I grew up when Diff'rent Strokes was a popular television show. That's no big deal unless your last name is Willis. To this day I still hear those famous words popularized by Arnold: "Whatchu talkin bout Willis?" Usually they are uttered by someone looking at me as though I may have never heard it before. Yeah, right! Well this blog is what I (Willis) am talkin bout...my thoughts, observations & opinions. Enjoy...

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Plexiglas Preaching

"There are plenty of gifted communicators in the modern evangelical movement, but today’s sermons tend to be short, shallow, topical homilies that massage people’s egos and focus on fairly insipid subjects like human relationships, “successful” living, emotional issues, and other practical but worldly - and not definitely biblical - themes. Like the unbiquitous Plexiglas lecterns from which these messages are delivered, such preaching is lightweight and without substance, cheap and synthetic, leaving little more than an ephemeral impression on the minds of the hearers."
-John MacArthur (from his book "Fool's Gold?: Discerning Truth in an Age of Error")

2 Timothy 4:1-5: I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 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. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.


SammyBoy said...

Maybe I live a terrifically sheltered life . . . I read this kind of assertion quite often, but other than the idiots on the TV, I don't hear these kinds of sermons very often in the circles I run in, or in the people I listen to online. I guess there's a bunch of them out there somewhere, but I don't run across them with anything like the frequency that articles like this suggest I should.

Or maybe it's because I'm one of these guys, and think that everybody else sounds okay because that's how I preach, too. I dunno. Ya'll are welcome to go to our church's website and listen to a few of my sermons, and tell me whether I'm one of the offenders.


Badger said...

Dude, you like MacArthur too? I'm amazed at how many Christian church preachers like Calvinist preachers like Piper, MacArthur and Driscoll. I know that we are eating the meat of their messages and spitting out the Calvinist bones, but it's still an interesting phenomenon. It seems that most Christian church preachers are either lapping up the insipid preaching that this quote addresses or lapping up the hard-core biblical messages that are so rare and usually found in folks like MacArthur.

Unlike Sammyboy, I think that the quote is dead-on (and yes, Sammy, it might be your circles... not sure if you are running in the seeker-driven megachurches that do more of the Dr. Phil Oprah type sermons that MacArthur is referring to).

I'm so sick of sermons that tell how to have great sex, get that promotion, feel better about myself and so on while deliberately ignoring the bible or proof-texting it in shallow ways. Around here there are a lot of churches that truck in this kind of sermon and it's irritating, especially since they are the ones growing by leaps and bounds (but, tickling ears feels better than stepping on toes I guess).

I'm with you David, and glad to see that you like MacArthur too. I don't always agree with his tone, but the truth hurts sometimes and he is a fan of the truth.

David H. Willis said...

I like Johhny Mac, Driscoll & Piper (& many other eformed guys too). I spit out the bones also and I appreciate their sincere devotion to expounding Scripture. Sometimes I can't believe some of the trivial jive that passes for sermons in some places.

I'm very confident that you are not one of the guys Mac is criticizing.

William Mckinley Dyer said...

Badger--you said (but, tickling ears feels better than stepping on toes I guess).

I would just like to say "NICE"

Anonymous said...

I am definitely intrigued by this discussion - I would like to believe I am one who does preach solid and stand on the truth of God's word and would fit the mold of what Mac is speaking of in this passage (the good side of what was said) - while at the same time have (and will so in the future) found myself preaching from behind said "plexiglass pulpit" - and preaching on issues that do help people to feel better about themselves (but not because it glosses over or covers insignificant surface subjects - but instead shows the power of God's Spirit to CARE & to HEAL the things they are struggling with in their lives).

I definitely agree that there are a good # of people that do "tickle the ears" as scripture speaks of, but often I think it is easy for guys to go on the "attack" on this issue and start laying out blanket statements that tend to trash churches with great growth (funny how the church expanded by 3,000 on it's first day, but yet that was equated to the power of the Spirit - but now if a church blooms quickly we often attest it to "watered down gospel") I would encourage checking out a church called Cornerstone in Simi Vally, CA - a guy named Francis Chan leads it and I believe it is running about 5,000 - take a few minutes (actually a heck of a lot longer than that cause I think he usually goes 40-50 min preaching) and check out some of his sermons - WOW talk about hammering home the important stuff of scripture, he has preached some of the most powerful sermons I have ever heard (and don't tell anyone but he isn't what we would call a "restoration guy" but is probably more restoration than what many of our guys would tend to be; sssshhhhh don't say that out loud)

It is interesting that a message on "great sex" was mentioned, because that was exactly the general idea of our message last Sunday "Great Sexpectations - and since SammyBoy can shamelessly plug his podcasts ha ha (just messin Sam - it's me Neal Alligood) - go check out our sermons, and this one wasn't me - @ www.cccobb.com Jeff, our lead guy did a TREMENDOUS job sharing how God intends us to live in the sexual purity of the marriage bed - STRAIGHT from the book of Song of Solomon, can't say I've heard many guys preach from that book - anyone else heard lots on that one??

