US preachers don’t preach on hell

Just when it seemed to have cooled off, the topic of hell is back on the front burner—at least for pastors learning to preach about a topic most Americans would rather not talk about. At the recent annual Beeson Pastors School, Selles led two workshops to discuss “Whatever happened to hell?” He asked how many of the pastors had ever preached a sermon on hell. Nobody had, he said. “I think it’s something people want to avoid,” he said. “I understand why. It’s a difficult topic.” Only 59% of Americans believe in hell, compared with 74% who believe in heaven, according to the recent surveys from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “I think it’s such a difficult and important biblical topic,” said Kurt Selles, director of the Global Center at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School. “There’s a big change that’s taken place as far as evangelicals not wanting to be as exclusive.” The Rev. Fred Johns, pastor of Brookview Wesleyan Church in Irondale, Ala., said after a workshop discussion of hell that pastors do shy away from the topic of everlasting damnation. “It’s out of fear we’ll not appear relevant,” he said. “It’s pressure from the culture to not speak anything negative. I think we’ve begun to deny hell. There’s an assumption that everybody’s going to make it to heaven somehow.” The soft sell on hell reflects an increasingly market-conscious approach, Selles said. “When you’re trying to market Jesus, sometimes there’s a tendency to mute traditional Christian symbols,” he said. “Difficult doctrines are left by the wayside. Hell is a morally repugnant doctrine. People wonder why God would send people to eternal punishment.” Speakers said the seriousness of Jesus dying for man’s sins relates to the gravity of salvation vs. damnation, according to Johns. “If you don’t mention God’s judgment, you are missing a big part of the Christian gospel,” Selles said. “Without wrath, there’s no grace.” Jesus never soft-pedaled the concept of hell, Selles said. “It’s not metaphorical in Jesus’ mind; it’s a real place,” he said. Either way, Selles said, pretending that hell doesn’t exist, or trying to preach around it, short-circuits the Bible. “This is a doctrine, a teaching, that’s being neglected in churches,” Selles said. “It needs to be preached. It’s part of the Gospel.” (USA Today 16/6/09)

Should we do a survey of Singaporean preachers?

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  • Yes we can talk about hell and don’t have to avoid the subject.

    But the main message is not about hell.It’s the gospel of grace and it’s the goodness of God that leads people too repentance.

    God’s love is a greater motivator than fear !

    • God’s Love through jesus is important; but so is God’s judgement. Yes! “For God so loved the world” & Yes! “This is the condemnation”. You must preach Both. 50/50. There must be love & fear. I preached about God’s love & they sat there. I preached about God’s love & his Judgement(Hell) and the altar was running over. Because preachers have preached 90% about God’s love, there is no fear of God’s Judgement. Which is in the end , The Lake Of Fire. Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
      Luke 12:5 (KJV)

    • Preach about Hell also from the pulpit and watch God move. Souls will come running to Jesus declaring. “What must I do to be saved”. Our duty as preachers is to stand in the pulpit and Pull people out of the Pit. We must tell the whole story. Receive God’s love and live (eternal life). Reject God’s love and die (eternal damnation in the fire that will never be quenched. There will be weeping and wailing and nashing of teeth).

  • I was in the seminar at Beeson on the topic of hell and raised my hand when asked if anyone ever preached on hell. Maybe Professor Selles didn’t notice me. Whether others raised their hands, I don’t remember, but I know I did. Since I preach expositionally through biblical books, when hell or judgment comes up, I cover it. Otherwise, I don’t just stick it in the sermon when it is not in the context of the text I’m covering.

    • Hi John,
      This is one of the many benefits of expositional preaching of Bible books. You have to touch on the “untouchable” passages and topics. May your tribe increase.

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