Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Paul Washer: is it just me?

Paul Washer is well-thought-of by terrific people. He's a name that is spoken with trembling and awe. I'm sure he's saying some things that need to be said. Like that we all suck and we're all doing everything important completely wrong... which seems to be mostly what he says. Or I've just had terrible "luck" in what I hear from him.

Every time I hear any snippet of Washer speaking (like this one), I come away thinking, "Yeah, well, I guess it's a good thing we've got that one person out there doing it exactly right."

I can't think that's the impression he wants to give. But it's the impression I get.


Gordon Cheng said...

hoo mama he's annoying

Allen Gregory said...

I agree with Washer that we should not just prompt people for a “decision” If I read what he says in a transcript it wouldn’t bother me too much I don’t think, but when I hear him preach in a video, complete with body language and voice inflection, boy he just creeps me out for some reason. I can’t put my finger on why but he sure does.

Allen Gregory said...

I agree with Washer that we should not just prompt people for a “decision” If I read what he says in a transcript it wouldn’t bother me too much, but when I hear him preach in a video, complete with body language and voice inflection, boy he just CREEPS ME OUT for some reason. I can’t put my finger on why but he sure does

Fred Butler said...

It's the shouting and histrionics that bug me. Piper does the same thing. I think that preaching style is just as manipulative as the preacher begging people to come forward at the invitation. Even if the Washers and Pipers have more theologically astute things to say.

ali said...

As one who appreciate Paul Washer and his message, I see things a little differently.

IF we as christians will compare ourselves to others there will always be one or two that we can say, "well, we are better than them." BUT, when we compare ourselves to our LORD and Saviour, then we see how nasty, dirty, sinful and sordid we really are. That is the message of the Bible and the message of Paul Washer.

We are not biblical christians - but we could be.!!!..

FX Turk said...

I am not hardly a personal friend of Paul, but we had dinner together in Tulsa for that evangelism/discernment conference, and I have three things to say about him:

[1] He preached for 3 hours and it felt like less than 90 minutes on Saturday. It looked like he preached from 3x5 cards. I could not do what he did that day.

[2] Personally, he is very likeable -- which is unusual for a person with the very high view of personal holiness he has. That is to say, a lot of people who see personal holiness as a serious pursuit come across as self-righteous. He came across as utterly self-less in the matter but at the same time aware that he's not yet arrived.

[3] His fans do him a massive dis-service. The people who post his sound bites on the web are probably not as local-church minded and truly frightened for lost people as Paul is. His fans are the kind of people who want to sign up for a conference he is speaking at, but will leave as soon as he's finished. He's the kind of guy who, in spite of having a plane to catch, will stand and make conversation with every person who lines up to thank him for his efforts and his influence, no matter how much they plainly don't understand what he is telling them.

My suggestion: don't judge Paul Washer by his fan base.

CL Pierce said...

First let me say, I apologize for the long post. I met Paul Washer several years ago right after I was saved and I appreciate what he says because this is exactly what happened to me. He is a very humble man who truly desires to see people genuinely converted.
I was “saved” and baptized at the age of 12. I then proceeded to live the next 40 years in continual drunkenness, drug use, sexual immorality, stealing, blasphemy, etc. I was not worried about going to hell because I was saved. That’s what the pastor told me when he baptized me. I have “rededicated” my life approximately 25-30 times and was also baptized another 6 times, just for reassurance.
After my mother passed away in 2003, I began reading the Bible because I was so distraught over losing her. While reading Matthew 7:21-23, I was convicted and KNEW those Words were talking about me. I had attended church off and on through the years, but none of these churches, including the one I attended for 14 years prior to moving to Atlanta, ever dealt with sin, repentance. Also nobody ever confronted me regarding my lifestyle. I never had heard of church discipline.
After I was saved, I joined a reformed church and, needless to say, my lifestyle is very different. I am now truly regenerated and my life shows what I am every day. Bible reading, prayer, evangelism, pursuit of holiness, etc. are all a part of my new life in the Lord.
My brother, who also used to attend the same church where I was baptized at 12, likewise had the same experience. He is a drunkard, loves pornography, blasphemes the name of the Lord constantly, hasn’t attended church in 15 years, has no desire for the Lord, does not read the Bible, nor display anything that marks the lifestyle of a saint. After I got saved I spoke to him about my conversion and spoke from my heart about salvation. He informed me that I don’t need to worry about him because he knows he’s saved. I suppose if anyone had ever truly confronted me years ago regarding my lack of fruit, I would have perhaps responded the same way. He is, as Paul Washer says, totally inoculated from hearing the message of salvation. He did what he was supposed to do; therefore, he’s “saved.”
This is one reason I appreciate the honesty of Paul Washer. He has plenty of other sermons that speak of living holy, dating, and other topics useful to the Christian walk. He recognizes what is happening in so many churches and it’s upsetting to him that pastors are leading people astray. By the way, my brother is only one person in many whom I know to be convinced of their salvation since they did what they were supposed to do at some point in their lives. These people are on their way to hell, but thankfully, God is sovereign and salvation is not up to me.

