Preaching, Infomercials and the U.S. vs. John Lennon

Posted: February 16, 2010 in Uncategorized

There is a scene in the very good documentary The U.S. v. John Lennon where someone challenges Lennon on what his songs and protests in regards to the Vietnam war have accomplished.  Lennon struggles to find an answer.  In fact, many historians have concluded that the ’60’s  peace movement had little or no effect on the eventual decision to withdraw U.S. troops from southeast Asia.

I rolled my eyes at Lennon’s apparent egotistical naiveté but then I began to wonder, are preachers any different?  What impact is preaching having on any given Sunday?  

Theologian and pastor William Willimon used to respond to the obligatory, “Good sermon, pastor” with “We’ll see.”  Isn’t it right to hope that preaching will have some type of tangible result?

A few weeks ago I heard Rick McKinley, the lead pastor of Imago Dei in Portland, say that he feared all of his sermons were nothing more than holy infomercials.   In other words, people sat there and thought “hmmm…that sounds good.  I need to get that!” But then forgot it about it as soon as their attention was turned to something else.

I’ve even heard truly awesome communicators like Matt Chandler say that they run into people from their church during the week and ask them about the sermon only to receive an embarrassed stutter from someone who can’t remember a single idea from an entire 45 minute homily!

What are we preachers to do to make sure that we are not just wasting our time? I understand that we need to make things simple and clear, I know that we must trust the Spirit to do it’s work but isn’t it right to ask the question, “are we truly having any effect? If not, why not? How can we be more effective?” 

I for one and open to any and all ideas.  Give me a shout if you like.


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