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More from “Why Johnny Can’t Preach”
I try to read at least one book a year on preaching/communication and the one I chose this year proved to be a real doozy.
Why Johnny Can’t Preach is by T. David Gordon, a pastor & seminary professor. He wrote the book while being treated for an aggressive form of cancer that he didn’t expect to recover from. His anticipation that he had little time left gave him a sense of courage & freedom that he wouldn’t have otherwise had.
The premise of the book is that “profound shifts in dominant media in the last 50 years have profoundly misshaped the sensibilities of the typical American, and this, in turn, has led to a profound decline in preaching.”
One of the “profound shifts” he’s talking about is that most Americans today are alliterate (not illiterate, but alliterate). The only reading we tend to do is for amusement or information. Neither is particularly deep or thoughtful; we virtually speed-read, skimming the surface of the material for its most overt content.
The obvious problem with this is that the Bible presupposes and requires thoughtful, careful & slow reading. It really can’t be read any other way. Merely skimming the surface will not only prove unsatisfying, but will lead to all kinds of misunderstandings about very important things.
Speaking of which . . . in place of reading, America has become a television and social media culture. Since television and social media deal almost exclusively with the trivial (it can do no other), this means that most of our waking hours are occupied by that which is insignificant and unimportant. Gordon writes:
“A culture that is accustomed to commercial interruptions every six or seven minutes loses its ability to discuss significant matters because it has lost the patience necessary to consider them.”
Sunday morning is one time in the week, perhaps the only time, when we put aside trivial things for consideration of the significant and weighty.
While our gatherings include time for news & announcements, that time is deliberately kept short in order to maximize our contemplation of the Holy. The songs we sing are chosen not just for their melody or emotional impact, but also their content. Likewise, we take time to really listen to God’s Word and to reflect on its implications for our lives.
Bottom line: We aim to be a joyful people, but also a serious people.