Jon said...

I appreciated Paul Washer early on when Christ saved me out of my "Cultural Christianity", but after awhile I couldn't listen to him anymore. At least not what people post of him on YouTube and such.

He was a little too overbearing to listen to. Tim Conway is also another preacher that I can't really listen to for more than a few minutes.

The Pauper said...

I guess I am a little confused as to the specifics your critique of Bro. Washer. I am not sure I heard anything in that clip that I would disagree with him on. He seems to be in line with my limited exposure to the puritans and with what little I know about Spurgeon's conversion. So someone might have to help me by spelling out the issue.

Ed Franklin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DJP said...

Well, if it had been my design (which it wasn't), I discovered how to attract first-time commenters!


DJP said...

Thanks, everyone who's actually responded to the content of the post so far, from various directions. I appreciate all of it.

Ah, Ed, you poor man. A mere 111-word post, you quote 36 of them, and yet you miss the fact that your questions were already fully anticipated and answered and your fears laid to rest.

Was it that you did not read the other 75 words? Or did you decide that they were all lies? How did you come to that conclusion, if so? Or did you decide that they were not lies, but that I simply don't really know what I think — but you do, because you can read my mind better than I can? If so, how did you do that?

DJP said...

For my part, I'm content that Frank may simply have the full truth of it. As I said in the first line, Washer "is well-thought-of by terrific people," and it may simply be that every clip I've seen thus far has been poorly chosen by wrong-headed fans, leaving out what would create a very different impression.

Hence my many qualifications.

Tom Chantry said...

How To Disagree (and how not to!)

Frank Turk: "I think I understand why you feel that way, but perhaps you've been misled, and here's why."

Ed Franklin: "You said something I disagree with, so I can only assume a deep sin issue on your part."

Tom Chantry said...

OK, my take:

I understand where Dan is coming from on this. I've listened through about three sermons, which isn't just listening to clips, but neither is it really following a man's message, either.

I generally agree with most everything Washer says, but I'm left with an uneasy feeling. I think part of the issue is that he hasn't (in the messages I've heard) really exposited Scripture, and that allows a man to rant. It reminds me of a pastor I did sit under once: he would read a text, but not really preach it. Even when you agreed with him, he seemed to be ranting on about his pet peeves. Washer is better than that - or at least he has the right pet peeves - but one of the advantages of expository preaching is that it injects balance into our comments. You know: grace follows justice and that kind of biblically-theological stuff.


On reading Frank's comment I realized that I, at least, have been negatively impacted by some of Washer's followers of the very ilk Frank is mentioning. It made me wonder if I harbor some degree of undeserved antagonism toward Washer and whether that made me listen to his sermons a little more critically than I ought.

Mark Lussier said...

It seems to me that Paul Washer understands the Gospel and Evangelism more than most of the evangelists I have encountered. His style reflects (IMO) the passion he has for what he is doing.

Tom Chantry said...

My take:

I know exactly what you mean, Dan. I've listened straight through about three sermons, which is more than hearing clips and yet less than actually following his ministry. I hardly ever disagree with Washer's evaluation, but the sermons I have heard have not truly exposited a text, and that weakens his point.

When a man doesn't expound on his text, he's free to rant. I once sat under a preacher like that; he always announced and read a text, but then he seemed to rail against his pet peeves, whether they were in the passage or not. Washer is a better speaker, and he tends to have all the right pet peeves, but his sermons (the ones I have heard) have suffered from a lack of exposition.

One of the things expository preaching does is inject balance into our words. Grace follows justice, and that sort of biblically-theological stuff. Perhaps Washer is more consistent than I realize; some men who exposit wonderfully at home seem to go topical at conferences.


When I read Frank's comment I realized that I, for one, have been off-put by some of Washer's fans, who seemed exactly the sort of people Frank is describing. It did make me wonder if I've harbored an unjustified antagonism against Washer, and if perhaps I've listened to those sermons more critically than I ought. It's possible.

Jeremy Weaver said...

I'm sure it disheartens you to know that I agree with your assessment, Dan.
Tom, I've often found myself asking, "Where's the grace?", while listening to his sermons.
Also, I've been burnt by one of his 'fans' who was a member of our church for a while.

