How should layfolk react to boring preaching?

Status
Not open for further replies.

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
In a thread for pastors only, Pergamum asked:

Pergamum said:
Is boring preaching an adequate reason to leave a church? And if so, how do you tell the pastor?

CS Lewis once prefaced an address to Divinity students by remarking that the approach he was about to take was that of "a sheep telling shepherds what only a sheep could tell them." On this question, perhaps the shepherds here need to hear our bleating.

In my view, the first thing we ought to to if we experience preaching as boring is to examine our hearts very carefully indeed. In my time following Christ, I have found that experiencing preaching as boring is an indicator that something might be wrong with my own Christian life. So when I find myself being bored by doctrinally sound preaching, I ask myself: have I somehow grieved the Holy Spirit, either by active sinning, a passive refusal to address something he wants addressed, or by denying to myself the reality that the actions of someone in my life have so deeply hurt or offended me that "love covers a multitude of sins" is insufficient and the Matt. 18 process must be engaged in so that reconcilliation may occur? Often my answer is yes to one or more of these questions but sometimes the answers have come back no.

A second point I need to ask myself is: have I made the best use of the preaching that I can? Do I listen carefully to what is said, so much so that I can recall it later? Do I ask questions of myself? or meditate on thoughts that did catch my attention? If I have done these things, even though the preaching may be "boring" overall, it is still feeding me and I am being helped by it.

Only after we have searched our hearts, resolved any issues revealed in the process, and made certain we are doing everything possible to profit from sermons can we go on to the next step: telling the pastor? Start by saying something like:
"I've been having a spiritual problem recently. It has caused me to search my heart and make sure that I am neither sinning actively against the Lord nor my brothers, nor passively refusing what the Lord wants me to do. Nor as best I know, am I in a state of offence against anyone. But despite practicing, as best I can, the disciplines of best profiting from sermons, and although I find your sermons doctrinally sound, there is a sense in which I find them boring. Somehow your preaching is not communicating to me the life that is in the word." After which preface, it will be easier to offer any positive criticism that you can suggest that you think may help the pastor improve.

Only after taking all the above steps and giving the pastor a measure of time to consider and improve his preaching may we consider whether or not we need to cease attending that church. Yet, even if the preaching is boring, there are other reasons to remain at a church: for example, one could be so committed to the particular evangelistic or service opportunities available to a particular local church and so spiritually helped by the fellowship within it that you can remain under preaching that is not helpful to you.

On the other hand, a stoic endurance of doctrinally accurate but personally unhelpful preaching for an extended period of time has its own dangers. Unless carefully watched, dissatisfaction with the preaching can become so settled that you find it driving you to become a critic both of the preacher and the life of the church. In such situations, if you have access to a church of similar doctrinal convictions with preaching that you and your family find challenging and invigrorating instead of boring, transferring membership is an option worth serious consideration.

Just my :2cents:
 
Last edited:

Joseph Scibbe

Puritan Board Junior
I would want to determine if it is boring preaching or bad preaching. I agree a 2 hour monotone sermon on the OT Law is not appealing to me. But then again neither is an exciting sermon with terrible exegesis and bad exposition.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Thanks Tim, I forgot that my thread was not for the general public.

-----Added 7/16/2009 at 01:50:31 EST-----

p.s.

I think that even though "boring" is a subjective term that there really are preachers that are boring and that most sane persons would agree as such.

One can put up and shut up, but it is not merely content that matters but also the delivery of such content.

One can try to benefit as much as possible even from a bad preacher, of course, but I don't think one needs to feel guilty if they begin to dread sitting through another 70 minute dry monotone lecture.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
The whole problem with this is that boring is a subjective term, not an objective one. Same thing with "dynamic," etc.

Let me try to further define "being bored under doctrinally sound preaching" as "the condition where experience of the word of God rightly preached does not quicken one's mind, heart or will leading to measurable growth in grace - that is, a more faithful or joyful living of the Christian life over an extended period of time."
 

