Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Do TV, Movies and the Internet Impact Preaching?


T. David Gordon has recently come out with a new book Why Johnny Can't Preach. Gordon wrote this book while on his deathbed with cancer. Thankfully, his cancer has gone into remission. The premise of the book is that there is a lot of bad preaching out there because ministers do not know how to read or write well anymore.

According to Gordon, the title is taken from some earlier published works, Why Johnny Can't Read: And What You Can Do about It and Why Johnny Can't Write: How to Improve Writing Skills. Gordon says that the theological corollary of the lack of these two fundamental skills manifest themselves in bad preaching, since preaching is essentially the product of these two activities.

Gordon suggests that these problems have developed because of the influence that the new image based and electronic media has had on American culture since World War II and how they have altered average Americans' sensibilities compared to the typographical media age.

You can hear a good interview with T. David Gordon by the guys at the Reformed Forum here. I highly recommend listening to this interview, because he has as much to say to laypersons in the pew as he has to say to ministers in the pulpit. For example, Gordon mentions that the effect of the new electronic media is that it has created a culture that does not take things very seriously, but Christianity is terribly serious because it deals with the consequential things of life. The electronic media, especially T.V., does not deal with the consequential things of life, and on the rare occasion that it does, it deals with it inconsequentially. As a result of our living in a culture of indifference to the significant things of life, we miss (both ministers and laypersons) the consequential realities of life and of the scripture that deals with those consequential matters. Since the Bible confronts persons with the consequential things of life--sermons should confront persons about these significant realities. Tragically, the preachers of our day seem to be conforming their preaching to our inconsequential culture, and thereby, abdicating their opportunity, privilege and calling to be an alternative to it and to help their congregations alter their sensibilities and live in antithesis to it.

The bottom line: the media has shaped the messengers and those hearing the message. I highly recommend everyone (minister and layperson) reading this book, or at least listening to the interview.

If you are interested in getting the book, the guys at Westminster Bookstore have made it available for $5.99 (plus s&h).

The guys over at Mongerism Books have a special offer until March 25, 2009 where you can get the book for FREE if you buy $25 worth of books and type "Why Johnny Can't Preach" in the customer notes at checkout. See here for details.

For other resources on this subject, see:

  1. Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
  2. Gregory E. Reynolds, The Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures
  3. Interview with Gregory E. Reynolds on "Preaching in an Electronic Age" also done by the guys at the Reformed Forum.
  4. Gregory E. Reynolds, "Preaching and Poetry: Learning the Power of Speech" in Ordained Servant, April 2007
  5. Gregory E. Reynolds, "Preaching and Fiction: Developing Oral Imagination" in Ordained Servant, March 2007
  6. Gregory E. Reynolds, "The Wired Church" in Ordained Servant, June/July 2007
  7. A. Craig Troxel, "Why Preachers Should Read Fiction" in Ordained Servant, March 2007

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