/ Matthew Everhard

Why Johnny Can't Preach

T. David Gordon's little book Why Johnny Can't Preach has been out for several years now. I suppose I have been deftly avoiding it since I just finished reading it, now more than a decade after it originally dropped. If pressed, I have to admit that the reason that I never took it down from the shelf is that I am afraid I might be a "Johnny."

I don't think anyone that preaches regularly actually enjoys being critiqued – much less undergoing a laboratory dissection. But that doesn't mean that we don't need it. If the author is correct, we need help desperately. T. David Gordon, a retired professor at Grove City College, suggests that a very small percentage of the sermons that he has ever heard, something like 10%, even has a discernable "point."


Gordon suggests that all sermons should have three markers of bare adequacy before they can even approach some form of sufficiency: 1) a discernable point or overall coherence; 2) a clear literary dependence on the Biblical text from which the sermon is supposedly drawn; and 3) real-world applicability to the hearer.  

The subtitle of the book is How the Media Have Shaped the Messengers. Part of the problem is that our culture has moved from an oral culture to a literary culture, to an image-based (photographic/video) culture. Of course, social media is a big part of the problem. It's not that we can't read (illiterate) but that we don't read (alliterate). But is there anything that the Johnny's out there can do to fix the problem?

Thankfully, yes. Gordon has a number of helpful guideposts to bring modern preaching out of the ditch and onto the road again.

Check out my full video review below for a complete description of the symptoms, underlying problems, and possible remedies noted by T. David Gordon in his excellent little book.

Here is my full video review:

Matthew Everhard

Matthew Everhard

Matthew Everhard is the pastor of Gospel Fellowship PCA in Valencia, PA. He is also a Jonathan Edwards scholar and has written a number of books, and articles. He hosts a popular YouTube channel.

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