5 Responses to the Anti-authoritarian Mood Against Preaching

This post is part of The Disciple Making Preacher series. This series attempts to answer those who are against preaching and to propose that preaching is an irreplaceable means of disciple making in the church today.

Some wisdom from the late John Stott (27 April 1921 – 27 July 2011) on responding to the anti-authoritarian mood against preaching:

The prophets of doom in today’s Church are confidently predicting that the day of preaching is over. It is a dying art, they say, an outmoded form of communication, ‘an echo from an abandoned past’. Not only have modern media superseded it, but it is incompatible with the modern mood.

What is the anti-authoritarian mood against preaching?

Seldom if ever in its long history has the world witnessed such a self-conscious revolt against authority. Not that the phenomenon of protest and rebellion is new.

What seems new today, however, is both the world-wide scale of the revolt and the philosophical arguments with which it is sometimes buttressed…All the accepted authorities (family, school, university, State, Church, Bible, Pope, God) are being challenged.

Stott gives 5 responses to the anti-authority mood against preaching:

1. Remember that human beings were created to be both morally responsible and free

We cannot therefore acquiesce either in license (which denies responsibility) or in slavery (which denies freedom). Christians know from both Scripture and experience that human fulfillment is impossible outside some context of authority.

2. Remember the doctrine of revelation

It is a basic tenet of the Christian religion that we believe what we believe not because human beings have invented it but because God has revealed it. In consequence, there is an authority inherent in Christianity which can never be destroyed. Preachers who share this assurance see themselves as trustees of divine revelation.

3. Remember the locus of authority

Suppose in our preaching we are careful to demonstrate that the authority with which we preach inheres neither in us as individuals, nor primarily in our office as clergy or preachers, nor even in the church whose members and accredited pastors we may be, but supremely in the Word of God which we expound? Then the people should be willing to hear, particularly if we put the matter beyond doubt by showing that we desire to live under this authority ourselves.

4. Remember the relevance of the gospel

When the preached message rings true, and is seen to relate to human reality, it carries its own authority, and authenticates itself.

5. Remember the dialogical character of preaching

A true sermon is not the monologue which it appears to be… [Dialogical preaching] refers to the silent dialogue which should be developing between the preacher and his hearers.

Painful as it is, it is of the essence of dialogical preaching and lessens the offense which authoritative preaching would otherwise give.

What do you think? Does the sermon still have a place in the overall discipling and maturing of believers in the church today? What else do we need to remember when considering the anti-authoritarian mood against preaching?

All quotes taken from Chapter Two of Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today by John Stott

Nathan is the pastor of City Life Church in Ridgewood, NY. He and his family are committed to making and multiplying disciples in the most diverse county in the US. Read more about Nathan here. Visit the City Life Church website here.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Nathan,  In my opinion, the “anti-preaching” crows are reacting against the excess and arrogance of many preachers and throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    I do think preaching needs to change (less “preacher-centered” and more “community-centered”), but agree 100% that it has a place in the Church! 

    • nathancreitz

      Exactly! There are certainly bad preachers and bad preaching but that doesn’t mean preaching is irrelevant.

      Since you did this on one of my recent comments, let me ask you a follow up: What is the community-centered vs. preacher-centered model of which you speak. I’ve been on your website and I like your thinking but I’d love a brief summary of your thoughts on this.

      • did you get my reply?  It had some links so maybe it got held up for moderation.

        • nathancreitz

          Got it. Thanks for sharing the resources. I love your “team sport” approach to preaching.