I was listening to a show on Christian radio yesterday and the host mentioned that what American Christians need and want is deep, compelling, convicting, expository, and doctrinal preaching. She’s not the first person I’ve heard on the radio who has made a statement along those lines, and of course the callers all agree with those sentiments.
I, however, am not so sure. I certainly agree that American Christians NEED that kind of preaching, but I’m far less convinced that they WANT that kind of preaching.
For instance, in our city (and I strongly suspect this holds true for the majority of American cities) the churches that are most popular with Christians are the ones where the sermons are light, entertaining, topical, amusing, anecdotal, doctrine-free, and generally about 15 to 25 minutes long. There are a few exceptions, but the rule still applies. Light and fluffy is what draws crowds.
So why is there a big difference between what Christians SAY they want to hear, and what they actually choose to listen to on Sunday?
I think part of the answer might lie in what one ad man I heard called the “Wonder Bread Rule.” He described how when mothers were surveyed in the 1980s about the kind of bread they wanted their family to eat, most said they wanted them to eat natural, whole grain, nourishing wheat breads, with thick chewy crusts. However, when those same moms were surveyed as to their actual buying habits it was found that the majority of them actually bought “Wonder Bread” style breads – soft, bleached white breads, with little or no actual nutritional value. When asked about the difference, most explained that Wonder Bread was what their family preferred to eat and that they didn’t want to have to deal with the hassle and complaints associated with getting them to eat the things that would actually be good for them.
Most Christians probably know what kind of “whole wheat” preaching they need, but they are deathly afraid of the family being bored or irritated or overtaxed by it, and instead choose the Wonder Bread path of least resistance. It may have little or no nutritional value, but its attractive, easy to consume and produces the least complaints.
“You are what you eat” as the old saying goes, and if what the American church is consuming is usually the sermonic version of junk food, should we be surprised it’s so unhealthy?