How should layfolk react to boring preaching?

Discussion in 'Preaching' started by timmopussycat, Jul 16, 2009.

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  1. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I'm not uncomfortable with subjective things but, in the Scriptures, the subjective responses are grounded in some objective truths.

    The problem, again, with pinning something down as boring is that people can only describe what factors they believe contribute to their boredom (or the people they know) but cannot pin down why it must be characterized as boring.

    One of the reasons a Supreme Court Justice is forced to simply say "He knows it when he sees it" is because he is unable to objectively point to a Law where we do not have such a problem. I don't believe the analogy is apt because the Law of God makes lust and other indulgences of the flesh very clearly moral violations.

    The problem here is that nobody has provided any Scriptural warrant that commands a man not to be perceived as boring. How could we apply the general equity of the Law to do so? How would we rebuke a Pastor for being "boring"?

    Again, we can apply many objective criteria by which a Session could tell the man specifics about style, not being pedantic, not being prideful, expressing direct concern for the listener, etc. But, if a Session, merely told a man: "I can't tell you anything except that I think you're boring," then what, precisely, is a man supposed to do with that kind of criticism?

    When you're dealing with self-improvement, you have to work on tangible qualities and that list that Pergie provided is tangible but those problems are not unique to being perceived as boring. Frankly, for many of them, my reaction would be indignation or frustration and a whole set of other emotional reactions rather than settling on boring.

    See above. I would also add that the emotional criteria you mention might be dangerous if the goal of the preacher is focused upon "not being boring" but receiving the benediction from the congregation that he is "exciting."

    This points, in fact, to a poverty of any other number of elements of Worship. For instance, "exciting" and "dynamic" are used as primary criteria by many to select songs and tunes and many believe they are only worshipping when they feel "excited" or "worshipful". When I'm worshipping God in song, for instance, I don't always have an emotional reaction to singing nor do I worry if I do not. Yet, when reading a Psalm responsively yesterday in Worship, I was very moved by it because it caused me to reflect on the objective Truth of my status in Christ.
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes, Rich, we are not saying mutually exclusive things. The preacher brings his whole person to the pulpit and the person and the delivery impacts the message...and these non-theological aspects of his preaching, too, are also important.
  3. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    For the record, I'm not a Gnostic and believe the human person soul/body is to be redeemed. We don't preach to detached souls but to men who live in bodies. Hence, I understand that certain things lend themselves to stirring men from their sloth and other things tend to cause a man to be perceived as distant. It is merely the aim of the minister that I'm concerned about. I don't know that I'm as concerned about "boredom" per se as other issues like apathy.

    Toward that end, however, a preacher must keep in mind that it is not his eloquence or style (no matter how gifted he is) but the Holy Spirit and being in prayer that God would use the Word toward His holy ends. The sad truth is that "boredom" or apathy to the things of God could be the judgment of God on a hard-hearted man. What is ultimately much more of concern to me is whether or not a man has an interest in the things of God - at all.
  4. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    I was wondering if there a better word or words that could be used than 'boring' as it seems like the objective elements that have been brought up are basic content repeated sermon after sermon, content that is way over the normal congregant's head, or a speaking manner which is not simply 'not very eloquent' but is lacking in objective ways that make it very difficult for people to follow? I'm not sure if any of them disqualify people for the ministry automatically, but it seems like they would need to be addressed in some helpful way so that the minister could be better able to help his flock learn and understand?
    I was also taught that 'boring' is a state of mind and would tend to agree that being bored is a subjective problem -- if these other things are recognised as not being merely part of a subjective state?
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes, we agree on all that.
  6. Exiled_2_God

    Exiled_2_God Puritan Board Freshman

    If it's a stumbling block for the person, then why doesn't that person just find another church... assuming there is another church nearby, one he can attend and agree with.

    If the doctrine is scriptural, then I believe it's merely a matter of preference.
  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I pondered other words, and maybe should have used one that did not inflame so much.

    But I need a word that focuses on the non-theological, style-type aspects of the preacher, and not the theological content. One of my key points is that the preacher is not an automaton, spitting out doctrine. Style matters, even if we are loathe to admit this. Speaking ability is also important.

