The Sad State of Preaching Today

The modern church has sacrificed the apostolic faith on the altar of cultural relevance. The Apostle Paul was keenly aware of the seeming irrelevance of his message when he wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians and acknowledged that his message was “unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:23). Paul affirms, however, that he will remain faithful to that message no matter how irrelevant it may seem. “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). For Paul, the message was important, not the messenger or the medium or even the felt needs of the audience. This message was, of course, the great truths of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

Yet modern Christianity has abandoned the message of “Christ and him crucified” for something more appealing to the masses. No longer is the message of Christ essential to the furtherance of the kingdom, this place has been usurped by “other gospels.” Marketing ideas, support groups, and self-esteem workshops have crept their way into the mission of the church. It is not uncommon today to attend churches on Sunday morning where the Gospel is not proclaimed and the pastor does not preach, instead he shares. This sharing usually involves the proclamation of a truth perhaps illustrated by the Scriptures, but drawn mostly from the world of business principles or pop psychology. This author was informed by one man whose pastor has not preached a sermon in years, the church now has “talks” in which the pastor addresses current issues that he deems relevant to those in attendance and the gospel is rarely presented because he doesn’t want to “turn people off.” No wonder church members fail to see the comprehensive benefit of the Scriptures for their lives. “One reason why people sometimes doubt the abiding value of God-centered preaching is because they have never heard any.”[1]

It appears as if pastors and church members alike have forgotten that the church belongs to God. This means that not only must the mission of the church be determined by God, but the means of accomplishing that mission must also be determined by God. The following indictment is all too true in many churches today:

In many evangelical congregations, one can often tell immediately what literature the pastor has been reading, what his views are on the latest book, what he’s just been influenced by, etc. So many of them seem to be just sort of shooting from the hip. The guy usually claims a high view of Scripture on paper, but it seems that in actual practice, when he mounts the pulpit, he thinks his authority comes from somewhere else – from his ability to read sociological trends or something.[2]

There are many who would disagree with this assessment, but there is much to commend it. Preachers fail to grasp how significant their task is. They have high standards in theory and on paper and yet another standard when it comes time to fill the role.

More to follow…

[1] John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1990), 21.
[2] “An Interview with William Willimon,” Modern Reformation, November/December 2000, 44.

About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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