John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Building the Parthenon: Why Bother?

Greetings from Louisville, Kentucky -- land of blue grass, horse farms, good restaurants, bad service. My wife and I drove up here Tuesday after dropping the kids off with my parents. I don't know if I've mentioned it here or not, but I'm sort of looking for a job, and I figured this North American Christian Convention up here in Louisville might be a good place to do some networking. So far...not so much.

I know I've said it before, but I just don't get the whole Christian Convention culture. Perhaps, if I were more connected, I would feel differently. It does appear that there are some who are having something akin to a homecoming here. Maybe that's the whole rationale: have a big once-a-year gathering where you can see folks you haven't seen in ages, sing some of the old songs, learn a few of the newer ones, sit in on a creative and energetic Bible class (that Jeff Walling is such a cut-up!), eat out in restaurants for every meal and stay in a nice hotel.

I did go to a really solid workshop yesterday. Tim Woodroof talked to a room full of preachers about preaching as architecture. Using the guys who designed the Parthenon in Athens (Greece) and comparing them with the Apostle Paul's instructions in 1 Corinthians 3, Tim talked about how preachers really need to elevate their game. "Build a Parthenon," he exhorted the room. "Don't settle for a squat, dull Soviet housing structure with no beauty."

Everything was great until the Q&A session after Tim was done presenting his material. Why, oh, why can't preachers just ask questions? Why, oh, why must they feel the need to show everyone in the room how smart they are and that they probably should have been asked to lead this workshop?

One guy -- who is probably a nice guy -- said, "I don't think 80% of my congregation could tell the difference between a bad sermon and a good one."

Was he trying to justify his rationale for having settled into "a squat, dull Soviet housing structure with no beauty"? I don't know; I've never heard him preach. I can't judge.

I can say his comment was offensive to me -- not in a thin-skinned "I'm going to talk to the board of elders about this" sort of way. It was offensive to me because that guy gets paid to do something I love to do and believe in so powerfully that I've done it for free when I had to. To suggest that the listeners can't tell when you're really trying and when you're just "phoning it in"'s offensive to me.

I have high hopes when I preach. I actually believe words have power, and I affirm Tim when he said that preaching is nothing less than partnering with God in the process of spiritually transforming the lives of individual Christians, a corporate body and the entire world.

What about you? Do you still believe a sermon can change your life, the life of a church and the course of human history in our world? Or was that guy right when he said that people don't know a bad sermon from a good one?