How should layfolk react to boring preaching?

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ReformedWretch

Puritan Board Doctor
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.

Yeeee ouch!
 

Turtle

Puritan Board Freshman
If one thinks the pastor is boring, perhaps they could ask for his writings. His writing could be really good.

"His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account." (An assessment of Paul by a few Corinthians, 2 Cor. 10:10)
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DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Rich,

I can only pray that you find it helpful as you face the prospect of future ministry. To be sure, you have to develop rhino hide as a pastor, because we live in an egalitarian society today where people think their own perceived needs take precedence as the priority over everything else, as has been expressed in this thread. Some have the arrogance actually to presume that they are qualified to instruct the preacher on matters for which they themselves have never been instructed. Yes, it's arrogance, and often a sense of their own perceived superiority. I for one am willing to sit down and listen to criticism, and have done so on many many occasions through the years, especially from fellow elders and mutual practitioners. Your ministry will be full of critics of all sorts, types and kinds, some with pure motives, and some with impure motives who do not have the grace to admit them. But I have on very few occasions faced such a critic in the congregation who 1) had something helpful to say, and 2) had something other than his/her own interests/preferences at heart. I agree with Al Martin, if I'm going to listen to a critic, I prefer to hear it from a practitioner, and not a theorist.

Most of the people who see it as their mission in life to correct a pastor's preaching are people who also sought to correct their previous pastor as well, and were never content with the ministry of the word. If the facts were revealed as they are, such folk would complain against Christ himself, as they did in the days of His flesh. I know of no place in the Bible where the people of God are commanded to sit in judgment of *how* the pastor is to deliver his sermon...content, yes, but not how. I do think that the Bible does instruct the man of God sufficiently in those areas, and even so we all bring our differing personalities to what we do. But this is why we as Presbyterians actually have a systematic way of oversight, and steps toward ordination, that are conducted by men who know what they're doing in presbyteries. At least, in principle, we don't buy into the egalitarian spirit of our age, where everyone's counsel is deemed to be as of equal value and soundness as the next man.

When I do have the opportunity to hear another man preach, critiquing him is the last thing on my mind...I'm there as a hungry man ready for every morsel I can gather for my starving soul.

If someone is attending a church where they think that the ministry of the word is too deficient from which to derive spiritual help, let them first look to themselves with the same judgment that they're so quick to mete-out. But if they see on a regular basis what they judge to be a deficient ministry, I want to ask them 1) then why did they call that man to preach and then complain? or 2) why did they choose to join that church and then complain?

If the man is unorthodox, or guilty of heresy, then that is another matter, and even there we as Presbyterians have procedures in place by which we deal with it biblically.

Now, I know that this is not easy for your average critic to hear, but if they're willing to dish it out, then they ought to be ready to accept the same in grace.

I will pray for you, Rich, and your future ministry. It is a relatively easy call to answer, but much more difficult to fulfill once called. Listen to your critics, especially if they have something of value to offer. If so, take it to heart, exercise yourself, stretch yourself to be clear and plain and as helpful as possible in your pulpit ministry. In fact, never be content that you've ever done the best job you can by God's grace. But for the one who is always complaining and always murmuring, do your best to love them in spite of where they are spiritually and pray for them. But in the end, we must look to God, while confessing...

2 Corinthians3:5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

and say with him...

1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God.

DTK
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
I agree with Al Martin, if I'm going to listen to a critic, I prefer to hear it from a practitioner, and not a theorist.

Pastor King, while I can understand that view, isn't there also quite a large place for those who are always listening to give their point of view? While other speakers can certainly be very helpful, there is a professional companionship, so to speak, that can serve to keep certain problems from even being addressed, either because both practitioners share them, or because a deep appreciation for the difficulties of the task limits the impetus to push someone towards greater technical excellence.
A person who understands the strains of proclamation, who is trained in theology, and so forth, in other words, may not be the best person to tell a fellow-worker how the average simple congregant perceives him.
 

proverbs31woman

Puritan Board Freshman
I enjoyed this. I know for me its easier and much more fun to listen to a fiery preacher (Paul Washer, etc.....) as opposed to a slow man who says a lot, yet NEVER puts emotion and feeling into his sermon.....Christ has the power to effect us and move us...why doesnt that show in our modern American christianity----and No, haveing a rock n' roll session does not count for church...im talking about a strong and powerful preacher moved by God!

