternoon nap!

Look for context, context, context! Job’s wife infamously declared “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). Obviously, that is not a command for us to follow today. The context of the verse makes that plain. Sometimes, preachers botch the context.

Once you understand who is speaking, who is being spoken to, what the occasion is, and what the intended message was, you can determine if the speaker got it right.

It’s common to confuse commands under the law of Moses with commands under the law of Christ. See our discussion on the Covenants for more.

Share What You Find

Let your preacher know that you are carefully following his lessons. If he has done a good job, tell him so. He should be acknowledged for his good work. If he has stumbled – well, tell him that too. He needs to know.

One sweet lady would frequently tell me that she was going to think about what I said. That is one of the greatest complements you can pay to your preacher.

Let us all pay careful attention to our preachers and even more attention to the word of God. It is the standard!

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