Can Johnny Preach?

johnnyT. David Gordon doesn’t think so:

Part of me wishes to avoid proving the sordid truth: that preaching today is ordinarily poor. But I have come to recognize that many, many individuals today have never been under a steady diet of competent preaching. As a consequence, they are satisfied with what they hear because they have nothing better with which to compare it.

Therefore, for many individuals, the kettle in which they live has always been at the boiling point, and they’ve simply adjusted to it. As starving children in Manila sift through the landfill for food, Christians in many churches today have never experienced genuinely soul-nourishing preaching, and so they just pick away at what is available to them, trying to find a morsel of spiritual sustenance or helpful counsel here or there. So let me provide just some of the lines of evidence that have persuaded me that preaching today is in substantial disarray.

I candidly admit that one line of evidence is subjective and anecdotal. For twenty-five years or more, I routinely have found myself asking my wife, “What was that sermon about?”—to which she has responded: “I’m not really sure.” And when we have both been able to discern what the sermon was about, I have then asked: “Do you think it was responsibly based on the text read?” and the answer has ordinarily been negative (matching my own opinion that the point of the message was entirely unsatisfactory).

I would guess that of the sermons I’ve heard in the last twenty-five years, 15 percent had a discernible point; I could say, “The sermon was about X.” Of those 15 percent, however, less than 10 percent demonstrably based the point on the text read. That is, no competent effort was made to persuade the hearer that God’s Word required a particular thing; it was simply asserted.

Such sermons are religiously useless.

T. David Gordon, Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2009; Kindle ed.), KL 105 – 118.

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