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Why Johnny Can’t Preach

By admin | May 18, 2009

I have frequently found T. David Gordon’s writing to be stimulating and thought-provoking. He is not afriad to cut against the grain of popular opinion, and his diagnoses of the ills and missteps of the modern church are often right on target. His latest book, Why Johnny Can’t Preach (Presbyterian & Reformed, 2009) is another example of careful analysis combined with sage advice.

The subtitle of the book, “The Media Have Shaped the Messengers” expresses Dr. Gordon’s thesis: Good preaching is seldom found in the modern church, for modern preachers are the products of a media culture that militates against the foundations of good preaching. Gordon’s expertise makes him the right person to pen this work; he has been a church-planting pastor, a seminary and college professor, is a trained theologian (with expertise in New Testament) and teaches courses in a fairly new academic discipline, ‘Media Ecology.’ This combination produces a well-crafted and reasoned result.

According to the author’s analysis, our culture has largely lost the skills required for excellent preaching. As a result churches are poorly fed, or are abandoning the centrality of preaching for the sake of other (often multi-media) presentations more suited to their ministers’ abilities. Sadly, most seem to be content with the situation. A divinely appointed means is being lost, so that in very real terms, the media shapes the messengers, the message, and the reception.

Dr. Gordon makes some really outstanding observations. For example, he reminds us in the clearest of terms, of the centrality of Christ in Christian proclamation. Too many sermons are moralistic. People want to know, and preachers give them answers to the question “what should I do?”, while the Gospel points us away from ourselves to what God has done in Christ! This is the great problem of application. Duty may only properly be placed in the context of God’s prior activity; Too frequently, preaching degenerates into a Pelagian form of sanctification.

In a different case, Prof. Gordon reminds us that the answer to the problem of poor preaching (and worship–he suggests that he would like to write another book: “Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns”) is not to follow the course of so many in the modern church–downplay, replace or abandon it altogether. Rather, the proper remedy is to seek with due diligence to restore it to its proper place. This is exactly right. While many shockingly denigrate preaching, or abandon the proper worship of God for the sake of satisfying the carnal protests of people against ‘boring’ worship, Dr. Gordon upholds a God-honoring standard: preach and worship excellently, to the glory of God.

The book is brief (108) pages and full of sound advice. Please buy it, read it, and implement its gracious advice.

Topics: Church, Law and Gospel, Means of Grace, Ministerial Training, Pastoral Ministry, Preaching, Regulative Principle of Worship, Worship | Comments Off

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