[ 2 minutes to read ]
By the title of this book I expected it to be somewhat playful, but Gordon is all business. It is a serious subject and a serious problem, so his serious manner is appropriate. He transparently states the state of things in the average pulpit today. Though anecdotal, anyone with church-going experience can verify his unscientific findings. His concern is not that there are no great preachers today, but rather that the average pulpit in the average church doesn’t even have average preaching, but less than mediocre preaching.
Usually churches respond to this problem by trying to make up for it in other ways. They fool about with styles of music, interior design and decoration, technology, nurseries, groups, programs, etc. If they address the preaching directly it is to push for the twenty minute, one thought type of message. Gordon points out this is like a hospital having an excessive death rate in surgeries and choosing to address it by banning the use of scalpels in the operating room.
He doesn’t merely bewail the state of things but seeks to uncover the problem root. He acknowledges seminaries are imperfect, but he can’t lay the blame there. He contends Johnnies don’t have the inculturation necessary to preach well before they even enter seminary. He lists three sensibilities a man must have cultivated before he even begins to learn to preach. 1) “the sensibility of the close reading of texts.” 2) “the sensibility of composed communication.” 3) “the sensibility of the significant.”
He concludes by recommending ways Johnnies can cultivate these sensibilities. He did not set out to write the definitive work on preaching, but rather to address requisite beginning. His case is well put and compelling. Any man who is called to preach must be aware of the limitations of his upbringing in the media ecology of today and he must be deliberate about cultivating the skills required to preach well. If this book gets a man pointed in this direction, then it is well worth it.
I found some parts less compelling than others. I also scratched my head at different times. For instance, Gordon made a point of not apologizing for his classic use of masculine pronouns. So he baldly states he will be uber-conservative, traditional, and stodgy on that point. However, he makes a point of this in order to say that his old school grammarian ways are not to be interpreted to exclude women. Say what? This is a book about preachers and preaching and you make a point of saying you’re not excluding women. So in the same breath he defends his curmudgeonly use of grammar, but in service of liberal, progressive error. I think Johnny the Apostle might say, “That maketh no sense.”
I still think it’s a worthy book but reading it might be like listening to a lecture from a professor with a bad comb-over. What he is saying is important, but those flyaways can be distracting.