When Homiletics Took A Wrong Turn . . . . .

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Did Homiletical Theory Take A Wrong Turn?  —- Pt. #1

Most all have heard the phrase — “Turn off the faucet before you start mopping up the water.”

Can I suggest that after years and decades of books, magazine articles, blogs, seminary classes, interviews, online instruction, mp3s, and seminars on preaching — these attempts at mopping up the water has not stopped because the tap is still on.

There is no lack of instructional material which is designed to address the obvious problem of ineffective-to-boring preaching.

It is not that the need for effective preaching has been addressed through the previously stated varieties of media avenues.

It is not that there has been a dearth of writers — lay and professionals —  who have addressed the problem.  Writers and bloggers who have addressed, redressed and tackled the need to be and how to be more effective in preaching. 

It is not that trained seminary professors and/or practicing effective pulpit communicators have not authored extensive books on the subject . . . .

Biblical Preaching — Haddon Robinson
Communicating for a  Change — Andy Stanley/Lane Jones
On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons — John Broadus
Homiletics — Karl Barth
Preaching With A Purpose — Jay Adams
Homiletics from the Heart — John Goetsch
The Homiletical Plot — Eugene Lowry
Preaching and Preachers — Lloyd-Jones
Preaching — Tim Keller
Lectures of My Students — Charles Spurgeon
Preaching the Cross — Mark Dever
Text to Praxis — Abraham Kuruvilla
Christ-Centered Preaching — Bryan Chapell
Preaching Christ from the Old Testament — Sidney Greidanus
Engaging Exposition — Daniel Akin
Reformed Preaching — Joel Beeke
The 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching — Wayne McDill
Preaching Nuts & Bolts — Brandon Hilgemann
Anointed Expository Preaching — Stephen Olford
Preaching as Reminding — John Ortberg-Jeff Arthurs
How to Preach without Notes — Charles Koller
Preaching for God’s Glory — Alistair Begg
The Power of Preaching — Tony Evans
Preaching — John MacArthur
Preaching — Fred B. Craddock
On Preaching — H. B. Charles Jr.

. . . . . . Need I continue!!!  ???

√ AND — I am only citing those authors/books which have been primarily written in the most recent decades (outside of Charles Spurgeon / John Broadus — I just could not include them in this list since their books are still widely read today!)

√ AND — I am only citing some of the more well-known books & authors.

√ AND — with some authors, I am only citing one of their several books.

√ AND — those I’ve listed above come from a circle of theological persuasion of which we may be generally familiar.  Add to that the many other authors who write from a different “evangelical” persuasion.

√ AND — these are only the books by these authors, not the many articles, seminars, conference presentations, classroom lectures, blogs, and the like they have produced.

√  Now let me list the current and regular blogs aimed at improving one’s preaching / homiletics abilities?

√  Then, let me follow that by a list of the hundreds of articles which have been written on preaching and homiletical theory.

√  Then I will follow all that by listing out the academic thesis and dissertations which have addressed preaching and homiletical thought.

If I did the last three items  — PAGES & PAGES of references and links would follow!


Why has there been so much written — just in the last several decades — about preaching methods, theory, helps, techniques, dangers, keys, pitfalls, etc. — with “so little to show for it all” in actual effectiveness on the local church level.

Is the problem. . . .

what has been and/or is being taught by the field of homiletics
is it the lack of interest and/or desire of the preachers?

I would like to suggest that it is what has been and is being taught as a correct homiletical approach to preaching is what is and has been at fault.


That what has happened over the past several decades, and what has caused this endless stream of materials seeking to improve the preaching and teaching of biblical truth, is that . . . .

There was a time when “homiletics” took a wrong turn in the road.

That wrong turn began a change in the thinking and teaching of homiletical theory.  This change in thinking/teaching has not produced better preaching or an improved homiletical theory, but has lead to . . . .