Also interesting is that in preparation for that message he listened to some of Driscoll's messages about the same subject. So I just found it interesting that Driscoll was listed in the line of guys that preach the truth - yet he was one of the resources used to prepare a sermon about having "great sex" - which was also mentioned in the long list of "weak sermons" ha ha ha ha

Now I know that whomever made that comment was probably in NO WAY saying you could not preach about sex and it not be a strong biblical message, but it just goes back to my point about how we sometimes (and by WE I most def include ME - cause I have been known to do it some) like to just throw a big ole blanket on all that "others do that we think is so incorrect."

Okay - enough from me on one day - been a while since I dropped in and left a message for ya Willis - so I had to get it all in on one long rant. But again as I said - this type of thing does intrigue me!

By the way - hope all that road rash is healing - there is just so much I want to say about you being taken out by a fishing pole & the danger of biking, but I shall remain silent for today!!! ha ha ha

David H. Willis said...

Sure there are exceptions to the rule, but I think there's a lot of drivel out there. A verse here or there (sometimes ripped out of context), a few personal anecdotes, some Letterman moments, some humor, practical self-help tips, a video clip, some pschobabble, human wisdom, etc. At the end of the day people remain malnourished. Any investigation reveals most "Christians" don't even have biblical worldviews. I have to remind myself that the power is in the Word not myclever packing. Don't get wrong, some of the these things I've mentioned can be used if the they are ancillary not primary. That's just my opinion. I'd sure like to see the 3,000 coversions along with the kind of message Peter preached at Penetecost.

Driscoll does push the envelope and sometimes pulls verses into a modernized inerpretation (IMHO), but his strength is that he preaches theology and he strives to keep the Word front and center.

I'll check out Chan.

Badger said...


You're right, we want to be careful to avoid the two caveats you mentioned: making blanket statements and ascribing growth or big churches to bad methods. I didn't do that in my comments and didn't intend to sound like that. As you mentioned, Driscoll is held up by both David and myself as a great preacher of the word and he defies both of those caveats. His church is huge (and multi-site) and grew explosively. Furthermore, he preaches extensively on sex and does so in a very biblical, non-salacious way.

And I totally agree that we don't need to go around 'discerning' which churches are which. Some are blatantly unbiblical and like the cults need to be pointed out. But most of the 'discerning' is unproductive. It's up to each Christian to discern if their church is preaching the truth or not. Frankly, most people probably don't care, which is sad, but true. All we can do, as preachers, is to make sure that we are faithful to the word and are not compromising biblical truth for growth; ideally we would have both biblical preaching AND growth (like MacArthur or Driscoll).

I'm certainly not against preaching about sex, I just don't like to see it handled in a sophmoric fashion like many churches are. But, if the preacher and his elders are ok with that, it's not up to me to point them out are condemn them.

Badger said...

One more thought: if you want to listen to a sermon series on sex that is dead-on biblically and is still very relevant to sexual relations today, listen to Driscoll's "Peasant Princess". It's hard-hitting, honest, accurate and not a bit sophomoric. (Unlike the seeker-driven church I attended which opened 'worship' with the rap song "Let's Talk About Sex" and had a childish Saturday Night Live spoof complete with Dr. Ruth and the Church Lady.)

Anonymous said...

Hey Badger - good stuff - I had actually meant to follow-up my comment to say that I was also playing a lil of the "devil's advocate" as Willis mentioned in one of his posts - I was just trying to give a lil push-back on some of the comments I read.

I really didn't much "disagree" with what was being said - just making sure we are careful as we go into some of these discussions, when we hear a lot of people that we agree with - we tend to "rally the troops" and then sometimes go further than we would normally in saying things about the "other side" ha ha

That Francis Chan guy I mentioned was at a conference recently and he challenged us to be careful because too often we are churches that are busy showing/telling people what we ARE NOT instead of being churches that show/tell people what WE ARE about - God's Love & Truth etc.

I thought that was a pretty good thing to be reminded of. Cause often we hear people say - "oh we are not like THAT church - we don't do the things that THEY DO" and ultimately that is still be divisive. Instead just showing who we really are and what we are really about is all we need to do.

Like I said before - some good stuff in this post & follow-up to consider, discuss, and challenge ourselves as to how "we do it".