Don’t Blame the Wrong Thing

In his book, Explosive Preaching, Ron Boyd-MacMillan delineates two factions in a debate over the place of preaching.  On the one hand, there are those he calls the pro-sermon faction who need to wake up to the fact that their logic is often overdone.  That is to say, in their mind “preaching = sermonizing” and this does not ultimately help their side of the debate.  He marshals the evidence from Scripture to suggest that preaching in the Bible was not the common “sermonizing” of recent history.  (I would add the comment that in his survey of preaching in the Bible he fails to note the book, or perhaps better, sermon to the Hebrews.)

On the other side there is the faction he calls the anti-monolog brigade.  To this crowd he points out that “monolog = boring” is also flawed logic.  Let me quote him (p161):

Don’t go blaming monolog.  Blame boring monolog instead!  Returning home from this conference [where the avoidance of any “talking head” monolog had resulted in meaningless activity without understanding] I wrote in my journal, “I think the greatest problem facing preaching today is the fear of the monolog.”  There’s a lunatic fringe in the anti-monolog brigade that want to banish the sermon completely.  Fat chance.  The monolog will always be with us.  In large groups and even small, it is a communicational necessity.  But the effect of this scaremongering is a bunch of preachers who keep their monolog to an embarrassed minimum and fill up the minutes with film clips, skits, and roving mike questions.  The problem is this – if they are poor at the monolog, they are probably poor at other forms of communication too!  In this conference I mentinoed, one preacher introduced a series of completely banal and boring skits, but you don’t hear anyone calling for an end to drama!  He also used PowerPoint images that were completely off the point, and he had a person wandering around the audience with a roving mike s that anyone who felt led could interrupt the speaker if something wasn’t clear, but it was so staged we were squirming.  One question was, “Would you say more about the theology of the book in relation to the historical period?”  Well, amazingly, it so happened that this was his next segment of material, with PowerPoints ready to go.  A miracle?  Come on.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but I do know that monologs are not the problem.  Boring monologs are to blame!

Thou Shalt Not Bore Through Preaching

I can’t claim this as an inspired eleventh commandment.  But there have been times when I wished it were there in the text!  In reality I tend to hear myself preaching more than others now, so I need to be careful what I say here . . . but a lot of preaching is just really kind of, well, boring.

We could get into all sorts of reasons for that.  There are numerous ways to de-bore elements of preaching.  But I just want to raise the fundamental issue.  Let’s beware that we don’t bore.  Is it the content?  Sometimes.  Is it the delivery? Sometimes.  Is it the lack of “illustrations” (a common quick-fix diagnosis)?  Sometimes.  Is it the presence of predictable illustrations?  Sometimes.  Is it the attitude of the preacher?  Sometimes.  Is it the personality of the preacher?  Sometimes.  Is it the personal spiritual walk of  the preacher?  Sometimes.  Is it the reality about God?  Never.

There are many reasons why preachers commit the horrifying sin of boring listeners.  But lest I elongate this post and dilute the point unnecessarily, let’s just stop here with two comments.  Let us commit to never boring people with the Word of God.  Let us commit to genuinely responding to God convicting us on this issue (when He does), rather than simply sticking on a band-aid quick fix.