TeachingTulip

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thanks Tim, I forgot that my thread was not for the general public.

-----Added 7/16/2009 at 01:50:31 EST-----

p.s.

I think that even though "boring" is a subjective term that there really are preachers that are boring and that most sane persons would agree as such.
One can put up and shut up, but it is not merely content that matters but also the delivery of such content.

One can try to benefit as much as possible even from a bad preacher, of course, but I don't think one needs to feel guilty if they begin to dread sitting through another 70 minute dry monotone lecture.

I have sat under the teachings of Pastors who rocked the house; delivering enough entertainment, excitement, and laughter to rival the best of performers . . .who only caused me to weep all the way home.

Scriptural and doctrinal content is primary with me; I don't care how boring the presentation may be.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks Tim, I forgot that my thread was not for the general public.

-----Added 7/16/2009 at 01:50:31 EST-----

p.s.

I think that even though "boring" is a subjective term that there really are preachers that are boring and that most sane persons would agree as such.
One can put up and shut up, but it is not merely content that matters but also the delivery of such content.

One can try to benefit as much as possible even from a bad preacher, of course, but I don't think one needs to feel guilty if they begin to dread sitting through another 70 minute dry monotone lecture.

I have sat under the teachings of Pastors who rocked the house; delivering enough entertainment, excitement, and laughter to rival the best of performers . . .who only caused me to weep all the way home.

Scriptural and doctrinal content is primary with me; I don't care how boring the presentation may be. Does that make me insane?

The OP on this thread was intended to presume sound scriptural exegesis and orthodox doctrine present in the preaching as a given. The problem being discussed is the condition when such preaching leaves one unmoved. You are not insane to note that scriptural and doctrinal content is primary, but you may not yet have experienced a truly boring presentation of such content and its effects for an extended period. If you haven't, you are blessed.
 
Last edited:

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
The whole problem with this is that boring is a subjective term, not an objective one. Same thing with "dynamic," etc.

Let me try to further define "being bored under doctrinally sound preaching" as "the condition where experience of the word of God rightly preached does not quicken one's mind, heart or will leading to measurable growth in grace - that is, a more faithful or joyful living of the Christian life over an extended period of time."

Is it "rightly preached" if it bores to tears?

-----Added 7/16/2009 at 02:31:56 EST-----

P.s. to say that any problem or trouble lies in the hearer seems a convenient defense mechanism that preachers might be particularly susceptible to fall into since many of us would not like to admit that our preaching is boring and that it may be a hindrance to some.
 

JML

Puritan Board Junior
There is more to the preacher than his preaching. There is also the aspect of his watching over your soul. So therefore, to answer the original question, if it is a given that the messages are doctrinally sound and he is a diligent shepherd who loves you and his flock, then I think it would be wrong to leave because he is not the best of speakers. Just because someone is boring doesn't mean that they are not apt to teach. There is no requirement in Scripture that the pastor is not to be boring. As far as being "unmoved", the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit are what move us. If our desire is to be moved by a man and his speaking ability then that is an issue with our heart.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
There is more to the preacher than his preaching. There is also the aspect of his watching over your soul. So therefore, to answer the original question, if it is a given that the messages are doctrinally sound and he is a diligent shepherd who loves you and his flock, then I think it would be wrong to leave because he is not the best of speakers. Just because someone is boring doesn't mean that they are not apt to teach. There is no requirement in Scripture that the pastor is not to be boring. As far as being "unmoved", the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit are what move us. If our desire is to be moved by a man and his speaking ability then that is an issue with our heart.

Very excellent point!

A wonderful pastor of his people who visits them much but has some speaking deficiencies would still make a wonderful pastor, right? I would think so, and I would think that his people would still love him.

However, many of the reformed I know count their main activity of 30-40 hours prep per week as administering the Word from the pulpit, and visitation is left to elders.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
There is more to the preacher than his preaching. There is also the aspect of his watching over your soul. So therefore, to answer the original question, if it is a given that the messages are doctrinally sound and he is a diligent shepherd who loves you and his flock, then I think it would be wrong to leave because he is not the best of speakers.

