“Teaching Johnny to Preach” by T. David Gordon

I just finished reading T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Preach: How the Media Have Shaped the Messengers. 

I wouldn’t give the book a strong overall recommendation as a general homiletics text. Gordon’s concerns were a bit specific, and not that widely applicable to a broader Catholic, evangelical, emergent church, or non-denominational context (which wasn’t Gordon’s intent, but I’m just putting that disclaimer out there).

However, the final chapter, entitled, “Teaching Johnny to Preach” did have some good recommendations for congregations:  

For example, the Annual Review:

Gordon rightly notes, “Most ministers will never know how bad their preaching really is without an annual review. They look out on Sunday morning, see a number of people present, and reason to themselves: ‘Well, I must be doing a pretty good job as a preacher because many people come to hear me.'” Gordon notes that this is simply wrong-headed thinking, since many people come out of Christian duty, regardless of the sermon quality (p. 97). I’d say this sense of obligation is even stronger in Catholic contexts. 

Gordon offers two main strategies:

  1. Perform a review by calling several people at random on Tues or Wed and asking them what the sermon was about (it’s best if preacher isn’t one to make the call). If they have vastly different ideas, then the sermon’s clarity and focus was probably off (p. 98)
  2. Do a general assessment of the pastor (and associates) and list ministerial tasks (preaching, counseling, administration, etc.) and have people rank the minister in order of competence (p. 98). This provides a window into preaching quality without the challenges of asking for a 1 to 10 assessment and having widely differing standards among survey participants, since the ratings will have a relativity built-in. 



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