What Ever Happened to Sound Preaching?

by Robert Earl Houston

IMG_6427Please pardon this post, but I’m on a short vacation (I’m absolutely worn out) and I brought my briefcase with me, and it hasn’t been opened this week, because I just need a break. Doing the Senior Pastor and Musician thing every Sunday wears you out because not only does your heart have to be open to preach, but you also have to prepare a choir and church for praise. It’s a daunting task and last Sunday, it caught up to me.

Recently, I was in a restaurant in Georgia (last year) and some parishioners from a church in Atlanta were there and I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation (they were pretty loud – smile). And they talked about worship, which made my ears perk up. They talked about “getting our praise on” and how so-and-so ran down the aisle and how so-and-so really “killed the church” singing this morning.

Oddly, there was no mention of the sermon, the text, or even what the preacher preached about.

Now, a year or so later, I hear that conversation ringing in my spirit. What ever happened to Preaching?

Has preaching become passé?
Has preaching become secondary to an emotional experience in worship?
Has preaching become of the gospel become reduced to “oh, whatever?”
Has preaching become that something that occurs between the choir’s last song and the invitation?

I wrestle with this as a pastor, because I take seriously the preparation, prayer, dissection, application and assimilation of the sermons that are preached across the pulpit of First Baptist Church. I’m not really interested in making the word “watered down” or lacking any correct theological application. I prepare for the pulpit like a prize fighter prepares for a fight. I prepare for the preaching moment like a pilot checks his aircraft for takeoff. I prepare for the sermon in such a way that it’s not just edible like ice cream, but it’s filling like steak.

I am afraid that a “me-experience” in church is killing application of the word. I don’t want to be known as a singer who preaches or a musician who preaches or a shouter who preaches – I want to be known as a preacher FIRST AND FOREMOST.  I don’t show up “to get my shout on” – I show up to help communicate the truths of the gospel in a spiritual fashion that brings glory to God and not to the preacher.

I’m scared of churches that jump and shout and then walk out on the preached word.
I’m scared of churches that will bend sound doctrine to attract a crowd.
I’m scared of churches that poach those who are not doctrinally settled yet and present the “easy way” out.

Preaching will have some “uh-oh” moments and some “dang….” moments. Some sermons, if you ask most Biblical expositors, will hit the preacher long before the congregation hears it. It’s almost watching a football player after a long-hard fought battle explain to a television crowd what just happened.

Biblical preaching will produce a flock of well-nourished and Bible-based individuals. The goal is growth and not swelling. In the words of a nationally known preacher, “swelling is a sign of church infection.” It also means that the preacher missed the opportunity to preach, in some cases, because more time was devoted to everything else, but the Word.

I refuse to abdicate the responsibility of Biblically sound preaching.


13 responses

  1. Great post Dr. Houston. Much preaching has become anemic because many are seeking to preach for response and not results. Thanks for reminding us of the primacy of preaching.

  2. Pastor Houston, I have long known this to be true. On many occasions I have asked my teenage children what was the sermon about. They’re response stopped shocking me as a Preacher, but as a father I am even more disturbed. Let me explain; when I am sitting right next to them as the word is preached I have noticed that none of the message is really helping they’re day to day struggle. Though we do always get to the old dirt road on our way to Calvary, they know we are going there but what they are looking for is some life application models that will help them. They know I am going to give it to them any way but they have often asked me; why our we going to church if you are going to preach to us anyway? This is like double jeopardy; yes they got jokes. My point is, the Holy Spirit will feed everyone if we allow Him to preach. If the Preacher is trying to feed everybody it seems more often then not that the people doing the most shouting are the people doing the most dirt, while the people who are starving for the word are the people getting most frustrated at church including myself and my family.
    Rev. LaRon Burris

  3. Excellent article.Sad but true and appears to have been occurring for some years. Perhaps it is a case of we have always known that there were isolated issues here and there, but not as overwhelming as this across the board. It affects both pulpit and pew. Let’s not abdicate our holy calling from God to be mere entertainers, showmen/women and manipulators of emotion lest the words depart from me ye worker of iniquity become our final epitaph. JMO.

  4. This word needs to reach the masses. I see it all too often. There is a high spirit of praise and worship and the sermon goes flat like a bad coke, lacking any theological reflection or application. I read an article just recently from another pastor with the same concerns that simplicity has overpowered the sermon. Our need to give three points and be simple to garner a shout from the congregation has overshadowed the need to rightly dissect the scripture and deliver the message. When this happens, the church does swell with little to no growth. Growth is the goal. For 7 years I have pastored a small church but it is a growing church. My people know the Word of God and it is evidenced in their Christian maturity. Post this message everywhere and often. Bless you greatly.

