How Preachers can be Destructive - The Warrior's Journey®

How Preachers can be Destructive

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

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“If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”  (1 Corinthians 3:12-15) 

Here Paul speaks of careful construction. The building is the temple of God. It is a building made of redeemed men and women. Therefore, Paul says, we must take the utmost care in how we build. The first concern Paul expresses is that Christ must always be the foundation of God’s spiritual habitation (1 Corinthians 3:10-11). The foundation of Christ’s church can never be built upon a preacher’s magnetic personality and eloquence. Paul was the first to evangelize the Corinthians, and he went to great pains to ensure their faith would not be in worldly wisdom but wholly in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:22-24; 2:1-5). Nor did Paul want the Corinthian believers to place their faith in him as a great preacher. Therefore he openly confessed his own limitations and weakness. This was for the church’s own good. 

Paul’s second concern is about the preacher’s motives. His words here echo what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, about practicing our good works only to impress others instead of pleasing God (Matthew 6:1-5). All those things we supposedly do for God will be burned up under Christ’s fearsome scrutiny, if they have only been performed to achieve earthly rewards (e.g. fame, money, or people’s approval and applause). Later in Philippians 1:15-17 Paul mentions that some preachers do their work from such impure motives. But for Paul, whose heart was wholly Christ’s, he only lived to please God. This, too, was for the church’s own good. 

Related to this is Paul’s concern that Christians may be harmed when such impure motives turn preachers into church wreckers rather than church builders. It appears that, in Paul’s absence, other preachers have visited the Corinthian church without having the church’s best interests in mind. One or more of these preachers so impressed the Corinthians with his knowledge and skills that he gained a following among them.  Instead of focusing their faith and allegiance to Christ alone, they rallied under this preacher’s banner. Other Corinthians reacted by pledging their loyalty to Paul and to Peter.  As a result, the church was divided and its allegiance was diverted from Jesus to different preachers. Paul warned that anyone who causes such injury to God’s church will come under God’s judgment (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).  


  • Can you see how critical it is to maintain unity out of devotion to Christ? 
  • Is this the responsibility of the preacher, the church, or both? 
  • Let’s do all things to please Christ, to glorify God, and to edify His church. 

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