• more misunderstanding about the responsibility of preaching and teaching

• a justification of poor preaching by its practitioners

• less effectiveness in biblical preaching and teaching

• the need for more books, articles, and blogs

• greater discontent on the part of the congregation

• more movement between churches as listeners looked for a real spiritual meal

• a loss of attendance — by young people particularly who are the least tolerate of poor preaching

• a desensitized audience composed of older members who are very tolerant of poor preaching

• more and more activities — other than preaching to retain the membership

• an increase in non-typical activities, even bizarre endeavors, by the church yet unrelated to being “the church”

and maybe yet other symptoms which you might better identify as either a practitioner and/or the listeners.


Indeed there is a real problem with biblical preaching and teaching today!  The decades’ old stream, proliferation, variety of books and articles surely speak loudly and ought to clearly drive that point home.

All these books and articles are not selling “ice to an Eskimo.”  These books are selling a “homiletical hope of help” to many preachers and teachers who honestly want to be more effective than they are — and more effective than they know they are.

A great number of pastors work hard on Saturday night — trying to follow the homiletical approach and pattern which they have been taught in seminary and through all kinds of media avenues — only to wake up on Monday morning emotionally down as they unconsciously and/or consciously feel the weight of their effectiveness-or-ineffectiveness which happened in-between that Saturday-and-Monday — Sunday — and maybe even two or three times on Sunday —  when it was all supposed to come together — come together in order to help and challenge God’s people to live for the Lord!

Why?  What has gone wrong?  Are those who will spend their lives preaching and teaching not grasping what preaching / homiletics is all about?  Have they not read one of the many books available, and/or attended an academically directed class on preaching, or taken advantage of some of the many articles offering homiletical help?  Is it that they do not understand “expository” preaching?

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Indeed, something did go wrong somewhere on the historical homiletical road.

Something went terribly wrong when it came to the teaching of homiletical theory. 

Those who were committed to biblically and accurately communicating God’s Word have been and are pointed a direction which unfortunately began the progressive weakening of homiletical effectiveness, to its inconsequential benefit and/or near-death in the lives of God’s people!

I would like to suggest that there is something which is common to the many books and articles written on homiletics and/or preaching which points to what happened.  There is a common thread which fluoresces the historical “wrong turn on the road” which is called “homiletical theory.”

I would like to suggest that . . . .

√  “Homiletics” did take a wrong turn — a historical wrong turn which is why preaching and homiletical theory are where it is today.

√  This “Homiletical Wrong Turn” has become the primary theoretical structure which still explains present-day preaching practice.

√  Some effective Bible preachers and teachers did not take that turn, purposefully out of a disagreement with that turn, or out of an academic unawareness of the turn.

√  Some effective Bible preachers and teachers consciously or unconsciously refused that turn and went a different direction — early or later in their preaching/teaching.

Books, articles, blogs, thesis, dissertations, seminars, conference, and the like can all continue to try to mop up the floor of the weak and ineffective communication of God’s Word, OR we can address turning off the faucet — a wrong historical homiletical turn down a wrong road which is the source of what is happening.

Let me now lay out the nature, the time and the argument for where I believe that wrong turn occurred.




Where else . . . .

• does any individual have more opportunity to speak in public
• to an interested audience
• to an audience which comes of their own volition
(perhaps outside of our children — well . . . . even a mom/dad – or a husband/wife)
• week after week
• even several times a week
• to an audience who is favorably inclined towards the speaker

. . . . than a preacher/teacher?

Yet, even the membership of most churches is uninspired by preachers and teachers. 

3 thoughts on “When Homiletics Took A Wrong Turn . . . . .

  1. The greatest compliment I ever received as a young speaker was from an “Old Saint” who said to me “I knew you were young and I would probably waste my time coming but I am so glad I came. I have just been refreshed and challenged to get out of bed early every morning and meet with my God who loves me so very much”
    That is my personal challenge every time I preach, That people encounter God and want more


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