Robert Warren said...

I think Paul fills a niche that in a previous generation was filled by Leonard Ravenhill (although from a different theological direction), that is: an acute burden for the self-deluded, and a lack of shyness about expressing it.

As an example, his most famous message which has been titled (by someone) "Shocking Youth Message". I have heard him explain the background on this and it involved an altar-call at a youth meeting where young people were coming to the front in groups, acting as if they were in the lunch-line in third grade, i.e., joking, laughing, and jostling around. Not at all as people who have been confronted with their sin. He spoke later at the same event with both barrels loaded.

I have also heard some of his classroom material on his podcast and he sounds much like a Sunday School teacher. I have also benefited from his very pastoral
5-part series on Biblical Assurance
. My wife also assures me he is very effective preaching in Spanish.

He has explained in interviews: 1. that he doesn't always speak in the style for which he is most known, 2. he never uses that manner in personal evangelism.

Like many of us from the Reformed perspective, he's convinced that there are a great many who have been deluded into thinking they are Christians by virtue of ritual and superstition, and this is his way of ministering to that situation. Certainly, like anyone in the public light, he isn't universally appreciated.

Ed Franklin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DJP said...

Axioms #2 and #3? Pity; could have been so easily rectified.

Anonymous said...

I wished he did more exegesis. From the little I've heard of him preaching the OT it sounds like he has a penchant for spiritualizing. He could smile more (though I think he has been lately).

That said, thank God for Paul Washer doing what he does. I always picture him preaching mostly to the Southern Baptists, who need a big healthy dose of Lordship Salvation. If he were speaking more to Christianity writ large, he would come off as overly harsh.

Anonymous said...

I wished he did more exegesis. From the little I've heard of him preaching the OT it sounds like he has a penchant for spiritualizing. He could smile more (though I think he has been lately).

That said, thank God for Paul Washer doing what he does. I always picture him preaching mostly to the Southern Baptists, who need a big healthy dose of Lordship Salvation. If he were speaking more to Christianity writ large, he would come off as overly harsh.

Anonymous said...

I wished he did more exegesis. From the little I've heard of him preaching the OT it sounds like he has a penchant for spiritualizing. He could smile more (though I think he has been lately).

That said, thank God for Paul Washer doing what he does. I always picture him preaching mostly to the Southern Baptists, who need a big healthy dose of Lordship Salvation. If he were speaking more to Christianity writ large, he would come off as overly harsh.

Ed Franklin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Warren said...

Also: Hi. "CL" Pierce. Your story sounded familiar; just didn't notice the name.

Rita Tomassetti said...

I used to listen to his sermons on itunes all the time. I must have listened to at least 25-30 of them and I can say he is not the meanie that he sounds like in some clips. There is one sermon series on relationships where he cracked a joke or two and sounds more relaxed and quite the humble man. :)
Just my 2 cents.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

CL Pierce,

I totally empathize with your post. I have 2 brothers who were baptized in their youth, and now they are far way from the Lord.

Are they deep backsliders (still Heaven-bound) or are they apostate? I don't know. Your post resonates. Thanks!

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

I've heard that example in a lot of his sermons; he does preach a lot of the same stuff in most of the conferences I've seen in recordings. Granted, I'm no "follower" of Paul Washer, but I've learned a lot from his sermons. I'm pretty sure Frank Turk's evaluation is completely accurate.

But whatever else you want to say about his preaching, he has a vision of Christ that more in the church need. I think a sermon like "The Cost of Not Following Christ" speaks a lot more of what he actually teaches than that little snippet. Link here:

Cathy M. said...

May I hazard a comparison which may or may not be germaine? The way you feel when you listen to PW... is how folks like me feel every time a preacher rants about the lack of nursery workers, room-at-the-inn keepers, disaster relief workers, or whatever. The ONLY people feeling nettled are the overworked. Slackers are immune to lambasting lectures, having been tuning them out for years.

PW nettles you, but I suspect you aren't the intended target of his criticism.

Christopher said...

Thank you. I have a lot of friends who really love PW. I respect him, but it seems to me that every sermon ends up the same sermon. No matter what the topic is. No matter where it starts, it ends up the same place. It's a very negative place. I understand that we need a kick in the pants at times, but I don't like how every single one of his sermons ends up feeling like an accusation. I found this one sermon that I was sure would be different. It was about how much God loves us. Not your usual topic for him, that is for sure. It started off really interesting and very different, but it quickly turned into the same negative spanking that all of his sermons end up being. I don't find him helpful personally, and I don't learn much from him. How can I? He says the same thing every time. I think the main thing he is good for is shaking up the person who is living double-minded or fooling himself into believing he is a Christian. Glad I am not alone in this.

