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Why Johnny Can't Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers
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Why Johnny Can't Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  436 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
An analysis of shifts in dominant media forms and their effects on the sensibilities of the culture as a whole. Many of those shifts have profound, and unfortunate, effects on preaching.
Paperback, 112 pages
Published February 27th 2009 by P & R Publishing (first published February 13th 2009)
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Douglas Wilson
Dec 04, 2013 Douglas Wilson rated it really liked it
Excellent. Very fine. A few insanities here and there, but over all superb. Every pastor needs to read it.
Sean Higgins
Dec 28, 2013 Sean Higgins rated it liked it
Shelves: preaching
Why Johnny Can't Preach is a brief (only 108 pages) and compelling rant against shallow thinking, unorganized and empty messages, and unclear sermons.

I took Gordon's challenge to heart. My thinking is often lazy and too easily satisfied. Only recently have I begun to supplement my early intellectual inactivity and inattentiveness with books and articles outside my usual circle of input. By God's grace, I have developed an intense interest in getting to the point of the text/paragraph, and that
Dec 28, 2013 Eric rated it liked it
Interesting book on why pastors can't preach. Gordon concludes it is because they don't read or write anymore due to the media's influence on today's society. He also points to the need for Christ centered preaching which I affirm. I don't agree with all his critiques but think that most of what he says is important for American pastors to hear and think through.

The interesting thing is that while He points to the need for Christ centered preaching I did not think he pointed strongly enough to t
Jan 08, 2016 Matthew rated it really liked it
Shelves: worldview, theology
This a good and fair critique, not just of preachers but of us all really. The first half is media ecology, similar to Neil Postman's writing and I think the most valuable part for the normal lay person. I enjoyed the idea that learning to properly read literature, particularly verse, is essential to coherent thought and communication, particularly regarding expository preaching.

The second part, mainly for preachers, was really valuable for preachers to self evaluate and for the congregants to u
May 05, 2009 Jerry rated it really liked it
Phenomenal book and I am duly chastened. Question lingers: if the media shaped the messengers of this generation, what were the limiting factors of the previous generation of preachers? It's not as if pulpits thundered clearly and courageously until the 1950s. Gordon cites Benjamin Franklin's disgust at an ungrounded sermon, one where the preaching free-floated away from the text. If media and educational factors cause this today, what caused it earlier?
Jun 25, 2016 Corey rated it really liked it
Overall, I thought this was really good. Not as practical as I would have hoped. And I felt he was over the top and harsh at points, but his concerns are valid. If you're interested to know why the author believes that only about 30% of pastors are even mediocre preachers today (at best), you'll have to read it for yourself. Hint: It's not about technique or skill, but about the type of people young preachers are being raised to become in our society.
Austin Fry
Oct 06, 2015 Austin Fry rated it it was amazing
A concise, 5 chapter book indicting modern preaching in a firm, but clear way. Loved it. Explained the background to the lack of solid preaching in our culture and provided practical steps that didn't overwhelm the reader.
Steve Hemmeke
Nov 30, 2009 Steve Hemmeke rated it really liked it
Kicked me in the butt.
Ben Potloff
Nov 26, 2016 Ben Potloff rated it liked it
Shelves: seminary
Challenging read. The main point of the book is: Johnny can't preach because Johnny can't write, and Johnny can't write because Johnny can't read. The author makes the point that the current forms of communication and media have prevented the younger generations from knowing how to read and write creatively and effectively. Rather than reading Shakespeare and writing hand written letters to loved ones, young people's consumption and production of communication is limited to tv shows, texts, and ...more
Aaron Ventura
Nov 29, 2016 Aaron Ventura rated it liked it
Meh. Short and practical with some decent critiques but not something I would ever read again.
Peter Mead
Jul 26, 2014 Peter Mead rated it really liked it
It’s a short book,108 pages, but it packs quite a punch. T.David Gordon wrote Why Johnny Can’t Preach during a year of treatment for cancer. Given only a 25% chance of survival, he found his focus clear and the desire to compromise his message absent. The book is hard-hitting, but I found the tone entirely appropriate and not harsh despite the subject matter.

