In fact, many preachers think of doctrine as undesirable and impractical. A major Christian magazine once published an article by a well-known charismatic speaker. He mused for a full page about the futility of both preaching and listening to sermons that go beyond mere entertainment. His conclusion? People don't remember what you say anyway, so most preaching is a waste of time. "I'm going to try to do better next year," he wrote; "that means wasting less time listening to long sermons and spending much more time preparing short ones. People, I've discovered, will forgive even poor theology as long as they get out before noon." 2

That perfectly sums up the attitude that dominates most modern preaching. There is an obvious parallel between that kind of preaching and those trendy jeans-perfume-beer commercials. Like the commercials, it aims to set a mood, to evoke an emotional response, to entertain0but not necessarily to communicate anything of substance.

Such preaching is sheer accommodation to a society bred by television. It follows what is fashionable but reveals little concern for what is true. It is not the kind of preaching Scripture mandates. We are to "preach the word" (2 Tim. 4:2), "speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1), and "teach and preach...the doctrine conforming to godliness" (1 Tim. 6:2-3). It is impossible to do those things and always be entertaining.

If the tragic course of modern preaching is to be changed, Christians must insist on biblical preaching and be supportive of pastors who are committed to it. How does a pastor of integrity reach people who may be unwilling or even unable to listen to carefully reasoned expositions of God's truth? That may be the greatest challenge for today's Christian leaders. We cannot yield to the pressure to be superficial. We must find ways to make the truth of God known to a generation that not only doesn't want to hear, but may not even know how to listen.

 

Widely known for his thorough, candid approach to teaching God's Word, John MacArthur is a fifth-generation pastor, a popular author and conference speaker, and has served as pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California since 1969. John and his wife, Patricia, have four grown children and fourteen grandchildren.

John's pulpit ministry has been extended around the globe through his media ministry, Grace to You, and its satellite offices in Canada, Europe, India, New Zealand, and Singapore. In addition to producing daily radio programs for nearly 2,000 English and Spanish radio outlets worldwide, Grace to You distributes books, software, audiotapes, and CDs by John MacArthur. In thirty-six years of ministry, Grace to You has distributed more than thirteen million CDs and audiotapes. 

John is the president of The Master's College and The Master's Seminary, and he has written hundreds of books and study guides, each one thoroughly biblical and practical. Best-selling titles include The Gospel According to Jesus,The Second ComingAshamed of the GospelTwelve Ordinary Men, and The MacArthur Study Bible.

© Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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1 Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death (New York: Penguin, 1984), 104.
2 James Buckingham, "Wasted Time," Charisma (Dec. 1988): 98.