Nate said...

Thanks for this Dan. I know several terrific people who love Washer as well, but I just don't "get it".

The Squirrel said...

My personal experience with Paul Washer mirrors Frank's almost exactly.


Brad Williams said...

He's a mixed bag. Like me. The things that I disagree with most about Bro. Washer aren't usually in his preaching. His ministry used to be located not far from us in Muscle Shoals before they relocated. I don't want to start a flame war on your blog, honestly, but what disturbed me the most were 1) his fans and 2) the way some of the fans embraced the Family Integrated Church model after him.

At that I will bow out, but my email is readily available if anyone wants to flame me for that, just spare Dan's combox. ;)

Unknown said...

I think we need to be careful if we even come close to committing the logical fallacy of induction when coming to our conclusions. (Example: I go to a pond. I see three white ducks. I conclude that all or most of the ducks in the world are white.) I don't think Dan committed this in the post, though. It's just something we should keep in mind when we have conversations like this.

I think what happens here is what happens with some famous people: They become known for a certain thing because that is mostly what is shown to the public. But they only get known for these things because the other things they do just don't get enough play. I've listened to a lot of Washer's sermons, and he does have plenty where he is attacking things like the sinner's prayer, apathy in the church, etc. But there are also videos that don't get a lot play where he is explaining basic doctrine like this one:(Link: The reason we hear the same message over and over is because his primary role is an evangelist. It isn't a blogger, a Youtuber, or a Tweeter. When he goes to these different places to share his "attacking messages", I don't think he comes to it with the mind of "Well, this has already been said at the conference a few months ago so this crowd can just Youtube it." I think he goes into each situation knowing that there will be a new audience each time with people who may never hear that again. If my memory serves me correctly, he's said as much.

Going back to the first point, I do think we need to be extremely careful if we come even remotely close to induction. Here's one final thought: There are some people who I've spoken to before when TeamPyro has come up in conversation. We talk about the contributors, and Dan's name will come up some times. There have been people who say, "Oh, you mean that guy who is always trying to sell us his book?" Now, I've read a good bit of what Dan has written over the years, and I know that the statement, "All Dan does is try to sell us his book," is completely false. Dan has written some wonderful pieces. However, there have been posts and Tweets where he has tried to sell his book. If I were only exposed to those few posts and Tweets, would I be justified in sharing the conclusion as some I've heard? No. It would be totally unfair to Dan because 1) that's not all Dan has said, and 2) it's my fault for not seeking out more before sharing that conclusion with others.

It's just some things to think about. I have to agree that Paul can come off as angry at times. I agree that many of his posted videos have him in a rant at some point. But I also know that when you buy an album, there are usually 11 other songs than the two hits that get played so often on the radio.

Unknown said...

I've not met Mr. Washer, but my understanding is that (at least in the sermons that I have heard) he is not preaching through texts exegetically to a group of believers - he is traveling, addressing various groups of mixed sheep and goats, calling them to sincere faith and repentance and lives of holiness - over and over. His purpose isn't to lead us through Ephesians, it's to get people to the foot of the cross, wherever he goes.

And, the reason he makes *me* uncomfortable is because he has more genuine fear and concern for the unsaved, and more understanding of what a life lived in holiness would look like, in his little finger than I have in my whole body. If this is the area of comparison he wants us to think about, then I think he has done a good, needed service.

Unknown said...

Paul Washer is often "in-your-face" in his preaching. For those who are looking for exegetical preaching, try the sermons at the end of this link: They are on the Song of Solomon and God's love for His people. You will find a different PW than you are used to hearing in the clips that are usually posted.

Sean Scott said...

Thank you Frank.

DJP said...

Lane, I wonder whether that person sees John Piper as "that guy who is constantly peddling his books, conferences, online videos, and everything else he does."

The irony there is that Piper (unlike we lesser lights) has an instant international production machine that instantly rings the bell about everything he does. He doesn't need to promote anything. Why does he do it so constantly and incessantly (look at his Twitter feed right now)? And why doesn't anyone care?

I assume it's because he really is passionate about what he does and thinks it will do people good; and it's because we agree and wish him well.


Unknown said...

Dan, I agree wholeheartedly. There are two standards when it comes to that stuff unfortunately. I, for one, see no problem with letting people know you have a book, blog, etc. to offer. I have to agree that the problem comes in when the complainer isn't consistent. Blessings.

zamar said...