It is certainly wrong to leave without attempting to identify the source of the problem and attempting to rectify it.

Just because someone is boring doesn't mean that they are not apt to teach. There is no requirement in Scripture that the pastor is not to be boring.

By definition "teaching" is the communication of knowledge or skills. Someone may, by sufficient weakness in presentation, fail to effectively communicate the knowledge he has attempted to pass on. Such a one is indeed not apt to teach.

As far as being "unmoved", the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit are what move us. If our desire is to be moved by a man and his speaking ability then that is an issue with our heart.

Biblical theology teaches that the Holy Spirit uses means to move us. One of these is the preached word. If doctrinally sound preaching is not consistently moving us into growth in grace over an extended period of time, something is wrong somewhere. It is either something wrong in us or something wrong in the preacher's presentation.
 

Curt

Puritan Board Graduate
Only after we have searched our hearts, resolved any issues revealed in the process, and made certain we are doing everything possible to profit from sermons can we go on to the next step: telling the pastor? Start by saying something like:
"I've been having a spiritual problem recently. It has caused me to search my heart and make sure that I am neither sinning actively against the Lord nor my brothers, nor passively refusing what the Lord wants me to do. Nor as best I know, am I in a state of offence against anyone. But despite practicing, as best I can, the disciplines of best profiting from sermons, and although I find your sermons doctrinally sound, there is a sense in which I find them boring. Somehow your preaching is not communicating to me the life that is in the word.

Only after taking all the above steps and giving the pastor a measure of time to consider and improve his preaching may we consider whether or not we need to cease attending that church. Yet, even if the preaching is boring, there are other reasons to remain at a church: for example, one could be so committed to the particular evangelistic or service opportunities available to a particular local church and so spiritually helped by the fellowship within it that you can remain under preaching that is not helpful to you.
:

Let us not forget this step. All too often the response of folks is to quit coming to church altogether or move to another congregation - all the while bad mouthing the "boring" preacher.

Have the courtesy to bring this to his attention. If it doesn't change respectfully inform him that you are going. Then say nothing negative about what has become your previous congregation.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
The whole problem with this is that boring is a subjective term, not an objective one. Same thing with "dynamic," etc.

Let me try to further define "being bored under doctrinally sound preaching" as "the condition where experience of the word of God rightly preached does not quicken one's mind, heart or will leading to measurable growth in grace - that is, a more faithful or joyful living of the Christian life over an extended period of time."

Is it "rightly preached" if it bores to tears?

Sorry, please read "rightly" as "doctrinally sound". I was trying to avoid repetition.
 

Sven

Puritan Board Sophomore
John Donne asked, "Why are Puritan sermons so long?" His answer was, "So that when the congregants wake up the preacher is still preaching to them."

Not an answer to your question, but it reminded me of John Donne.
 

JML

Puritan Board Junior
There is more to the preacher than his preaching. There is also the aspect of his watching over your soul. So therefore, to answer the original question, if it is a given that the messages are doctrinally sound and he is a diligent shepherd who loves you and his flock, then I think it would be wrong to leave because he is not the best of speakers.

It is certainly wrong to leave without attempting to identify the source of the problem and attempting to rectify it.

Just because someone is boring doesn't mean that they are not apt to teach. There is no requirement in Scripture that the pastor is not to be boring.

By definition "teaching" is the communication of knowledge or skills. Someone may, by sufficient weakness in presentation, fail to effectively communicate the knowledge he has attempted to pass on. Such a one is indeed not apt to teach.

As far as being "unmoved", the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit are what move us. If our desire is to be moved by a man and his speaking ability then that is an issue with our heart.

Biblical theology teaches that the Holy Spirit uses means to move us. One of these is the preached word. If doctrinally sound preaching is not consistently moving us into growth in grace, something is wrong somewhere. It is either something wrong in us or something wrong in the preacher's presentation.


