Why Johnny Can’t Preach easily became a favorite of mine this year. It is terribly easy to read and extremely compact. Anyone planning a short plane ride should consider it, especially you pastors. However, if you are not planning such a trip, read Tim Challies’ The Next Story Now as a “fill-in-the-gaps” complementation. (It is a more exhaustive look into the bigger picture.)
The author, T. David Gordon, has identified a problem that affects all churches today. It is a result in the shift of dominant media forms which have unfortunate consequences when it comes to preaching. The subtitle says it all, “The Media Have Shaped the Messengers.”
Gordon is a professor of religion and Greek at Grove City College, where he has also taught in the humanities and media ecology.
Here are some things I highlighted:
- Seven minimal requirements that are essential to every sermon: Textual Fidelity, Unity, Evangelical Tone, Instructiveness, Movement, Point, Order.
- With regard to sermon lengthiness: When we experience a thing that is well done, we get caught up in it, become lost in the movement, and lose any sense of the passage of time. [On the other hand,] bad preaching is insufferably long, even if the chronological length is brief.
- Sermon length is not measured in minutes; it is measured in minutes-beyond-interest, in the amount of time the minister continues to preach after he has lost the interest of his hearers.
- Those who write compose their thoughts more successfully than those who do not; they commit fewer “sentence farts” (where one begins a sentence, partway through realizes that it cannot be successfully completed, and therefore begins again).
- Many ministers today read for information or for amusement, but they do not read because they cherish the aesthetic pleasure taken in something that is well written.
- We are swamped by the inconsequential, bombarded by images and sounds that rob us of opportunity for reflection and contemplation that are necessary to reacquaint ourselves with what is significant.
- At least two disadvantages to technological developments: (1) We can hear people whom we do not see. (2) We do not compose our thoughts as frequently or carefully as we once did.
- We have become telephone babblers, unskilled at the most basic questions of composition.
- Preach Christ, and you will have morality.
- If theocracy didn’t work in Israel, where God divinely instituted it, why do people insist on believing it will work in places where God manifestly has not instituted it?
- The pulpit is the place to declare the fitness of Christ’s person, and the adequacy of both his humiliated and exalted work for sinners.
The above excerpts are often paraphrased slightly for reasons of brevity. They are solely to capture your interest in order that you might lend yourself to purchase the book for your own reading.