When our congregations expect the preacher to be first and foremost an entertainer, or worse yet – if we expect to entertain our congregations – then it is my contention that we are on a slippery slope toward the eventual dimming of the Gospel in our preaching. Still (The Work of the Pastor, 23) makes the point well:
The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it out in goatland. You will certainly not turn goats into sheep by pandering to their goatishness.
In my view, we cannot expect to compete with the multi-billion dollar entertainment industry. If someone wants to be entertained on a Sunday morning he or she can find infinite outlets, each more provocative and polished than the local church. We are not entertainers, even if sadly, “laughter seems to have replaced repentance as the goal of many preachers” (Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, 55-56).
The tragedy of this trend is that we are not called to be clowns. We are called to be spokesmen for Christ. We are ambassadors of the Living God. Our goal is not escapism, spectacle, or hypnosis. Our goal is to lead people to life giving water, to usher people into the manifest presence of God, and to be servants of the Spirit for the salvation and transformation of people. After all, “the people have not gathered to hear a human being, but to meet with God” (Stott, Between Two Worlds, 81).
Piper observes that in 1,200 sermons that survive today by Jonathan Edwards you will not be able to find a single joke. Then, quoting one of Edwards’ sermons from 1744, he writes (The Supremacy of God in Preaching, 47-48, citing Edwards, “True Excellency”):
If a minister has light without heat, and entertains his [hearers] with learned discourses, without a savour of the power of godliness, or any appearance of fervency of spirit, and zeal for God and the good souls, he may gratify itching ears, and fill the heads of his people with empty notions; but it will not be very likely to teach their hearts, or save their souls.
This sounds offensive in today’s evangelical culture. We have become fat upon the jokes and stories of pastors so that a serious, heavy, holy-burdened presentation of the Gospel seems out of place.