The writer is a media ecologist – that is, one who studies the effects of the change of media forms on the culture. Taking his title from t
Joel Arnold
Nov 29, 2011 Joel Arnold rated it it was ok
Very readable and conversational in tone. Argues that the quality of preaching is at a historically unique low point. The reason for this failure is fundamentally the broad change in society that has come about because of technology and the media. [The subtitle of the book is "The Media Have Shaped the Messengers."] Gordon specifically references Socrates, McLuhan, Postman, and others in the same vein. He primarily evaluates the quality of preaching based on thematic unity, progression of ...more
Jan 01, 2014 Amanda rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
While Gordon does a good job in explaining what is so flawed about today's preaching, there are some things he puts down that are not flawed from a Biblical perspective but are a matter of taste and upbringing. He says that there is nothing of any spiritual value in pop music, but only in the great hymns...which were the pop music of their day. Please. The entire Christian music industry is made up of artists that do exactly that and are making an impact. But that is just his opinion.

The other
Aug 26, 2015 Travis rated it really liked it
I've long believed that the preaching responsibility of pastors is the area in which most pastors are least willing to learn and grow. It is far too easy for us to assume we are doing a good job, especially if people keep showing up and telling us happy things as they leave the building. Yet, if we are honest, few of us spend a proper amount of time developing the craft of creating solid, biblical, and beautiful sermons.

In Why Johnny Can't Preach, T. David Gordon laments the state of modern pr
Jan 09, 2016 Dana rated it it was amazing
Before I get any odd looks I want to say I decided to buy and read this book, not because of any beef I have with my Church or the Pastors but because I have heard a few interviews with the author of this book, T. David Gordon, on the White Horse Inn that I found fascinating. Gordon, who is a professor, has taught a number of subjects over the course of his career including media ecology which is the basis of this book. Gordon defines media ecology as the "emerging discipline that attempts to ...more
Jul 28, 2014 E rated it really liked it
T. David Gordon claims that in the last 25 years, only 15% of the sermons he has heard had a discernible point, and only 10% of THOSE had the point demonstrated from Scripture. If that is true, modern evangelical preaching is in a sad state of affairs.

This is more like a booklet than a book, so the main points can be hit quickly. What ought we look for in a good sermon? Robert L. Dabney listed 7 criteria, which Gordon echoes
--textual fidelity
--clear topic
--evangelical tone (aka is it gospel-base
Jonathan Klimek
Nov 15, 2016 Jonathan Klimek rated it really liked it
A book every preacher or aspiring preachers needs to read. They should ideally read this book when they in their final years of high school, so that they don’t have regrets like me at my age.

Read, read, read... if you don't read, just start reading...
May 07, 2009 Nathan rated it really liked it
Written when the author believed he had only months left to live, this book is a discussion of the lack of true preaching in many of America's pulpit's today. Gordon's thesis is that three skills are vital to good preaching: (1) reading texts closely so as to follow an author's train of thought and think their thoughts after them, (2) composing careful communication so that we have reasons for how and why we order our thoughts, and (3) distinguishing the significant from the insignificant so ...more
Ryan Jankowski
Apr 19, 2016 Ryan Jankowski rated it really liked it
Although Gordon displays some rather gross generalizations (anecdotal evidence derived from a supremely small sample space), much of what he says does parallel my experience. The explanation he provides also rings true, at least intuitively.

The general premise is this: Christians don't read (much) nor write (much) and as a consequence, they cannot develop coherent thought, let alone communicate it to others in the form of a sermon. This is also my experience. Preachers I know who read abundantl
Bryan Edenfield
Jul 27, 2011 Bryan Edenfield rated it it was amazing
I could not put this one down. There is something to be said about a man's last words before he dies. Though he did not die, Gordon's brush with death in his fight against cancer, set him on a course to say some things about preaching and preachers that he had been holding on to for years. Some may think his criticisms were harsh, I personally thought they were accurate and needed. Don't get the idea that this book is his last "ax to grind." Rather, I think his medical condition gave him a sense ...more
Sep 08, 2013 ChristaAnne rated it really liked it
The book is a short easy read, and I'm sure it's liable to irk many a pastor. Then again the reality is most pastors probably think they give excellent sermons and don't want an honest critique of their preaching. I think Gordon makes some excellent points and gives one reason to pause and think through the implications of our societal and cultural changes with the ever changing technological advances we've had in the recent years. He advocates for practices and disciplines that our current ...more
CJ Bowen
This is a reactionary book, which makes for great reading. Gordon is passionate, and has some very important things to say. He critiques four types of bad preaching, and argues that they are in large measure the result of a pastoral mind shaped by image and noise rather than text. The answer for Gordon is to encourage pre-seminarians to major in English lit, to broaden their minds and give them the ability to interact meaningfully with a text, to communicate in a clear, ordered fashion, and to ...more
Demetrius Rogers
Jul 21, 2015 Demetrius Rogers rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ministry, preaching
I think this little gem of a book inspired me more in terms of reading than it did in preaching (although its implications for preaching are right on the money). It was this book that lead me to read C.S. Lewis' important work An Experiment in Criticism, and then to pick up Poetry as a Means of Grace, which lead me to begin reading Dante.

