One hears much these days about a crisis in the pulpit. Sometimes signs of this crisis come from ministers and seminary professors who wonder aloud and in print whether preaching has not gone out of date. They seriously doubt whether sermons are effective in this latter half of the twentieth century. They commend their doubts to others by declaring that sermons these days are generally irrelevant and exert little leverage on the problems of modern life.

If these doubters of the need for preaching today find that their tongues cleave to the roofs of their mouths, their silence in the pulpit will be no loss. Indeed, it would be a gain, because any man who seriously doubts the value of preaching the Gospel ought not to mount the pulpit. If there is in such men none of the compulsion that made Paul cry, “Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel,” they have neither a message to bring nor a call to bring it.

Nonetheless, the Church cannot afford simply to brush aside this derogation of the modern pulpit and return to Stroking its comfortable assumption that all is well. For it is unfortunately true that the pulpit today is one of the weakest places in the life of the Church.

Another sign of crisis in the pulpit comes from those who argue for a “religionless Christianity,” which is called to leave the holy place and bring its altar into the streets of life. In the name of leaving the sacred to enter the secular so as to sacramentalize the whole of it, these voices “preach” that men ought to engage in the actions of Christian mercy and not to pray; that they ought to feed the hungry, lift the fallen, seek out the unemployed and the illiterate, and right the social wrongs of human community, rather than seek communion with God in the quiet ...

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