The cure is recovery of Bible exposition.

Nothing troubles me more in church today than our Christian superficiality. So few of us are “mature in Christ.” We deserve the rebukes Paul addressed to the Corinthians, for we are still babes when we should be adults, and need milk when we should be eating meat. While we rejoice at the astonishing statistics of church growth in some regions of the Third World, our euphoria should be tempered by the question of whether the growth is as deep as it is broad.

Observers differ in their diagnosis of the church’s malady. For myself. I have no doubt that the major cause is what Amos called “a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (8:11). E. L. Dargan, in his famous two-volume History of Preaching, sees the phenomenon partly as cause, partly as effect. On the one hand, a decline of spiritual life “is commonly accompanied by a lifeless, formal, unfruitful preaching,” while on the other, “the great revivals of Christian history can most usually be traced to the work of the pulpit.”

True, greater problems face modern preachers than their predecessors: much of contemporary culture is unfriendly to preaching. If the antiauthority mood makes many people less willing to listen to authoritative proclamation, the cybernetics revolution and the addiction to television make people less able to listen to anything. In addition, the atmosphere of doubt and the loss of confidence in the gospel have undermined the morale of many preachers. Thus there is paralysis at both ends—in the speaking and in the hearing.

The gravity of this situation becomes plain when we reflect on the biblical story, for the prosperity of God’s people rose and fell according to their receptivity to his Word. Although his covenant ...

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