What is the role of preaching in the church today?

March 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Preaching

What is the role of preaching in the church today?

Book Review of Pagan Christianity by Barna and Viola

The Positive Factors

The authors have pulled back the curtain on a number of sacred cows; Sunday School (pp. 212-213), the Altar Call (pp.64-68), the Decision Card, Jesus as Personal Savior, the Goal of Preaching is Soul Winning, all in Chapter 3, pp. 47-84. The documentation they offer and most of the rationale is solid. Many of these ‘cows’ should have been slain long ago. Bill Easum wrote a book titiled Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers. Barna & Viola had a super barbecue in this chapter alone! There is no question that these issues came to be regarded in the evangelical community as though they had support in the text of Scripture. They do not and most of them have proven extremely detrimental to the progress of the gospel and the kingdom for many years. Further, any pastor who did not promote and support these practices was considered a heretic at best. The authors did a credible service to the church by bringing these things to light with documented support. They show with clarity that these issues are primarily appendages, barnacles that attached themselves to the fabric and life of the church.

The Negative Factors

In most instances they prove too much. For example, we should not have church buildings. Is there far too much invested in the establisment and preservation of facilities? Yes. Does that prove that we should not have a campus, a building? No. the facility where I pastor is utilized actively on average 70+ hours per week. Most people are not in their private homes 70 hours per week. Does this then prove we should not have homes? I think not. Jesus did not drive a car. Therefore, neither should we? In many cases they built a ‘straw man’ and then torched him. Exciting, but not great scholarship or logic.


When the reader finishes this book he will say, WOW! In Chapter Four (4) the authors write with an utter disdain for preaching. I have heard some that deserves this assessment. However, that is not true of the process and practice of same. Their claim is that it does not produces change in the listener and that it is merely passive. In Acts 2:42 we read that the listeners ‘attached themselves to ‘ the teaching of the Apostles (????????????????). Preaching is largely monologic as practiced today. However, in the first century the church met every day (Acts 2:46). Are we to believe that they never discussed, dialogued about the content of the message? Absurd. In many churches the Sunday Sermon becomes the focal point of discussion in Small Groups. Without the content of the message delivered on Sunday this sharing and exchange is robbed of substance. Do a word search on preach or preaching and discover what the text says about preaching. I suggest we follow the text. Further, the authors do not deal with the ultimate design of ‘the church’. That is found in Rom 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18; and Col. 1:28 – Transformation. I would agree that IF the ONLY venue a person engages each week is a monologue sermon, they will very likely not be transfromed. Having said that, the failure to be transformed is not the fault of the sermon, but, the failure of the person to live “life in community” as God designed for His people. Church is not a one hour per week gig in an auditorium looking at the back of the head of the person in front of you. It matters not whether they are seated in a pew, on a chair or on the floor! The transformation of the body requires specific venues, all designed to provide a strategic component in the Transformation process – – Worship (this includes Preaching), Fellowship (Instruction & Sharing) and Intimacy & Accountability (Small Groups).

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