Thanks, I did enjoy this!
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
But if someone is telling you that you have to study more the night before in order not to be bored, armourbearer, then I think they are just trying to weasel out of their responsibility. I see that in the teaching community, as well.

Unlike the teaching community, the office of the holy ministry is sent by God, stands for God, and speaks on behalf of God. If the minister is faithfully preaching the Word then the individual hearer's sense of entertainment is irrelevant. It is the hearer's responsibility to receive the truth of what is said with accountability to Jesus Christ. Matt. 10:40, "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." The hearer has a duty to prove all things and hold fast that which is good, 1 Thess. 5:21. If this is not enough to occupy his attention so as to absorb him in the message then other factors only serve to make him listen to the message for the wrong reasons. I might also add, that a hearer who insists on other factors to make the message interesting really only tempts God's servants to alter their course of faithful duty to God.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Mr. Winzer, do you take "apt to teach" as including any sort of natural abilities in the realm of organizing content, speaking clearly and engagingly, etc.?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Mr. Winzer, do you take "apt to teach" as including any sort of natural abilities in the realm of organizing content, speaking clearly and engagingly, etc.?

"Apt to teach" means "disposed to teach" in contrast to impatient dictating.

"Natural abilities" was a mark of a good speaker to the carnal Corinthians.

"Organising content" is something every preacher does as a matter of sanctified common sense unless he is a fanatic who thinks the Holy Spirit will use him in a mechanical way.

"Speaking clearly" is a necessity because the preacher must commend himself to every man's conscience by "manifestation" of the truth, not by hiding it behind words.

"Speaking engagingly" can be understood according to what "engages." One should be engaged as soon as a preacher states "Hear the Word of the Lord."
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
So a severe lack of mechanical abilities (i.e., with regard to the mechanics of speaking) would in some circumstances disqualify someone for the ministry? That seems clear enough if you consider that a mute person is unlikely to be called to be the minister of a hearing congregation; but how with finer points along that scale?
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
While other speakers can certainly be very helpful, there is a professional companionship, so to speak, that can serve to keep certain problems from even being addressed, either because both practitioners share them, or because a deep appreciation for the difficulties of the task limits the impetus to push someone towards greater technical excellence.
A person who understands the strains of proclamation, who is trained in theology, and so forth, in other words, may not be the best person to tell a fellow-worker how the average simple congregant perceives him.
We're not talking about "both" practitioners, but many. And I could not disagree more with the sentiment that "A person who understands the strains of proclamation, who is trained in theology, and so forth, in other words, may not be the best person to tell a fellow-worker how the average simple congregant perceives him."

I understand your presupposition to be that practitioners might or could be out of touch with their task and the biblical requirements for their task. With all due respect, I simply don't buy it.

Would you want to have a practitioner as a doctor operate on you, or simply someone who knows in theory what to do? Could it be that the practitioner with the experience is the one more fit for that task?

DTK
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Question: how did Mark Twain describe Jonathan Edwards as a raving madman if he was born 80 years after he died?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
So a severe lack of mechanical abilities (i.e., with regard to the mechanics of speaking) would in some circumstances disqualify someone for the ministry? That seems clear enough if you consider that a mute person is unlikely to be called to be the minister of a hearing congregation; but how with finer points along that scale?

I'm a Presbyterian and have approached this discussion from the POV that the hypothetical speaker has already been proven an able and willing preacher by those who have the oversight in this matter. The question of gross speaking skills would certainly have been addressed by the man's Presbytery.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Thanks, Mr. Winzer. The Presbytery should not approve someone for the ministry who is not an able speaker. Should they also review the ordination if for some reason the speaking ability declines?

Pastor King, I can understand your point of view; I don't acknowledge, of course, that my presupposition is that a speaker is "out of touch"; but I'm fairly confident you would agree that it might be hard for a 22-year old to say if you were intelligible to an 8-year old, or vice versa. Or to use another medical example, it is an ophthalmologist who will write you a prescription for eyeglasses - but it must be the unfortunate myopic who indicates which lenses provide clearer views of the charts on the wall.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Thanks, Mr. Winzer. The Presbytery should not approve someone for the ministry who is not an able speaker. Should they also review the ordination if for some reason the speaking ability declines?