1) Who is attempting to rectify the problem? Please explain. Is it the lay-person? Is it the lay-person's duty to come to the pastor and tell him that he is a lousy speaker? This is what causes divisions in churches by making people discontent. I could be way off in my interpretation of what you meant. :think:

1 Corinthians 1:11-12
11For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

Not to say that Paul was speaking on preaching style here but if there are multiple speakers the people can choose favorites.

2) Do I only teach from the pulpit? If I have a conversation with a member after services about the Word of God, am I not teaching? Teaching is in the pulpit and out of it as well. If I communicate the truth in a way that is understandable, then I am teaching. One doesn't have to be a pulpit pounder to be apt to teach. Maybe I am misunderstanding what you meant here too. In my mind, just because someone is boring doesn't mean that I don't understand what they are saying. If I understand, then whether they are boring or not boring doesn't matter.

1 Corinthians 2:1
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.

3) I agree here that the Spirit uses means. My point is that doctrinally sound preaching can be accomplished by someone who is not a polished "speaker."

Thanks for the interaction.
 

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I would glean as much as I could from the teaching. A tall cup of coffee could be used prior to the sermon to keep alert. If I want entertainment I have a stereo & multiple sources to feed it. If I want excitement I have NJ traffic to drive in. Was Paul boring? Maybe. I think the words used was his speech was contemptible, but he laid about half of the new testament down.
 

Sven

Puritan Board Sophomore
BTW, if the sermon is really boring, don't sit in any window sills, you might fall out and break your neck. If you worship in a cessationist church, the minister will not be able to raise you from the dead.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Snowflake
You could always do what so many Reformed folks I know do... you can dutifully sit through the scourging so that you can, with a clean conscience, publically decry as sinful all who don't... and then you can go listen to your favorite radio preacher who provides your "real" sustinence.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
Perhaps one cause of a "boring" preacher could be a lack of a praying congregation?
 

Idelette

Puritan Board Graduate
I think it is noteworthy to mention that Jonathan Edwards was not a dynamic preacher and was quite monotone in his style....yet some of the greatest revivals stemmed from his preaching! And as a matter of perspective, for those of us that think preaching today is boring, during OT days they stood for hours while listening to the reading of the law! And in other countries today, they have services that are held for 4 hours straight, and the people are hungry to receive God's Word and are zealous to listen.....I wonder if we as listeners should be more zealous to hear God's Word rather than the way in which it is delivered!
 
Last edited:

Montanablue

Puritan Board Doctor
I think it is noteworthy to mention that Jonathan Edwards was not a dynamic preacher, and was quite monotone in his preaching style....yet some of the greatest revivals stemmed from his preaching!


Good point. When I think of "boring preaching" though, I'm not envisioning a man talking in a monotone. I think more of a preacher who, although he may be preaching sound doctrine, cannot make good connections, cannot explain his points coherently, and cannot connect to the congregation. Perhaps Edwards preached in a monotone, but I think his sermons were very coherent and understandable. I, on the other hand, have heard some pastors who, although they were confessional, simply could not communicate with the congregation.

I'm not sure its such a good idea to consider leaving a church because of an uninteresting presentation "style." However, if you're unable to make sense of the sermons or if the pastor is regularly incoherent, then I think leaving may be a reasonable option (after approaching the matter through the session etc of course)
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
There is more to the preacher than his preaching. There is also the aspect of his watching over your soul. So therefore, to answer the original question, if it is a given that the messages are doctrinally sound and he is a diligent shepherd who loves you and his flock, then I think it would be wrong to leave because he is not the best of speakers.

It is certainly wrong to leave without attempting to identify the source of the problem and attempting to rectify it.

By definition "teaching" is the communication of knowledge or skills. Someone may, by sufficient weakness in presentation, fail to effectively communicate the knowledge he has attempted to pass on. Such a one is indeed not apt to teach.

As far as being "unmoved", the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit are what move us. If our desire is to be moved by a man and his speaking ability then that is an issue with our heart.

