Poor readers make poor preachers.

According to T. David Gordon:

When people do read today (and they don’t read often), they read almost exclusively for information or content; they almost never read for the pleasure obtained by reading an author whose command of the language is exceptional.


Ministers will read Tom Clancy stuff, and they routinely read the latest best-selling self-help book, but as a group they are no more interested in texts than is the culture of which they are a part.  They read for information or amusement, but they do not read because they cherish the aesthetic pleasure taken in something that is well written.  They notice only the content of which they read, but do not notice the subtler semi-miracle of language well-employed.

How does this phenomenon affect them as preachers?  Well, they read the Bible the same way they read everything else: virtually speed-reading, scanning it for its most overt content.  What is this passage about? they ask as they read, but they don’t raise questions about how the passage is constructed. […] All of their sermons are about Christian truth or theology in general, and the particular text they read ahead of time merely prompts their memory or calls their attention to one of Christianity’s important realities (insofar as they perceive it).  Their reading does not stimulate them to rethink anything, and since the text doesn’t stimulate them particularly (but merely serves as a reminder of what they already know), their sermon is not particularly stimulating to their hearers.


Culturally, then, we are no longer careful, close readers of texts, sacred or secular.  We scan for information, but we do not appreciate literary craftsmanship.  Exposition is therefore virtually a lost art.  We don’t really read texts to enter the world of the author and perceive reality through his vantage point; we read texts to see how they confirm what we already believe about reality.

Why Johnny Can’t Preach (p.44-49)


About Brian Phillips

Brian lives in Spain with Kassie and their kids.
This entry was posted in Books, Christian Life, Communication, Recommendations. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Poor readers make poor preachers.

  1. Dan Ware says:

    This is good. Another example is how people use the internet. If we have a question, we go to Google, type in a few key words, scan summaries until a relevant page is found, and then scan the page for the answer. I, for one, have the tendency to have this same approach to reading. I don’t take time to really understand what is being explained, I just try to get the general idea.

    Anyway, I appreciate the post. Thanks

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