Sunday, May 10, 2009

Why Jonny Can't Preach: A review

'Why Johnny Can't Preach' comes in at a diminutive and readable 108 pages. It's helpful without being heavy, and Gordon writes so well that the pages more or less fly by. That, and the compelling subject matter help to make this one of the most readable books i've enjoyed this year.

The Good.

Gordon self consciously titled the book in the vein of 'why johnny can't read,' and 'why johnny can't write.' The author had been diagnosed with cancer shortly before sitting down to write his opus, in fact that what was compelled him to write. The five chapters deal with three major reasons why johnny can't preach (he can't read, he can't write and he can't interpret the Bible) as well as a couple of chapters on solving the problem. As you might expect from a book that comes from the pen of a dying man (he's now happily in remission) the pages come across very much as a heartfelt plea for a churchwide return to sound, solid, nourishing Biblical exposition. It was stirring and challenging. It made me want to bury my face in the text, spend more time writing, compose my speech better, and read Shakespeare's sonnets. Gordon's main point is that though Johnny can neither read or write, he can learn. He can learn to pay careful attention to texts and he can learnt to write. He can learn to preach. There were challenging and inspiring words.

The Less Good

Gordon's background is in media ecology, the study of how current trends in technology and media influence us and the way we think. This helps with many of his observations, but occasionally leads him to overstate his case, as he sees his subject through his expert lense. I'm not sure, for example, that increased use of the telephone has lead to a deterioration in the pulpit. I'm also not sure that the state of the pulpit is as bad as he makes out, but i've just been very blessed to be part of some excellent, Biblical churches in the last few years.

Overall this was an excellent read, if you want to be stirred, challenged and driven to prayer and deeper thought over your preaching, and preaching in general, buy this book!

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