I can see though, even from the title, how it would cause some people to bristle. From what I remember though Gordon was very sick when he wrote it and didn't
Jun 26, 2009 John rated it it was ok
Gordon is one grumpy man. He's got a message to share (nobody can preach any more!) and he shouts it from the roof tops. The good is that he takes the best preaching approaches (Chappell et. al) and uses them as a measuring stick against today's preaching and in so doing concisely lays out what good preaching out to look like. Furthermore, his brief analysis of media ecology in the latter chapters is interesting and well digested.

The bad is that as someone who has spent a lot more time in the pe
Sep 03, 2012 Shay rated it it was amazing
If you preach at all, then read this book. And if you don't preach but you're a young person, then read this book.

I'm giving this little gem a 5 star rating because it's worth the read for every young man out there that's looking to preach or is preaching at all in his local church. The author, T. David Gordon is basically on his death bed as he writes about why preaching in America is terrible in today's world. His prognosis is spot on, and he doesn't leave you with out a prescription on how it
Jun 09, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it
Gordon packs a lot into this slim volume. I am a bit cautious on going all the way with him on the chapter on content, simply because Chrstocentric preaching tends to forget God the Father and God the Spirit and he does include this warning.

However, this is a trifle in light of the punch he packs my video game obsessed generation. It is humbling to be reminded of how image obsessed and illiterate we are, given how "educated" we are supposed to be.

Study Shakespeare, gents, don't just watch Bran
Timothy Bertolet
Nov 11, 2012 Timothy Bertolet rated it really liked it
This is a helpful introduction to the qualities necessary for better sermons. Gordon speaks to and critique evangelical and Reformed evangelical churches. His larger point is that preachers can't preach when because they cannot think well. The preacher who cannot organize his thoughts well and then write them down in a manner that is clear and comprehensible will not be able to communicate. One must organize thoughts clearly so that a listener can grasp the main idea of the preacher. The main ...more
Jan 25, 2012 Dan rated it really liked it
Gordon's near brush with death at the time of writing makes for fairly compelling, even urgent, reading. The fact is that he's right. There is little good preaching out there. (Gordon would rightly judge today's most popular preachers as harshly as he critiques the average Joe of a pastor). He absolves the seminaries too quickly from culpability for this problem. He also overlooks the positives of technology in his condemnations of it, especially for disseminating good preaching as much as bad. ...more
Jun 03, 2009 Frode rated it it was amazing
Short and to the point. The author's premise is that electronic media, beginning with the telegraph and telephone, have impacted reading and writing skills negatively since the mid-twentieth century. Thus, the lack of close reading skills and the poor composition habits since that time have eroded preaching skills. Mr. Gordon writes well and is generally convincing in his argumentation. I enjoyed the book. His four categories of pseudo-sermons was interesting but less impressive than his major ...more
Jan 04, 2010 Phil rated it it was amazing
Refreshingly clear and terse argument, with a few pinches of fun thrown in from a prof known to pull out his hunting knife during a lecture (but never during a sermon). Professor Gordon is the greatest preacher I have ever had the pleasure of listening to, and reading the man's words matches that experience. All the Presbyterianisms become a little cumbersome, but in the end the book is better off for it--Gordon is thoroughly open about all his presuppositions and biases. His enthusaism for ...more
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Dr. T. David Gordon is professor of religion and Greek at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania.
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“the entering seminarian today has the faculties of a sixth- to eighth-grader sixty years ago, and the seminary curriculum cannot make this seminarian an adult by the time he graduates.” 1 likes
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