Not Too Good, Just Good Enough

Here’s a quote from David Gordon’s chapter on the state of preaching in Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers.  I reviewed the book on Monday and recommend it as a quick but insightful read.  Anyway, here’s the quote:

[People distort my concern with] “Ah, David, you’re right; ours is not a day of great preaching.”  This is not my concern. . . . I don’t care about its presence or absence one whit.  What I care about is the average Christian family in the average pew in the average church on the average Sunday.  And the problem there is not that we don’t have “great” preachers; in many circumstances we don’t even have mediocre preachers.  If Jesus tests Peter’s profession of love by the ministerial act of feeding his sheep, our sheep do not need gourmet meals.  But they do need good, solid nourishment, and they are not ordinarily getting it.  (pp14-15)

I agree.  Now let me put this positively.  I tend to teach people, particularly in respect to the main idea of their sermons, that the goal isn’t stunning or great.  The goal is just good, faithful and clear.  We read super-ideas in some preaching books.  These stunning, out of the park, hit it for six, idea-of-the-year, super-main-ideas tend to be the very best the author has ever preached.  We can’t live up to some of these pithy, witty, clever, assonated, succinct and memorable main ideas.  We may never achieve a single one good enough to be published.  But the thing is this – if we will just preach consistently biblical, faithful, plain, clear, just decent main ideas that are derived carefully from the text and targeted prayerfully toward the hearts of the people . . . just a steady diet of good main ideas will transform our churches.

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2 thoughts on “Not Too Good, Just Good Enough

  1. For all of us who are not Apollos, Chrysostom, Spurgeon, John MacArthur, John Piper or any other of the great preachers God has used over the centuries, thank you!!! This is the truth that sets us free from the bondage of thinking that every sermon must be a home run (think of the average baseball player who is pretty happy to bat 275 or even the great batter who hits 350). While we should be ever striving to be more effective in communicating God’s word to His people, we are not to despair or compare ourselves with other who we might perceive as being able to bat 1000 (get a hit at every at bat). We need to diligently labor in the text to bring forth a balanced healthy meal, week by week. That is something we can all aim at and with God’s help achieve:) Thank you

  2. There is a church that I often attend when in London. It is in the heart of the City and many/most of the congregation are business people. The speakers there, I believe, cover most of Dabney’s 7 requisites in most sermons but generally I find that their sermons leave me cold. I assume that the missing element is what Dabney refers to as Evangelical Tone.

    Generally the sermons have unity and movement, are true to the text and instructive, they have movement point and order and they are delivered in an erudite manner in educated accents (albeit sometimes with ‘stained glass voices’).

    However I seldom feel that the speaker is preaching what he practices. They appear to have left any sense of passion for the message on the cutting room floor. Delivered not even as a lecture, more as a presentation of a research paper; factual, accurate but unmoving; targeting my intellect but not my heart.

    I sympathise with David Gordon that he has sat through so many bad sermons. For my part, provided that the sermon is true to the text and is properly applied, give me a passion for the message over a well structured talk any day. That said, I agree that we should strive for both.

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