Biblical theology teaches that the Holy Spirit uses means to move us. One of these is the preached word. If doctrinally sound preaching is not consistently moving us into growth in grace, something is wrong somewhere. It is either something wrong in us or something wrong in the preacher's presentation.

1) Who is attempting to rectify the problem? Please explain. Is it the lay-person? Is it the lay-person's duty to come to the pastor and tell him that he is a lousy speaker? This is what causes divisions in churches by making people discontent. I could be way off in my interpretation of what you meant. :think:

I was referring to the layman involved. If I am finding doctrinally sound preaching unmoving, I must advise either the preacher or the session about the problem and the stemps I have taken to make sure the problem is not on my end of the communication.

1 Corinthians 1:11-12
11For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

Not to say that Paul was speaking on preaching style here but if there are multiple speakers the people can choose favorites.

2) Do I only teach from the pulpit? If I have a conversation with a member after services about the Word of God, am I not teaching? Teaching is in the pulpit and out of it as well. If I communicate the truth in a way that is understandable, then I am teaching. One doesn't have to be a pulpit pounder to be apt to teach. Maybe I am misunderstanding what you meant here too. In my mind, just because someone is boring doesn't mean that I don't understand what they are saying. If I understand, then whether they are boring or not boring doesn't matter.

Generally speaking I have not found pastors "preaching" in conversations. And what is at issue as I have attempted to frame the discussion is that the preacher is not effective communicating the truth, whether by incoherent argument or dissonance between material and presentation.

1 Corinthians 2:1
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.

3) I agree here that the Spirit uses means. My point is that doctrinally sound preaching can be accomplished by someone who is not a polished "speaker."

Indeed it can. But polished speaking skills will add to the effectiveness of such preaching.
 
Last edited:

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
Good point. When I think of "boring preaching" though, I'm not envisioning a man talking in a monotone. I think more of a preacher who, although he may be preaching sound doctrine, cannot make good connections, cannot explain his points coherently, and cannot connect to the congregation. Perhaps Edwards preached in a monotone, but I think his sermons were very coherent and understandable. I, on the other hand, have heard some pastors who, although they were confessional, simply could not communicate with the congregation.

Oh, by the way, the Edwards being "not dynamic" and monotone is a myth. Mark Twain once described him as a raving madman, which is probably hyperbole, but nonetheless does not comport with Edwards being a rhetorical dud.

I think you're onto something. Most "boring" sermons are not boring because of the personality of the pastor, but because the pastor views his job as lecturing systematic theology or simply moralizes without purpose. A pastor ought to employ an audience-conscious approach that considers his congregation, considers the impact that God desires this passage to have on their lives, thinks of ways to communicate both the essence and the implication of the texts, and has a personal urgency (not fanaticism) about him that indicates that he sincerely believes that the congregation needs to hear God's Word.

If a pastor does not do this, he is not "rightly preaching" no matter what his doctrine is. BTW, Jay Adams' Preaching with Purpose is an excellent homiletical resource that addresses these issues.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Something I heard in the Systematic Theology lectures on iTunesU by Douglas Kelley sticks in my head. He stated that he was asked by a friend if he finds himself evaluating the sermon he's listening to for the purity of the doctrine and difficult to listen to the Word preached.

His reply was "No" and that he found any opportunity to sit under the preached Word to be a privilege.

I was at Church recently on TAD and found myself drifting off into the thought: "This guy is boring". I rebuked myself and tried to focus on the Truth he was proclaiming instead of focusing on my reaction to the way I wish he taught.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Perhaps it would be helpful to divide the question a little further. Thus,

What is my responsibility when sitting under a boring sermon?
To heed God's word and profit from it as best I may.

What is the responsibility of a preacher who realizes he is boring?
To cultivate better elocution, delivery and organization; to limit the length of his sermon; in short, to consider his congregation.

What can a preacher do to overcome being boring?
__________________________ Read Cicero?

