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From T. David Gordon’s Book, Why Johnny Can’t Preach; The Media Have Shaped the Messengers (pgs. 75-76, 88-89).

Faith is not built by preaching introspectively (constantly challenging people to question whether they have faith); faith is not built by preaching moralistically (which has exactly the opposite effect of focusing attention on the self rather than on Christ, in whom our faith is placed); faith is not built by joining the culture wars and taking potshots at what is wrong with our culture. Faith is built by careful, thorough exposition of the person, character, and work of Christ….

We feed on Christ himself, and we do so not by some physical eating of his body, but through faith in the Christ proclaimed in Word and sacrament. These four alternatives [moralism, how-to, introspection, and social gospel] have left much of the evangelical and Reformed church malnourished. People know what they ought to do, but they are dispirited and lethargic, without the vision, drive, or impetus to live with and for Christ. And the reason for this dispirited condition is that the pulpit is largely silent about Christ. He is mentioned only as an afterthought or appendage to a sermon; in many churches, he is never proclaimed as the central point of a sermon, and surely not on a regular, weekly basis.

Now I don’t elevate ordinances as much as Gordon would (for instance, don’t call them sacraments), but do recognize their importance in church life.  I can say I’ve been in services, and have listened to sermons that would be guilty of what Gordon describes.  I am sure I’ve been guilty of preaching sermons like this.

Do you see this as a problem?  Perhaps not in your church I’m sure, but evangelicalism at large?

HT: Miscellanies

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5 comments
  1. Possibly what he describes is the difference between teaching and preaching to the head rather than the heart? IMO evangelical pulpits have produced people who know a lot about God and the bible with their heads but know very little of Christ with their hearts.

    I liked what he says.. hope you post more about it Shane.

  2. Key word in Shane’s quote is “lethargic”. It reminded me of Hebrews 5:11, “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are SLOW to learn.” The Greek word translated “slow” by the NIV here is “nothroi” which means “dull, slow, sluggish” and is used in other Greek writing to refer to the limbs of a lion that had been shot with a tranquilizer dart. The word is not a reference to mental ability or IQ but to the attitude. Nothing is more insulting than to hear pastors tell me that people can’t understand complicated preaching/teaching. The people we preach to daily understand and apply very complicated things in their occupations and in their hobbies. Why can’t they understand Scripture? Pastors are “nothroi” or lethargic. The following verses in Hebrews 5:11-6:3 deal with a similar issue in the church during the first century.

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