After reading a very interesting post about preaching and the use of powerpoint, I made the comment that when preaching relies heavily on various educational/learning theories, something is lost: it’s like being mugged!
And I suspect we’ve all sat through sermons where we’ve thought we’re being spun a yarn here, a high profile visual there, a cheap anecdote that tries to cover a complicated theological issue somewhere else! It becomes instinctive to want good preaching. Why have a hamburger when the Gospel offers steak?
Anyway, whilst walking the dogs this morning, I made mental notes of what sort of things I mean by being mugged by the preacher. Here’s a few in no particular order, and I’d be delighted if you wanted to add any more…
1. Emotionalism as a substitute for a poor vocabulary.
2. Anecdote after anecdote after anecdote after anecdote……
3. Gospel reductionism.
4. Moralistic self-improvement try-harder blah blah blah.
5. Power Point slides for EVERYTHING the preacher says, including all the “Umm’s”.
6. Pretexts and proof-texts that ignore the context.
7. Generic appeals from a generic point made by a generic preacher requesting generic behaviour modifications.
8. Ever thought, “Tell me something I don’t know already!”? (with thanks to TBWNN for that line. NB. I would have used their official web site for the link but all it seemed to be was a picture of a horse coming out of a photograph – I didn’t know that already)!
9. When a poor understanding of the text is painfully exposed in preaching reveals the result of poor reading in and around the subject.
10. Cliche and sentimental preaching. A teary eyed preacher running out of ideas, but with high emotion pulls out an X-Factor style story to woo the congregation.
11. When the preacher leaves me knowing what he’s against, not what i. he is for and ii. what the Gospel actually is.
12. When the preacher thinks the Holy Spirit will do his/her homework for him.
13. The assumption that when preaching, everything has to be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. Thus ensuring another generation is infantalised.
14. When the Gospel is reduced to “the gospels” and so becomes glorified Sunday School stories.
I have found this exercise both a little fun and quite upsetting. How we cheapen the Gospel of Jesus Christ! But, even though I am sure I am guilty of all of these points at some point in my preaching journey, it just goes to show that His grace and mercy are enough to see the silliest of preachers through the darkest of moments, and for that I am a grateful preacher, standing in grace, proclaiming in power.
I would like to recommend a few books and web links (in no particular order) to point budding and growing preachers in the right direction. They are…
The Glory of Preaching by Darrell W. Johnson
Expository Preaching by Haddon W. Robinson
Preacher, Keep yourself from idols by Derek Tidball
The primacy of Expository Preaching by D. A. Carson
Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind by P. T. Forsyth (pdf)
Preacher, don’t mug your congregation. Christian, don’t be fooled by cheap preaching.