As leaders in the church, we are to preach the full gospel. Let’s look at 2 Timothy 4:2: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (KJV).

God’s Word tells us to preach whether it is convenient or not, to enlighten, to teach doctrine. These are all things that we must do. Let us now focus on the “reprove” and “rebuke” part of 2 Timothy 4:2. While we should not call out someone’s name publicly from the pulpit, we are to call out sin and the need for repentance. Let’s look at two quotes on this issue.

“Those who have too little courage to reprove wrong, or who through indolence or lack of interest make no earnest effort to purify the family or the church of God, are held accountable for the evil that may result from their neglect of duty. We are just as responsible for evils that we might have checked in others by exercise of parental or pastoral authority as if the acts had been our own.”1

“So men who should be standing as faithful guardians of God’s law have argued, till policy has taken the place of faithfulness, and sin is allowed to go unreproved. When will the voice of faithful rebuke be heard once more in the church? ‘Thou art the man.’ 2 Samuel 12:7. Words as unmistakably plain as these spoken by Nathan to David are seldom heard in the pulpits of today, seldom seen in the public press. If they were not so rare, we should see more of the power of God revealed among men. The Lord’s messengers should not complain that their efforts are without fruit until they repent of their own love of approbation and their desire to please men, which leads them to suppress truth. Those ministers who are men pleasers, who cry, Peace, peace, when God has not spoken peace, might well humble their hearts before God, asking pardon for their insincerity and their lack of moral courage. It is not from love for their neighbor that they smooth down the message entrusted to them, but because they are self-indulgent and ease-loving. True love seeks first the honor of God and the salvation of souls. Those who have this love will not evade the truth to save themselves from the unpleasant results of plain speaking. When souls are in peril, God’s ministers will not consider self but will speak the word given them to speak, refusing to excuse or palliate evil. Would that every minister might realize the sacredness of his office and the holiness of his work, and show the courage that Elijah showed! As divinely appointed messengers, ministers are in a position of awful responsibility. They are to reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering.”2

There seems to be concerns that seekers or new church members may be turned away by strong preaching that points out sin. On the contrary, these are the very people who want to hear a strong gospel message. They don’t want to be flattered with a watered-down gospel.

In my experience at communion service, Paul’s exhortation to examine oneself before taking part in the Lord’ supper is seldom heard in our churches. “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” (1 Cor. 11:28).

As leaders in the church, let us examine ourselves. Let us not preach a watered-down message. Let us preach what Jesus preached. “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: ‘for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matt. 4:17). Let us continue to teach true doctrine. But let us be courageous and reprove and rebuke with all long-suffering.

1 Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, 578.

2 ———, Prophets and Kings, 141, 142.

Michael Stango works in the General Conference Telecommunications Department. He is an ordained elder and a Minister of Evangelism for the North American Division.