What’s wrong with preaching? Is there a lot of poor preaching around?

Carl Trueman thinks there is. He has blogged about it here.

He highlights what for him are eight of the most significant reasons for poor preaching, dividing them into three categories.


  • The preacher needs to understand the nature of preaching. Trueman suggests that the preacher needs to look to the OT prophets rather than to the classroom or even the stand-up comedy circuit.


  • Failure to provide a proper context for training preachers. It’s not enough to have trainee preachers preach in front of a small group of their peers.
  • The importance of the preached word has been relativised. He groups this with the growth of one on one counselling.
  • A failure to find one’s own voice, with the problem of what Trueman judges to be too narrow a band of model preachers.
  • A too high view of the ministry (which he acknowledges may be a particularly Presbyterian problem) which results in people who are ill-equipped finding themselves in preaching ministries.


  • Failure to have a clear structure.
  • Failure to know or understand the congregation.
  • Failure to know what to leave out.

I must confess that I don’t actually listen to a lot of preaching – I’m more often on the giving than the receiving side. However, here are a couple of reflections on what Carl Trueman has suggested:

  1. Theology – granted the OT prophet is a more appropriate model than the stand-up comedian (though I dare say some of us could learn or adapt some skills from observing a few), but are there other biblical models? What about Jesus himself? On occasion he confronted (tended to be the leaders rather than the culture as a whole), but not always. Also, I think somewhere in there is the question of the distinctions between teaching and preaching. Is there a time to proclaim but also a time to explain? Bottom line though, preachers need to be sure they have a properly considered theological and biblical understanding of what they are doing.
  2. Culture – a lot could be said here: I’ll take one part (for now, at least). To set preaching against one on one counselling raises questions about the nature of counselling and just how ‘biblical’ it is in its approach and content (that’s another story for another day). How can word ministry be seen as a whole, whether preaching to a congregation or one on one work, whether counselling or discipling? How can the general and the particular work together?
  3. Technique – all valid considerations, I think and each brings its own challenges.

What do you think? Is preaching in crisis? Is it as bad as Carl Trueman thinks? Do you agree with his areas of concern? Are there others you think he should have mentioned?

Here is the link to the article.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.