Here are some of the gleanings from my reading last week....
1. The boring preaching
John Stott in Between Two Worlds quotes the character Anthony Trollop from Barchester Towers:
"There is, perhaps, no greater hardship at present inflicted on mankind in civilized and free countries, than the necessity of listening to sermons. No-one but a preaching clergyman has, in these realms, the power of compelling an audience to sit silent, and be tormented…..
A member of Parliament can be coughed down or counted out. Town councilors can be tabooed. But no-one can rid himself of the preaching clergyman. He is the bore of the age, …the nightmare that disturbs our Sunday’s rest, the incubus that overloads our religion and makes God’s service distasteful" (53-54).
2. Tips to combat the borning preacher
Petter Fiddick “…learned to beat ‘the sermon problem by having mental debates with the preacher’, a technique which failed in a Chopin recital ‘since waltzes are not susceptible to argument’. Peter Fiddick probably imagines that preachers would be furious if they thought their listeners were having ‘mental debates’ with them. But surely, on the contrary, we should be delighted. We have no wish to encourage passivity in the congregation. We want to provoke people to think, to answer us and argue with us in their minds, and we should maintain such a lively (though silent) dialogue with them that they find it impossible to fall asleep” (62).
-Peter Adam, Speaking God's Words:
3. Fruitless debating
"My impression is that experience of that kind of thing [a debate] shows clearly that it rarely succeeds, or leads to anything. It provides entertainment, but as far as I am aware…it has very rarely been fruitful or effective as a means of winning people to the Christian faith.But more important still are my detailed reasons. The first is…that God is not to be discussed or debated. God is not a subject for debate, because He is Who He is and What He is. We are told that the unbeliever, of course, does not agree with that; and that is perfectly true; but that makes no difference. We believe it, and it is a part of our very case to assert it. Holding the view that we do, believing what we do about God, we cannot in any circumstances allow Him to become a subject for discussion or of debate or investigation" (47).
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers