Sunday, March 07, 2010

Johnny Randolph: Turn off the T.V. and read poetry!

T. David Gordon has written a very helpful little book in his Why Johnny Can't Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers. He argues that we do not even realize the sad state of preaching in the church today. The all too familiar refrain from congregations across our land is, "We love our pastor; he's not the greatest preacher, but he is very good with the people." Gordon's thesis is that this real problem is not wholly due to the minister himself (or herself; unfortunately, Gordon sees the gender issue as relatively unimportant); external factors in our world contribute greatly to the sad state of preaching in our day. Specifically, Johnny is so inundated with media (t.v., movies, internet, etc.) that his sensibilities for preaching effectively are no longer properly developed.

Johnny cannot:
- read texts (closely and carefully read ancient texts like Scripture)
- write (compose his thoughts in an orderly and understandable manner)
- distinguish the significant from the insignificant (because we live in front of the t.v., which, by
its very nature, is a medium for the insignificant)

While much of Gordon's book is critical in tone, his criticism is very helpful. And, he does offer a positive way forward. The sensibilities of aspiring preachers and current preachers can be retrained and positively developed. How? Gordon only briefly highlights a few things, and these include the following:

- the congregation could conduct an annual review of their preacher
- the preacher can become a student of poetry, thereby cultivating the habit of reading texts closely
- the preacher can give himself to write hand-written letters more frequently
- the preacher can seek to regularly write something that requires some degree of care and
thought: a journal, a newspaper editorial, a theological journal entry, etc.
- the preacher can write out his prayers

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I particularly appreciate the last recommendation--writing out our prayers. This of course was quite common in centuries past.

Although I have never done that, I have had to write some devotionals to be read on local radio. I was surprised how long it took me to compose them. Everyone should try it.