What are the long-term effects of boring preaching?
Disinterest; increased dependence on other preachers; dread of worship services;_________________________________________

"Boring" and "dynamic" are subjective terms, and personal preferences in the matter of preaching have to be mortified when they become obstacles to the means of grace, just like any other bit of self that's getting in the way. At the same time, the qualification of being "apt to teach" would necessarily seem to include, as Albert Martin put it, the ability to speak without torturing men's minds or ears.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
Most "boring" sermons are not boring because of the personality of the pastor, but because the pastor views his job as lecturing systematic theology or simply moralizes without purpose. A pastor ought to employ an audience-conscious approach that considers his congregation, considers the impact that God desires this passage to have on their lives, thinks of ways to communicate both the essence and the implication of the texts, and has a personal urgency (not fanaticism) about him that indicates that he sincerely believes that the congregation needs to hear God's Word.

If a pastor does not do this, he is not "rightly preaching" no matter what his doctrine is. BTW, Jay Adams' Preaching with Purpose is an excellent homiletical resource that addresses these issues.

Charlie thank you; you have exactly stated the omissions in pastoral practice that lead to doctrinally sound yet boring preaching.
 

Idelette

Puritan Board Graduate
Oh, by the way, the Edwards being "not dynamic" and monotone is a myth. Mark Twain once described him as a raving madman, which is probably hyperbole, but nonetheless does not comport with Edwards being a rhetorical dud.

Actually, I beg to differ! :) I've read several resources that indicate that he was, so I don't believe that it was a myth. In fact, according to witnesses that heard his sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" in Connecticut, 1741...he was quite monotone!

"Though Edwards was intrigued by Whitefield's emotional even terrifying manner of preaching, he retained his own subdued style. Even when he preached "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God in Connecticut in 1741, according to witnesses, 'he stood fixedly in the pulpit of the Enfield Church, set his eyes on the bellrope at the rear, and spoke the words in a level tone and with no high pomp of rhetoric or oratory. The feelings he aroused in his audience were not of his making; indeed, he several times admonished his listeners to stop groaning and crying aloud and to be still.'"

Jonathan Edwards: Renewed Heart - Google Books
 

JML

Puritan Board Junior
Most "boring" sermons are not boring because of the personality of the pastor, but because the pastor views his job as lecturing systematic theology or simply moralizes without purpose. A pastor ought to employ an audience-conscious approach that considers his congregation, considers the impact that God desires this passage to have on their lives, thinks of ways to communicate both the essence and the implication of the texts, and has a personal urgency (not fanaticism) about him that indicates that he sincerely believes that the congregation needs to hear God's Word.

If a pastor does not do this, he is not "rightly preaching" no matter what his doctrine is. BTW, Jay Adams' Preaching with Purpose is an excellent homiletical resource that addresses these issues.

Charlie thank you; you have exactly stated the omissions in pastoral practice that lead to doctrinally sound yet boring preaching.


I think that I see what you are saying now. I think my concept of a boring sermon and your concept were two different things. If the sermon is boring due to lack of preparation or other things listed by Charlie above, then yes, there is a problem with the pastor. To me though, I wouldn't call that a boring sermon, just a bad one. But if all of those things are there and the layman just doesn't like the way the pastor speaks then the problem is with the heart of the layman. When I was considering what a boring sermon was, I was considering it a given that the pastor was doing all of those things but that the layman just didn't like the way he speaks.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
What is being done to train preachers in stylistic matters? What do most seminaries provide? And in those classes, do they address mannerisms are merely grade the content? Delivery really does matter a lot.

Also, do we trend towards blaming the victim when someone is bored by us rather than critical self-reflection on how to better refine our manner of delivery?
 

Curt

Puritan Board Graduate
When I was in seminary, which was in another era, I grant, Dr. Bob Rayburn taught us about gestures, clothing, transitions, illustrations, etc. He even had us read Dress for Success.

We used an excellent old text, On The Preparation and Deliver of Sermons, by Broaddus.

He also videtaped us and help us critique the tapes.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top