    Maybe "poor presentation" might be a better use of the word, but the common usage of the term "boring" seems to fit well what happens when there is a preacher who has poor presentation and deficient style and mannerisms. I would argue that there is, in fact, such a thing as boring sermons, and that seminaries should take great care in helping a preacher's style, and that layfolk should not feel guilty for searching out good preaching in style as well as good preaching in content.

    This is not to say that listeners do not have a duty to hear, nor that there is some measure of subjectivity in any definition of boring, or beautiful, or good, etc.

    Heidi, you are good with words. How you would put it?
  8. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    I actually am not very good with words -- I don't think in words unless I sit down and try very hard. But I think 'tedious' may have more objective content? I don't know if it covers everything, though.
  9. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    It's not that simple. You cannot make it axiomatic that a man who is bored an prefers another type of preaching simply needs to find a preacher that doesn't bore him.

    Frankly, I find that be frightening for a man to have that on the top of the list. My experience is that it normally is at the top of the list with the substantive doctrinal or disciplinary concerns receiving little or no interest.
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    That is one of the issues at stake. If one is a new arrival and has begun to attend one service, but finds another preacher more engaging, could he switch without being seen as shallow?

    Or suppose that one was a long-time member in a church and they changed preachers and switched to a preacher who is very not-gifted in speaking. One already has an obligation and duty to one's local church; but is this poor preacher a sufficient cause to just switch over to someone else's church, especially if the doctrine is the same and the only difference is style and ability of preaching?

    -----Added 7/20/2009 at 03:25:05 EST-----

    You have a lot of wordless thoughts?
  11. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    Maybe I should call them 'wordless impressions' -- yes, that's the way my mind normally functions :)

    Is 'tedious' a better word for an objective issue? I'm sure there must be one!
  12. Exiled_2_God

    Exiled_2_God Puritan Board Freshman

    Well, sure. I posted under the assumption that the guy doesn't have ulterior motives, and isn't there to be entertained, etc.

    Usually, if I think a sermon is boring it is because I'm not necessarily hungry - meaning it is my fault. Though, due to our corporeal nature's, it is still possible for someone with correct motives to sit through a boring sermon... like someone alluded to earlier - an hour sermon on OT law or something (for example). I think it is necessary, though, for that person to do some soul searching before making any decisions that constitute leaving under the basis of boredom.

    -----Added 7/20/2009 at 03:35:04 EST-----

    I think for someone in the searching phase it is different. He isn't at this point part of a body of believers... as opposed to the person who has been a long-time member. Imagine the example the later person may be to someone else. This is a tough issue nonetheless and certainly shouldn't be solved without fervent prayer and a humble heart.
  13. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Maybe, but all descriptions like this have a subjective element to them that could inflame those that disagree. Calling something tedious is not a lot nicer than calling something boring.
  14. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

    You've asked the questions multiple times and I am not sure if you have been given a direct answer.

    In the first case - the case of visiting - my answer would be an unequivocal "YES" with no strings attached.

    In the second case - the case of a long-time member - my answer would be "NO" if you mean to just simply not come back without a word... and my answer would be "YES" if after talking to the pastor, and then the leadership of the church, nothing changes... and after you've prayerfully considered the emotional and relational impact of leaving people you've come to know and love over the course of many years. (And if you HAVEN'T come to know and love the people... there's other problems...)
  15. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    How about, 'soporific' :).

    I think actually that your idea of 'poor' or 'difficult' presentation would suit without being inflaming.
  16. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I would agree with you. Things are different in the searching phase.

    Also, I will note that you wrote "usually" it is your fault. That grants the point I have been trying to make all along, that sometimes real, life, actual "boringness" may, in fact, happen.
  17. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    These are all things that every preacher can and should be continually working on, some points more than others. I suppose the difficulty is in working out where the line is drawn between competency and perfection.

    I'm reminded of the woman who visited at a congregation where Ebenezer Erskine was preaching. The first occasion she heard him she was greatly blessed. The next week she received nothing from the preaching. After the service she asked Erskine why she was blessed the first week but not the second. The good minister told her that on the first week she came to hear God but on the second she had come to hear the minister.
  18. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Thanks Rev. Winzer, those are wise words. This is a good place for me to bow out of this thread, the best has already been said!
  19. Exiled_2_God

    Exiled_2_God Puritan Board Freshman

    hey brother, can't disagree with you there!!
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