I have often heard that pastors should never preach at people from the pulpit. I respect the opinion and understand the point, but I can also tell you why I choose to go right ahead and preach at people anyway.
Here’s my definition of what I think they mean by “don’t preach at people.” If you know someone in church is trying to finagle their way to become the new Sunday School teacher, you don’t begin a series on leadership with your main and frequently repeated point being–don’t take someone else’s job from them. That kind of thing.
However, I think this point can be taken too far. Many pastors have taken this advice and turned it into–never offend, never tackle a tough issue, never talk about anything remotely close to what anyone in church is currently dealing with.
Irrelevant drivel is the result. A pastor should have the spiritual fortitude to confront people in private over an issue they believe should be confronted. To hide behind the pulpit and lob attacks won’t work and is spineless. Confront the moron trying to take over Sunday School in person.
At the same time, Paul is very direct in his writing to Corinth and Galatia, certainly preaching to people, even naming some of them so others would know specifically who he’s talking about! There is a time and a place for preaching at people and I think the time and place is more frequent than we may think.