Beating the Sheep Doesn’t Work

I recently reviewed Latta Griswold’s The Middle Way, this is another quote from that, in his advice on sermons:

The most ineffective, and ultimately the most objectionable of all preachers, is the scold. There is a vast difference between rebuking evil and exposing to a congregation the sins to which they are prone, and scolding. The scolding seldom reaches the members of the parish for whom it is in tended. Nothing is more fruitless than to rave to empty benches or a scattering of the faithful about the neglect of public worship. If a priest provides the best service he and his assistants can render, if he conscientiously preaches the Gospel as effectively as he can, if he is a faithful pastor, he discharges his responsibility to his parish. There is a point at which the effort to induce people to come to church ceases to be a virtue, and when they must be left to their own conscience.

This is referred to in Evangelical circles as “beating the sheep,” and Griswold is right: it doesn’t work. It’s usually an act of desperation, and that’s especially true these days.

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