I’ve slept on this, trying not to make a big deal about it by trying not to think too much of it, but I have to say something about it.
This Sunday at church, we had a guest speaker come to speak at our English Service, and both my sister and I talking later on Sunday night agreed that it was simply awful preaching.
I mean, we are not talking about bad theology, twisted doctrine, or apostasy on the pulpit by a guest preacher, it was simply a very shallow, informational talk about what a prophet is and how we should respond based on Acts 3:17-26, all in a slow, quiet monotone. Barely any context was given in detail about the passage; it was a topical sermon and completely void of any expository explanation of the text itself nor biblical or systematic theology therein. All in all, it lacked much ooomph and meat, and our 9am service basically ended at 5 minutes to 10 including the response song–the shortest service I’ve experienced in a long time.
The message spoken was just plain…. bad… yuk :S
Maybe I’ve been listening to too many “top” evangelical pastors lately and my standard has been somewhat elevated… nevertheless, I’m thinking I’m not alone in feeling malnurished spiritually–anybody concurr?
I don’t want to criticize the pastor personally… I’m sure he is doing a good job at his church shepherding his flock of youth. (We kind of swapped pastor’s to preach for the day; our pastor went to his church to speak.) But what should we do in situations like these, where guest speakers’ preaching caliber is not even close to being onpar with what a Divinely-called “pastor” should do? Should it be made known to the Elder Board, English Worship Committee and my pastor that this or that guest preacher wasn’t that good, and for the sake of the sheep we probably should not invite him (or God forbid, her) to come speak at our church again…? Should we be sending a message to such guest speakers, to encourage them to work on their preaching more?
I don’t know what to do!
I am not judging the person, but am simply saying that I was barely fed of Spiritual food via the sermon. I came worshipping to church, and came out wanting deeper, fuller, Word food to fill my soul, trying to leave the church worshipping but not having the spiritual energy I expected to be filled with.
What is up with the state of preaching these days?
“On the one hand, there are signs of great promise and encouragement. On the other hand, several ominous trends point toward dangerous directions for preaching in the future. The last few decades have been a period of wanton experimentation in many pulpits and preaching has often been redefined and reconceived as something other than the exposition and application of the biblical text.”
In this brief one-page commentary, Mohler outlines 5 things that have affected the degradation of preaching:
- A loss of confidence in the power of the Word: Our culture is gravitating towards images as the preferred mode of communication. Words are, then, necessarily losing their power and this in turns impacts preaching. But “the audacious claim of Christian preaching is that the faithful declaration of the Word of God, spoken through the preacher’s voice, is even more powerful than anything music or image can deliver.”
- An infatuation with technology: – “We live in a day of technological hubris and the ubiquity of technological assistance. For most of us, the use of these technologies comes with little attentiveness to how the technology reshapes the task and the experience. The same is true for preachers who have rushed to incorporate visual technology and media in the preaching event.” While technology is not inherently bad, it has allowed the visual to overcome the verbal. And yet God has chosen to be heard and not seen. We know God not through what we see but what we read and hear. We know God through the Word.
- An embarrassment before the biblical text: “Many preachers simply disregard and ignore vast sections of Scripture, focusing instead on texts that are more comfortable, palatable and non-confrontational to the modern mind.” There is much in the Bible that makes us uncomfortable and maybe even a little bit embarrassed. But the Bible, from cover to cover, is the Word of God and must be taught. It all exists for our edification and we must not dismiss those parts that are more difficult to understand and reconcile.
- An evacuation of biblical content: “Another problem that leads to an evacuation of biblical content is a loss of the “big picture” of Scripture.” Rather than preaching the big picture of the Bible and rather than pointing to the story of redemption, many preachers focus instead on only individual passages, treating them much like fortune cookies and acting as if they are disconnected from the rest of Scripture.
- An absence of the Gospel: “The clear presentation of the Gospel must be a part of the sermon, no matter the text. As Charles Spurgeon expressed this so eloquently, preach the Word, place it in its canonical context and ‘make a bee-line to the cross.'” Too few preachers speak of issues of morality and practical living, but omit a clear presentation of the gospel. In so doing they eviscerate the power of preaching.
I don’t know whose fault it is that there has been such a downward trend in the state of preaching in our modern/postmodern age. Maybe we ourselves are to blame for letting this happen; maybe it is our churches’ leadership’s fault for putting up with bad preaching; maybe it is the preachers themselves who have spent too much time on other church/family responsibilities instead of their primary responsibility as Pastor which is to preach… I do not know, and dare not contemplate deeply. God forbid, maybe our seminaries are also responsible for not teaching students properly about the importance of biblical, expository preaching.
I dare not judge, but I have read enough about it and have heard many meaty, expository sermons to know that preaching is an art and a skill that is to be developed, a work that needs to be worked on, and not with just minimal effort. As it says 1 Timothy 3:1, “If anyone desires the office of a bishop, he desires a good work.” Pastoral ministry is hard work, and such persons who are called to pastor must “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
“In the end, the Christian preacher simply must confront the congregation with the Word of God. That confrontation will be at times awkward, challenging and difficult. After all, this is the Word that pierces us like a sword. The evangelical preacher must set his aim at letting the sword loose, neither hiding it nor dulling its edge.”
May God forgive us all of de-prioritizing the place of Scripture and preaching in our lives, and may the Spirit convict and enable the called Pastors among us to work diligently in feeding the sheep. Let us all continue to pray daily for our Pastors…