Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why Johnny can't preach - T D Gordon

Every now and then you read something or hear someone speak and it just thrills you to bits. This happened for me a week ago when I listened to the online interview of T. David Gordon by Michael Horton over at the Whitehorse Inn.

I have been mulling over the issue of media and preaching taking note of people like Neil Postman and Marshall McLuhan for about the last 6 months. And suddenly I hear someone addressing the concerns in a much more clear and well argued way than I could.

T. David Gordon wrote a little book called 'Why Johnny can't Preach', its sub title being "The media have shaped the Messengers." He's not talking here about liberal left wing journalists pushing an anti-christian agenda through their media outlets. Rather he suggests that the types of media in our modern age, for example television, are having a major impact on up and coming preachers. The reason he called his book Johnny can't preach is that it follows on from the notions that are found in books such as Johnny can't read and Johnny can't write.

Media ecology is a term used to describe "how changes in dominant media alter the human and social environment." pg 16. we need to acknowledge and deal with a culture, one which we are included in, that is image based and has a predominance of electronic media. Where speaking on the phone is not the same as communicating via a letter.

T. David Gordon has voiced a concern that you find among some who fervently desire a real return to expository preaching. Not some glib allusion to a verse here and there but a solid exposition of the verses and their meaning and how they fit into a cogent unity and structure. Too often Preachers are settling to deliver stories or pick swaths of text to cover in one sermon, and yet the preacher fails to show the unity and structure of the text.

When people complain about a bad sermon or show distinterest in what is preached we are not allowed to wriggle out of it by saying that it's due to short attention span or spiritual apathy. Many times it's due to our poor preaching. We have failed to show them the development of the argument and the movement of God's Word.

Gordon speaks about the following points that should characterise a sermon.
1. Unity.
2. Order.
3. Movement. - each point takes us somewhere.
4. Point. - so arrive at a conclusion with real force, the person puts forth a powerful claim to us.
5. Textual fidelity - we have no authority, the Scriptures have that authority. These words are God's words. So we understand God is speaking to us.
6. Instruction. - to see what that biblical truth is.
7. evangelical tone.

He also says that if people heard a good sermon every week their attention span would grow. I didn't know this but in early American history it wasn't uncommon for people to go and listen to debates that lasted 6 hours, with one speaker giving his point for 3 hours and then another responding!

Some great quotes:
"Preachers are supposed to give people bread, not the bread factory."
"Our sheep do not need gourmet meals, but they do need good, solid nourishment."

Gordon makes the comment in another interview that at the end of the sermon we should ask - did you understand the point of that sermon?
Was there something holding it all together or was it just a collation of sermonettes? Now there's a challenge to preachers as they prepare their sermons.

In Christ,

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