There is no review of "ordination," nor of a man's standing in the ministry except on moral or doctrinal grounds. Speaking ability might become a subject of brotherly exhortation if it becomes an apparent problem, but generally brethren in the ministry are quite aware of their own shortcomings and accept each other accordingly.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Thanks again, Mr. Winzer. I quite see your point. The thing I wonder about is whether it could be conceded that a presbytery may have made a mistaken judgment in originally ordaining a person: if that case is not inconceivable, is there no process for correcting such a mistake?
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Or to use another medical example, it is an ophthalmologist who will write you a prescription for eyeglasses - but it must be the unfortunate myopic who indicates which lenses provide clearer views of the charts on the wall.
Then, let's be honest. The focus is all on the individual, and the individual's perception. The individual is the judge in these matters. I'm sorry, but I do not find a shred of biblical support for that sentiment. The pastor is to know his flock, and to minister to them as God enables him to do so. We speak with them, we try to understand where they are spiritually, but I don't consult them on how to preach to them.

In other words, I don't ask a 10 year old what he/she perceives to be their wants or needs with respect to how the nourishment is to be administered. God's word directs us to what they need.

Could it be that, given today's egalitarian spirit, every preacher is expected to fit each and every individual's perceived needs? Again, I find nothing in the word of God for such a directive. And if that were the preacher's task, then every single preacher in the history of Christ's Church has been an abysmal failure.

DTK
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Or to use another medical example, it is an ophthalmologist who will write you a prescription for eyeglasses - but it must be the unfortunate myopic who indicates which lenses provide clearer views of the charts on the wall.
Then, let's be honest. The focus is all on the individual, and the individual's perception. The individual is the judge in these matters. I'm sorry, but I do not find a shred of biblical support for that sentiment. The pastor is to know his flock, and to minister to them as God enables him to do so. We speak with them, we try to understand where they are spiritually, but I don't consult them on how to preach to them.

In other words, I don't ask a 10 year old what he/she perceives to be their wants or needs with respect to how the nourishment is to be administered. God's word directs us to what they need.

Could it be that, given today's egalitarian spirit, every preacher is expected to fit each and every individual's perceived needs? Again, I find nothing in the word of God for such a directive. And if that were the preacher's task, then every single preacher in the history of Christ's Church has been an abysmal failure.

DTK

Pastor King, I do not find that honesty requires me to admit that the focus is all on the individual. When you say "The pastor is to know his flock, and to minister to them as God enables him to do so. We speak with them, we try to understand where they are spiritually, but I don't consult them on how to preach to them" I believe we are substantially agreed. I take it for granted that knowing the flock involves remembering their intellectual capacities, considering the limits of their vocabulary, gently leading those that are with young, and so forth. (By the way, I greatly enjoy the memory of an elderly woman in Mexico repeating to herself the word "anthropomorphism" after the concept had been introduced and explained, so that she would not forget what she had learned.) Thank you for taking time to clarify your position. I hope mine has been a little clarified as well, and I doubt you disagree that the person best qualified to tell you if they understood something is the person in question.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Thanks again, Mr. Winzer. I quite see your point. The thing I wonder about is whether it could be conceded that a presbytery may have made a mistaken judgment in originally ordaining a person: if that case is not inconceivable, is there no process for correcting such a mistake?

It might be helpful if it were clarified whether you are referring to mechanical failure or driver negligence. In the case of the former it is improbable that a Presbytery would miss a speaking disability. In the latter, where there is a distasteful mannerism, I find it hard to conceive that it wouldn't be addressed prior to licensure, but in the case that it had been left unnoticed then a Presbytery would be obliged to address it where a reasonable complaint was made.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
I think that honesty does demand that, but I am very content to leave our disagreement here in Christian charity.

DTK
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Thanks, Mr. Winzer, I believe your answer sufficiently addresses the various scenarios I had in mind.
 

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
This has been one of the best threads I've read on the PB. It has been a heartfelt teaching and learning tool for all.:2cents:
 

Josiah

Puritan Board Senior
This has been one of the best threads I've read on the PB. It has been a heartfelt teaching and learning tool for all.:2cents:

I concur. Its threads like this that make me very glad to be a member here. Rich, Rev. Winzer and Rev. King's posts have all been very edifying and challenging to me. I usually just click the thank button but I wanted to express my thanks to them in stimulating my thoughts on this matter.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Thanks again, Mr. Winzer. I quite see your point. The thing I wonder about is whether it could be conceded that a presbytery may have made a mistaken judgment in originally ordaining a person: if that case is not inconceivable, is there no process for correcting such a mistake?