    Rev. Dr. Pamela G. Addison, Memphis, TN.

  5. Rev Eugen Austin | Reply

    I have followed your website for a minute now and I am truly blessed by your intentional efforts to contain the integrity of the church and especially the sanctity and integrity of preaching. I too have been disturbed by the decreased attention and respect to the preaching of the Gospel. It seems that the focus within the twenty first century church has evolved into a battle between the preacher and the pew. I am in transition right now and i am a candidate for a church, it is important that I pay attention to the experiences I am journeying through in which some of the pastors are so focussed on climbing the ladder into the state convention, association positions and national titles that it seems as though the title pastor and or sheppard is not enough anymore. Preachers are trying to set their deacon and trustee boards straight from the pulpit during sermons and praise teams are trying to show the pastor they can get the crowd shouting and emotional without giving respect to allocated time set for preaching. musicians leave out as soon as they are done with the sermonic solo only to return late and missing the cue of the pastor tuning for the celebration of his or her sermon. Your blogs has blessed me during this time of transition and helped me through frustrations enountered during a time when I am not yet selected as pastor and humbly yet serving as youth pastor in a congregation. Humility, patience and dedication to my calling is key God getting the glory out of my life. Thanks again for raising the topic of the importance of maintining the integrity of the sacred office and mandate of preaching. I am just wondering if it will ever be enough to us to just serve a local congregation to coach them into their dreams and destiny or will there continously increase in the “me-ness” and arrogancy of selfish motives and endeavors of which the preacher and their families are the only ones to benefit from the church. When will self seeking elevation become secondary to the edification of the body and perfecting of the saints, with the work of the ministry.

  6. Thank You for this, as an associate minister this is a good word for us. We try to do the things that will make us a “celebrity preacher” and not a sound doctrine preacher. My goal is to preach to communicate the truth about Jesus Christ

  7. Thanks for this post, Robert. It is hard enough to preach on Sunday. But to teach and lead the music seems Herculean! Get some rest. And stay the course! We need your voice to keep ringing the alarm for biblical, Christ-centered, gospel preaching!

    1. Omar D. Blaine | Reply

      Pastor Charles: You are a “beast” yourself Pastor Charles. I absolutely LOVE YOUR BLOG. I’m so glad my pastor introduced me to your father’s preaching long ago.

      Pastor Houston: “The goal is growth not swelling.” Wow!

  8. Absolute TRUTH! Thank you for writing

  9. Andre L. Porter | Reply

    Folks are mad at me on a weekly basis. Personally, I thinkthe Church has lost it’s power. We have become so emotionally conditioned as we use it to measure if “we had Church” we are so far from what church is and should be. Sadly, we have trained a generation to respond to singing, runnning, dancing, so called tongues and many, many other antics that equal entertainment. We usher in the so called spirit, we pump and we prime people to perform in Church. When I mention to people that the SPIRIT use to move through out the Church duirng a time when maybe nothing but a basic hymn was being sung and all of a sudden the SPIRIT would begin to minister among the congregation in a way that you knew it was the true and living HOLY SPIRIT and not this modern shout on the count of three – what and where did that come from? I have to pray and allow GOD to remind me that not to fosaken the assembly of ourselves. I can barely stand to go to church anymore, it is all so “made up” Crime and other issues, the ole church never would have allowed. We would have prayed, marched, confront and prayed again to make it better . Today we do nothing but shout , run, jump scream, hoop and nothing ever changes. Bible study is almost a joke – very little impartion via the WORD of GOD. Sunday is just a hoop a thon –then we say –We had Church. Something is wrong !

  10. Rick L. Cooper | Reply

    Thank you for telling it like it is. I’m a candidate for senior pastor and I’m very disturbed by the lack of sound expository preaching that goes on around the country today. I’m more concerned about preaching and teaching the Word of God than worry about getting an “AMAN PREACHER!” I have no problem with people going up the wall as long as when they come down; they can tell me why they went up. I hear people leaving the church saying; “Man the pastor really preach today!” Then I ask, “What was the sermon about?” Reply: “I don’t know; but he really preached!” REALLY!

  11. Pastor Houston first and foremost enjoy your vacation as you need to have rest just like the rest of us.
    The Church has become to much of a business (swelling) than trying to teach and preach the word of God. Thanks for setting us straight

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by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

H.B. Charles Jr.

About life, preaching, church, books, and other stuff.

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