Why Are We Often So Boring?
Sometimes a book obscures its subject behind a clever or even misleading title. Sometimes, though, it just goes out and says it. And that’s very much the case with Bob Fyall’s Why Are We Often So Boring?. Having dedicated his life to both preaching and training others to preach, he has collected his thoughts and reflections in this small but punchy book.
His concern, of course, is that too much preaching is boring. Yet he is not lobbying for preaching that is novel or entertaining. He is not suggesting that pastors adopt some of the practices you might observe in many of today’s seeker-friendly megachurches. Rather, he wants to see pastors become committed, faithful, engaging expositors of the Word. Such preaching, while perhaps not fitting any definition of entertainment, will be interesting and effective. “Underlying this book is the conviction that expository preaching is not only one of many good things for a church but the lifeblood of a healthy fellowship. Without it, other things, which may be good in themselves, can go badly wrong and fail to build anything of lasting worth. It is hard work and, particularly when results appear to be meagre, there is the temptation to try what seems to be more attractive and rewarding. This book is an attempt to encourage all of us to stick to the task and to be the best that we can be.”
He begins the book with a brief look at the task of the preacher and the wonder that God chooses to use weak, fallible men to accomplish great things through the preaching of the Word. He wants pastors to become confident in what God has called them to do even with an awareness of their many inadequacies. He considers why too many sermons are non-events that do not accomplish what they otherwise might—whether that’s because they get bogged down in context without ever getting to the point or because they get too hung up on details that are necessary for the preacher to know but that should have been left in the study. He also offers a series of principles that underlie effective preaching.
He dedicates a chapter to the modern history of expository preaching. This is a UK-centric look at how expository preaching, a mainstay of the Reformers, was displaced for a time but then rediscovered by men like Martyn Lloyd Jones, Dick Lucas, and John Stott. He also introduces some of the scholars who dedicated their lives to producing the kind of resources that would help pastors in the task.
A further chapter turns to Ecclesiastes, of all places, to discuss the task of the preacher, while several others break down the method of going from a text to a polished and preachable sermon. He offers some reflections on where preachers can overemphasize small details while missing key ones. He assures the pastor that God is eager to help and bless him in his preaching ministry. He reminds the preacher that he himself must be first to be impacted and changed by the Word, for “just as the Word becomes flesh uniquely and fully in the Lord Jesus Christ, so the Word must be incarnated in the preacher” and “if we are not changed by the message we bring, no one else will be.” He concludes by assuring pastors that they must be faithful foremost to God, for he alone has the final authority. “No human will pronounce final judgment on our preaching. Realising that will save us from pride when plaudits come and from despair when criticisms multiply.”
Why Are We Often So Boring? is an excellent, helpful little book. It is not a textbook on preaching as much as a collection of an experienced pastor’s reflections on the sacred task God assigns to the pastor. It is a good reminder of what every pastor ought to know and a good refresher on how every pastor ought to preach.