The Top 12 Failures of Preaching

Found this great and incisive piece on the SMBC website:

In 1980, Dr Samuel Logan Jr. (editor of Preaching – The Preacher and Preaching in the Twentieth Century) wrote to several of his ministerial colleagues asking them to list what they saw as the ten most serious failures of the Christian pulpit. One of the replies he received, from Rev. John de Witt, was published the following year 1. Here are the twelve failures that de Witt listed:

1. the pre-eminent failing: a misunderstanding of the true nature of preaching and what it is that happens when the Word of God is preached;


2. the great want of ministerial earnestness in preaching;

3. the insistence on ‘the conversational style’ and the equal insistence that enthusiasm, vehemence and rhetorical skill in preaching are wrong;

4. the lack of warm, pointed, incisive, personal application;

5. the loss of the discipline and instruction of the seminary classroom once a person’s training is completed;

6. the lack of ability to apply the gospel ‘down the line’ in every single sphere of life;

7. the ministerial assumption that those to whom we preach have already come to be disciples of Jesus Christ, and the consequent loss of boldness and directness in preaching;

8. the tendency to despise the ‘form’ of the sermon and the need for hard work in writing clear, interesting, gripping, well-organised, and persuasive sermons;

9. the lack of knowledge, among those who preach, of the arts, history and philosophy i.e. of the things that put the preacher in touch with culture and the social order and lay those things at his disposal;

10. the congregations’ indifference toward preaching and their satisfaction with mediocrity in the pulpit;

11. relational, psychologizing, soul-bearing ‘preaching’ that robs the preacher of his authority, which is derived directly and solely from the fact that he is a herald of God;

12. the lack of emphasis on the preachers’ personal holiness and the recognition that a great part of his power is lent to his ministry by his holy, godly character and his ability to say, as Paul did, ‘Brethren, be followers together of me.’ (Phil.3:17)

deWitt concluded his letter by saying his list could probably be expanded!

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