Never heard of Washer. Listened to clip linked and felt he said if you are not willing to set aside all your personal plans and life and give up 3 weeks to be sure someone comes to salvation then you are indeed *not* being the right kind of evangelist/minister/teacher/Christian.
God may incline us to change our plans for HIS purpose but the broad brush painting as the norm is disconcerting. Washer judges by what he can see when God judges by the heart. I Sam 16

Mizz Harpy said...

I've listened to many of Paul Washer's sermons and am working through his workbook The One True God. I agree that Brother Paul can sometimes come across "as everybody's doing it wrong" but I think his speaking is in proportion to the urgency of the message. I'm reminded of a quote in John Bunyan's autobiography Grace Abounding to the Chiefest of Sinners where Bunyan says, "I preached as I tremblingly did feel." I think this is how Washer preaches. Being a peripatetic preacher there is no need for him to prepare a fresh sermon for every church he visits. Unfortunately similar sermon clips are posted making it look like he only talks on one topic.

Mizz Harpy said...

He once admitted in one of his sermons that a pastor had once correctly called him out for preaching from pride.

Pagey said...

I fear this comment may not add much to what's been said already but here goes anyway...

I think I've been one of those annoying "fans". Maybe not to the extreme, but still annoying. And I regret that.

But I still love Paul Washer. Apart from listening (in the past) to (probably far too) many of his sermons, I've also heard him preach in person 3 or 4 times and I've (very briefly) met and spoken with him once.

Having watched him on those occasions I can only say that he doesn't court silly fans like me and I can, for what it's worth, second all that Frank has said. (Or third it, more like. Sorry, I probably should've just been as brief about it as Squirrel was.)

Charlene said...

I'd like to say it's just you, DJP, but I know better! I think Paul Washer would be the first to say that he is certainly doing something wrong--he's not perfect after all. He does have a zeal and urgency that is very rare. Perhaps sometimes his zeal eats him up. Personally, I appreciate Paul Washer and have learned a lot from him but that could be because I had a similar experience to CL Pierce. Looking back at my falsely converted days, I can't point to anyone who tried to warn me about my involvement with the WOF movement. There is a place for the PWs of the world. I've heard him preach the gospel in English and in Spanish in the open air and he is very gentle and loving so I'm not sure that he's all fire and brimstone. He also did a good series on biblical manhood and womanhood.

I guess ultimately, I don't understand regenerate folks who want a preacher to woo them with positive words and things that make them feel good. I don't need PW to tell me God loves me. I'm already certain of that and nothing "harsh" PW says is going to make me feel otherwise. What I *do* need is sharpening and challenging with the Word of God. That hurts sometimes. A lot of times, actually. But it's excellent for growth. When I hear PW on a "rant", I hear a burden for the state of the American church. Because I was one of the lost folks inside the church, I never tire of hearing that "rant". Just my ears. I rejoice that someone cares! Faithful are the wounds of a friend. But no one wants to be wounded these days--especially by a friend.

I don't want to feed my flesh, I want to kill it. Not many pastors seem too concerned about how to help the sheep under their care do that. It was in OT times and is now, serious business to call out sin and warn folks of coming judgment. Smiles and jokes are not required. I appreciate that PW is willing to take the heat and do what he does consistently and wherever he's invited to speak. Now, HSAT, I did hear PW say once that he appreciates his critics because a lot of them are right. He said it calmly, quietly, humbly, and I think I saw a smile or two in there.

And just so DJP doesn't go down in history as that guy who's always trying to sell his book, please do yourself a favor and purchase The World-Tilting Gospel--NOW. You won't be sorry.

Pagey said...

Amen to all of that Charlene. Particularly about PW's smile and DJP's book.

And let's not forget DJP's comment: "For my part, I'm content that Frank may simply have the full truth of it."

Turk is a menace and often has the full truth of it.

Amy said...

My husband and I first spent time with Paul 16 years ago, when we were newlyweds. I had just left my Mennonite turned Toronto Blessing church and my husband had walked away from the United Church of Canada. We had recently embraced reformed teaching and were being discipled by a pastor who was a good friend of Paul Washer.

Paul counselled us not to pursue an opportunity we had to go into full time missions. He saved us from disaster (this became clear many months later). We saw him a few more times over the years when he would come to our church to preach. The last time we saw Paul was 12 years ago, when our oldest son was a newborn.

I'm sad to see some of the comments on this post. Paul is certainly a passionate speaker. In person he is humble, kind, warm, has a great sense of humour, and is a wonderful story teller (we especially enjoyed the stories from his missions work in Peru).

Rangoon! said...

I agree with you. It seems to me that even though he is someone who loves God nearly every, no every video ive seen with him waiting to be inspired, I feel like ive been battered! God loves me but Paul Washer most definitely does NOT!