Why Johnny Can’t Preach

T. David Gordon has just come out with a very interesting book with the title listed above.

If you liked reading Neil Postman or Kenneth Myers, then you will like this book as well. It’s short, and you can read it in about two hours. However, this short book manages to put its finger on the pulse of what is wrong with preaching today in our culture.

The basic thesis is that the electronic media have so shaped our culture that preachers cannot read the text with understanding, provide order and flow in their sermons, preach Christ, exposit the text, or provide instruction. Instead, they tend to read the text in a way that confirms what they already know, rather than taking the time to read the text well so as to be changed by it.

All throughout this book, I was feeling a huge weight of electronic media crushing in all around me, with a gleam of hope shot through this book, such that I felt that there is a way to avoid jejune preaching, if only we as preachers could learn how to read texts not just for their informational content, but also for the way in which it is said, and how that realization could impact how we preach.

It is impossible to be bored when reading T. David Gordon. He has a great sense of humor, and has all the qualities of writing which he laments preachers don’t have. An example of his humor:

Several of the more incompetent preachers I’ve heard have jumped on the emergent bandwagon, and their ministerial careers are undergoing a resurgence now, as people flock to hear their enthusiastic worship leaders and to ogle their PowerPoint presentations. Their churches are no longer moribund, but then the annual carnival isn’t, either-it, too, is full of enthusiasm, activity, and lively entertainment. But I’m not sure these emergent activities have any more spiritual effect than the pig races at the carnival (p. 32, fn10).

Buy this book for your pastor. If you are a pastor, buy it. Do not be offended at the title (parishioners who buy this book for their pastor might have to be careful about that landmine!). This book will help you be a better preacher, because it will help you focus on what is important in preaching.