I need to begin this post by thanking Doris, who left some heart-wrenching comments that you can find here. Without her insights, I wouldn’t have been spurred to consider a short (perhaps) series on the characteristics of relevant preaching.
Much of what I will have to say here is said better elsewhere by R.L. Dabney and Pierre Ch. Marcel. For those who are interested in further reading about preaching, I would also recommend reading John Carrick, T. David Gordon, and John A. Broadus. If you can only have two of these books in your library, I would highly recommend that you purchase The Relevance of Preaching by Marcel, and Why Johnny Can’t Preach by T. David Gordon.
There are several avenues of attack when dealing with this subject, not all of which will be relevant to all of my readers, so I will limit myself to two. The first of these Dabney calls “the seven cardinal requisites of the sermon”. They are:
- Textual Fidelity
- Evanglical Tone
Just focusing on these seven cardinal requisites, I think you will rapidly come to the same conclusion that T. David Gordon has:
Less than 30 percent of those ordained to the Christian ministry can preach even a mediocre sermon. – Gordon, Why Johnny Can’t Preach, 11.
As horrible as it my sound, my own estimation is that the number is much lower than 30 percent.
The other avenue of attack that I will pursue is examining the Reformation definition of preaching as explicatio et applicatio verbi Dei. The Reformers defined preaching as the explanation and application of the Word of God. Most modern preaching is deficient at both aspects, but application is far and away the worst of the two. Explanation is often lacking because of poor exegesis of the passage, which is usually due to ignoring the underlying Greek or Hebrew text (a hobbyhorse I’ll ride some other day). Application, however, seems to be entirely forgotten in our age. You would be surprised how often I hear sermons that can’t answer the simple question, “So what?” Good preaching always answers that question.
So what are we to do?
I’ll offer some tentative suggestions…tomorrow.