James P. Needham
Much is being said today, both in and out of the church, about the way a man preaches. The two terms most frequently used are "hard" preachers and "soft" preachers. Usually one can determine the definition of the words "hard" and "soft" if he can stand to listen to the whole conversation! A "hard preacher" is usually one who (1) calls the names of the false religions the Bible condemns, (2) identifies sin by their specific, scriptural titles, (3) tells people that "hell" (but that world just must never be used!) awaits them if they die in their sins, etc. A "soft preacher" is usually one who doesn't do these things. For a long time it has appeared to me that this business of "hard preachers" and "soft preachers" is not legitimate! The New Testament recognizes no such terms. One is not a "hard preacher" if he calls the names of false religions, identifies sins by title, and tells people they will go to hell if they die in their sins – the Bible doesn't say he is a "hard preacher" – but rather a gospel preacher. One is not a "soft preacher" because he fails or refuses to do these things either – the Bible doesn't call him a "soft preacher" – but rather a "false" preacher.
The terms hard and soft leave the wrong ideas. Those who don't like to hear the plain truth attach the term "hard" to the one who declares "the whole counsel of God," and thus causes a certain amount of ill feeling toward him and his preaching among the people who don't know what the Bible teaches, and hence succeed in covering up the fact that he is in reality a scriptural preacher. To identify one who is afraid to preach the whole truth under all circumstances as a "soft preacher" is to white wash the facts in the case and cause him to be better thought of than he deserves according to the Scriptures. Too, these words generally leave the idea that there are two kinds of gospel preachers: those who are "hard" and those who are "soft." The Bible does not teach any such idea. A gospel preacher is one who preaches the gospel without fear of or favor toward any man or group of men. To attach the word "hard preacher" to him is to attach something to him the Bible knows nothing about, and succeed in prejudicing many minds against him.
Once a brother said to me just before a service at which I was scheduled to preach, "Bro. Needham, Mr. Black is here today, show him how hard you can be." On a similar occasion another brother asked me to soften up because he had brought a Catholic with him. We should not be interested in showing anyone how hard we can be, and to soften up because someone is present who may not appreciate the gospel truth is nothing short of sheer compromise, and such action would destroy our right to call ourselves gospel preachers. We should desire to preach the gospel! If the gospel is hard (and it definitely is from the worldling's viewpoint) don't blame the preacher, and call him "hard." He is not the source of the hardness – it's the gospel that is hard, the preacher simply delivers it. That makes the proclaimer a gospel preacher, not a "hard preacher" and anything else makes him a "false," unscriptural. preacher – let's call a spade a spade!