Entertaining preaching

I’m grateful for Bret Johnson, pastor of Valley Bible Church in Radford, sharing this quote with me. It’s taken from a book by John Piper, Counted Righteous in Christ and was quoted in a book by Mark Dever called Preach: Theology Meets Practice.

The older I get, the less impressed I am with flashy successes and enthusiasms that are not truth-based. Everybody knows that with the right personality, the right music, the right location, and the right schedule you can grow a church without anybody really knowing what doctrinal commitments sustain it, if any. Church-planting specialists generally downplay biblical doctrine in the core values of what makes a church “successful”. The long-term effect of this ethos is a weakening of the church that is concealed as long as the crowds are large, the band is loud, the tragedies are few, and persecution is still at the level of preferences.

But more and more this doctrinally-diluted brew of music, drama, life-tips, and marketing seems out of touch with real life in this world – not to mention the next. It tastes like watered-down gruel, not a nourishing meal. It simply isn’t serious enough. It’s too playful and chatty and causal. Its joy just doesn’t feel deep enough or heartbroken or well-rooted. The injustice and persecution and suffering and hellish realities in the world today are so many and so large and so close that I can’t help but think that, deep inside, people are longing for something weighty and massive and rooted and stable and eternal. So it seems to me that the trifling with silly little sketches and breezy welcome-to-the-den styles on Sunday morning are just out of touch with what matters in life.

Of course, it works. Sort of. Because, in the name of felt needs, it resonates with people’s impulse to run from what is most serious and weighty and what makes them most human and what might open the depths of God to their souls. The design is noble. Silliness is a stepping-stone to substance. But it’s an odd path. And evidence is not ample that many are willing to move beyond fun and simplicity. So the price of minimizing truth-based joy and maximizing atmosphere-based comfort is high. More and more, it seems to me, the end might be in view. I doubt that a religious ethos with such a feel of entertainment can really survive as Christian for too many more decades. Crises reveal the cracks.

How does this quote resonate or react with you?

It reminded me of this disturbing prophecy by the apostle Paul:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV)

On this day...

3 comments

  1. Rick Lee says:
    I couldn’t agree more. I had the same reaction ten years ago which lead me to a study of the early church, which ultimately lead me to the catholic church. Whatever church you are in and whatever path you are on, God calls us all to the truth and a practice of worship that glorifies Him. Unfortunately worldliness has made its way into many church’s. Most of us avoid both sacrifice and authority. Scripture calls us to both. Paul made it extremely clear in the book of Romans and his other letters. Thank you for the post. EnJOY your journey. May the Holy Sporit guide you in path.
    1. Jeff says:
      Rick!
      Great to hear from you, and thanks for commenting! I hope you and your wonderful family are well! It’s so good to hear that you’re still journeying and enjoying Him too!
  2. Rick Lee says:
    Hey Jeff. I must have been tired when I posted. I didn’t realize it was going to your blog. We are doing great. Landon heads off to college in August. Everyone was in school this last year so Kathy got to watch soap operas and eat bon bons! You’ll be glad to know that we stay very involved on ministry at our church. Probably going to be the youth ministers next year. We have had a strong devotion to the Holy Spirit past few years. And He as done some amazing things through the kids. Hope we can catch up one of these days. Hope your clan is well.

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