How about for congregationalists/independants?
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
In other words, I don't ask a 10 year old what he/she perceives to be their wants or needs with respect to how the nourishment is to be administered. God's word directs us to what they need.

:amen:

First to the general reader, at the risk that I don't add the 1,000,001 qualifications to my statement let me note, outright, that humility demands that we be mature enough to take criticism even when it is given to us in immature ways.

That said, I find this analogy to particularly apt.

Years ago I attended an OPC in SoCal and had very dear friends who just loved the teaching of another OPC minister in the area. He was a hyper-BT preacher who had argued, in Presbytery, that the Preacher must never give any application. Rather, the Preacher must only preach about what Christ has done and leave all application to the Holy Spirit.

Well, this couple would repeatedly complain about our Pastor's preaching and that he preached "the Law" any time he provided any application or admonishment or rebuke from the Word. His preaching was always capstoned by something to the effect of "...but remember that you will fail and Christ is your righteousness..." but to no avail. The damage was done because he had applied the Word to their lives and that was not the hyper-BT way.

Again, I don't say this because I disliked this couple. I loved them dearly and still do but I would urge repeatedly and gently that they consider that the Pastor was not doing what they said.

It was then that I realized that they didn't apply this same technique to their children. They didn't merely tell them that Christ had accomplished all righteousness and was a perfect child and allow the Holy Spirit to apply these indicatives to the hearts of their children.

No, they acted wisely and disciplined their children.

The problem is, I fear, that we (and notice I'm using the collective term because we are striving together) are often under the illusion that we are the spiritually mature. A man who has only been a Christian for a few years may be chronologically mature but he is not spiritually mature.

Hence, I maintain, that the analogy is apt because children are not in a position to be lecturing adults about the proper manner of discipline. I simply do not tolerate my son telling me a Sermon is boring. He doesn't know what he's talking about.

Other spiritually mature individuals are good guides but is that not why we have a Session? Hence, I maintain, that a healthy balance is to not consider ourselves greater than we are and humbly remember our need for shepherding. Not blindly, because if we have a question we have a plurality of elders to take the issue to but our default position should not be to assume that our judgment of the matter is fully matured.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
But if someone is telling you that you have to study more the night before in order not to be bored, armourbearer, then I think they are just trying to weasel out of their responsibility. I see that in the teaching community, as well.

Unlike the teaching community, the office of the holy ministry is sent by God, stands for God, and speaks on behalf of God. If the minister is faithfully preaching the Word then the individual hearer's sense of entertainment is irrelevant. It is the hearer's responsibility to receive the truth of what is said with accountability to Jesus Christ. Matt. 10:40, "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." The hearer has a duty to prove all things and hold fast that which is good, 1 Thess. 5:21. If this is not enough to occupy his attention so as to absorb him in the message then other factors only serve to make him listen to the message for the wrong reasons. I might also add, that a hearer who insists on other factors to make the message interesting really only tempts God's servants to alter their course of faithful duty to God.

Amen to all you have written about source of the minister's responsibility and authority, the responsibility of hearers and their duty to hear, but the subject of the thread concerns what to do when the boredom in self or congregation results not from sins in the hearer, but from objective shortcomings in either the content or presentation of the preaching. Entertainment by sermon has not been in view at all.

If any reader has never experienced this problem, then you are indeed blessed. Unfortunately some of us have, and it is not the easiest of situations to handle - whether in one's personal relationship with the preacher involved or in relationships with others in the church who experience the same problem. I have seen this happen 3 times in 3 different churches. In each case the church community and leadership found it difficult to deal with these matters without at least a few significant missteps.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
If any reader has never experienced this problem, then you are indeed blessed. Unfortunately some of us have, and it is not the easiest of situations to handle - whether in one's personal relationship with the preacher involved or in relationships with others in the church who experience the same problem. I have seen this happen 3 times in 3 different churches. In each case the church community and leadership found it difficult to deal with these matters without at least a few significant missteps.

If this is an oft recurring problem in an ecclesiastical system then it might be time to re-examine the system to see what can be done to fix the problem.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
Mr. Winzer, do you take "apt to teach" as including any sort of natural abilities in the realm of organizing content, speaking clearly and engagingly, etc.?

