In an article at his Preaching.org website, preaching professor Kent Anderson writes, “Complication must take a back seat to repetition. Visual imagery is a staple of oral presentation. What I am saying is that expository preaching does not need to be more shallow, but it does need to be less complex. My suggestion is that sermons can be profound without being difficult to hear.

“Perhaps, you might argue, we are just getting too soft. Maybe we ought to be challenging our listeners. That is fine, except for the fact that our efforts will be in vain if listeners are not up to the challenge. Grant Lovejoy recently presented some surprising statistics to the Evangelical Homiletics Society. According to official government statistics, approximately 48 percent of the American population operates at the two lowest levels of literacy. That is to say that either they are completely illiterate or they are functionally illiterate, which is to say they could read a brochure or the newspaper (USA Today and not The New York Times) or a magazine with lots of pictures in it.

“Those numbers are astounding. You might shake your head and say, ‘Yeah, those Americans are really in bad shape.’ It is true that we are doing better here in Canada—a whopping 3 percent better. In Canada, 45 percent of our general population is essentially illiterate. You say, ‘Yeah, but those people aren’t in my church.’ I might answer that I could probably tell you why. You are not speaking their language. Some say that we need to elevate our style of preaching as a means of creating more literate congregations. I say, Start a literacy program. Do it on Thursday nights. The sermon is not the place to create literacy. The sermon is the place to communicate the truth of the gospel. It is too important. There is too much at stake in sermons to take the time for a social improvement program.

“Let me make myself understood: Listeners can’t hear complex sermons. Yet this does not mean we can’t offer depth. I don’t know about you, but I have always found the simplest truths are the most profound. Listeners often call upon their preachers to feed them. People will feel nourished if their minds have been stretched and their wills have been challenged. Profound sermons make people think. They force listeners to encounter God and to reckon with His truth. People will not complain about feeding if they have met with God.” (Kent Anderson, “Communication: Preaching that is Future Focused“)

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