"Apt to teach" means "disposed to teach" in contrast to impatient dictating.

Where in Scripture do you find "apt to teach" contrasted with "impatient dictating"? "Apt to teach" is translated "able to teach" by the ESV in 1 Tim 3:3. I suspect Paul had teaching competency in view since in 2 Tim 2:2, he certainly has the ability to teach effectively in view, not merely a liking to teach on the part of the "teacher". Or are you intending "disposed" in a sense that involves a capacity to teach?

"Natural abilities" was a mark of a good speaker to the carnal Corinthians.

Since Paul mandated the capacity to teach effectively in 2 Tim 2:2 as a requirement for overseers, the above comment is something of an oversimplification. For although the carnal Corinthians had a carnal interest in natural speaking ability, powerful speaking is not always carnal. Apollos was "an eloquent man" as well as being "mightly in the Scriptures (Acts 19:24).


"Organising content" is something every preacher does as a matter of sanctified common sense unless he is a fanatic who thinks the Holy Spirit will use him in a mechanical way.

"Speaking clearly" is a necessity because the preacher must commend himself to every man's conscience by "manifestation" of the truth, not by hiding it behind words.

"Speaking engagingly" can be understood according to what "engages." One should be engaged as soon as a preacher states "Hear the Word of the Lord."

-----Added 7/17/2009 at 09:41:49 EST-----

If any reader has never experienced this problem, then you are indeed blessed. Unfortunately some of us have, and it is not the easiest of situations to handle - whether in one's personal relationship with the preacher involved or in relationships with others in the church who experience the same problem. I have seen this happen 3 times in 3 different churches. In each case the church community and leadership found it difficult to deal with these matters without at least a few significant missteps.

If this is an oft recurring problem in an ecclesiastical system then it might be time to re-examine the system to see what can be done to fix the problem.

In the situations I saw, eccliesiology was not a problem.

I saw this problem occur in 3 separate ecclesiastical systems. All 3 churches had leadership groups within the congregations that effectively functioned as counterparts to Presbyterial sessions in addressing these concerns. In addition, 2 of these churches had outside oversight available at need as well, thus making them, in practice, similar to if not identical to Presbyterian practice on this point. The process that would have been used in a Presbyterial church to address the matter, i.e. bringing the concern to the session first was definitely used in two of these churches, and in both the congregational model and the Anglican the concerns were resolved at that level. The third situation was being discussed at the sessional counterpart level when the pastor concened decided to resign on other grounds.

In each of these cases, the pastors had objective difficulties that adversly affected their preaching over extended periods of time.

In the congregational situation the pastor had a medical problem that was affecting his overall health as well as the coherence of his preaching: in the Anglican setting an unresloved psychological problem meant that the young minister's emotional health broke as well as his preaching, (he has since recovered and is doing yeoman service among faithful prayer book Anglicans) and in the third situation the minister realized that he no longer had the engergy needed to carry the pastoral load of the church.
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Where in Scripture do you find "apt to teach" contrasted with "impatient dictating"?

2 Tim. 2:24, "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient."

Since Paul mandated the capacity to teach effectively in 2 Tim 2:2 as a requirement for overseers, the above comment is something of an oversimplification.

Obviously it is if the term "apt to teach" is not understood in the pastoral context of the Pastoral epistles and a meaning from an academic context is imported into it.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I seem to be hearing positions which seem to say that there is really never a boring sermon, just immature Christians (i.e., the ones that get bored during a sermon), and that speaking ability is not one of the major confirmations of a calling (being apt is enough without being really able to teach well).

In the Presbyterian system there seems to be a check in place, that any preacher that could not preach his way out of a paper bag would have this addressed at his ordination.

How about in a congregational system?

Say for instance, a church calls a person and then, after a time, decides to pass a verdict on the man as "unfit for ministry" due to lack of eloquence.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Snowflake
In the Presbyterian system there seems to be a check in place, that any preacher that could not preach his way out of a paper bag would have this addressed at his ordination.

That is not necessarily true. Maybe true in theory. But certainly not true in practice. I've personally sat in presbytery meetings (as a visiting elder) in which the candidates "preached" and it was horrible, and the elders said so in their deliberations, but nothing was addressed to the candidates at all.

Regarding "able to teach" in 1 Tim 3:2... I'll side with BDAG... it means "skillful in teaching."

More people should read that Spurgeon quote I posted in the other thread.
 
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