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Initially, it may be tough to tell the difference. A gifted Bible-expositor and an entertainment-oriented preacher with a penchant for garnishing his ideas with some Bible may not demonstrate much disparity at first.

But give it some time. And check the congregation over the long haul. It will make a world of difference.

Tethered to the Bible

John Piper coins a term in his short article “In Honor of Tethered Preaching: John Calvin and the Entertaining Pastor.” “Tethered preaching,” he says, is cut from a different cloth altogether. It is Bible-oriented rather than entertainment-oriented, even as it often proves captivating to the born-again palate.

The Bible tethers us to reality. We are not free to think and speak whatever might enter our minds or what might be pleasing to any given audience—except God.

A Relentless Reformer

While many fine preachers, no doubt, could be celebrated in the legacy of “tethered preaching,” Piper holds up the great Reformer John Calvin (1509–1564) as one example.

For Calvin, preaching was tethered to the Bible. That is why he preached through books of the Bible so relentlessly. In honor of tethered preaching, I would like to suggest the difference I hear between preaching tethered to the word of God and preaching that ranges free and leans toward entertainment.

Piper goes on to characterize the entertainment-oriented preacher as one who:

a. Doesn’t seem to be shaped and constrained by an authority outside himself

b. Gives the impression that what he says has significance for reasons other than that it manifestly expresses the meaning and significance of the Bible

c. Is at ease talking about many things that are not drawn out of the Bible

d. Seems to enjoy more talking about other things than what the Bible teaches

e. “His words seem to have a self-standing worth as interesting or fun. They are entertaining. But they don’t give the impression that this man stands as the representative of God before God’s people to deliver God’s message.”

However, the Bible-oriented preacher:

a. Sees himself this way: “I am God’s representative sent to God’s people to deliver a message from God”

b. Knows that the only way a man can dare to assume such a position is with a trembling sense of unworthy servanthood under the authority of the Bible

c. Knows that the only way he can deliver God’s message to God’s people is by rooting it in and saturating it with God’s own revelation in the Bible

d. Wants the congregation to know that his words, if they have any abiding worth, are in accord with God’s words, and so constantly tries to show the people that his ideas are coming from the Bible

e. Is hesitant to go too far toward points that are not demonstrable from the Bible

f. “His stories and illustrations are constrained and reined in by his hesitancy to lead the consciousness of his hearers away from the sense that this message is based on and expressive of what the Bible says.”

And so, in sum, “People leave the preaching of the Bible-oriented preacher with a sense that the Bible is supremely authoritative and important and wonderfully good news. They feel less entertained than struck at the greatness of God and the weighty power of his word.”



David Mathis is Executive Editor of DesiringGod.org.

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Charles Waters

commented on Mar 25, 2014

We live in an entertainment oriented society. Sadly, society often has more influence on the church than the church has on society. "Eze 33:32 And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice , and can play well on an instrument : for they hear thy words , but they do them not."

Martin Baariu Muriuki

commented on Mar 25, 2014

David Has hit it and rubbed in theinformation well. However, as Charles says, the world is more inclined to entertainment, rather than the content! Even the gospel music today has tended to take an entertaining tone complete with musical instruments and dance. It is also important to note that a sermon is not like a lecture where one has to listen and concentrate on the contents no matter how boring the subject is lest he/she scores poorly at the final exam!Therefore a very serious teacher/preacher will attract a limited number of audience if they do not find the sermon interesting.

Jim Needham

commented on Mar 25, 2014

This is a false dicotomy. A preacher who loves God's Word but preaches it as if it were the phone book dishoners God. A preacher who fully expounds the Bible and applies it to his readers life can not help but be interesting (even entertaining). It would have been better titled "are you only entertaining, or are you preaching?" As it is it gives a false and dangerous impression.

Richard Scotland

commented on Mar 25, 2014

I can see exactly what you mean - I wonder what I would have made of Jesus' preaching first hand - never boring for sure! Entertaining at times as well as disturbing too.

Pastor Jeff Hughes

commented on Mar 25, 2014

I think you miss the point of the article. There are those preachers that are more concerned with captivating an audience, coming up with something new, or tickling the ears than soundly teaching God's Word. There are also varying points between; we as pastors often want to "wow" our congregations with something "new" or "exciting" instead of just preaching God's Word faithfully and letting the Holy Spirit do His work in the hearts of the listener.

Kenneth Mandley

commented on Mar 25, 2014

I must disagree with your analysis. The article is clear that 'tethered' preaching can and should be pleasing to a believer. It is also clear that entertainment should not be the goal of preaching and presents a convincing argument for remaining close to the text.

Charles Waters

commented on Mar 25, 2014

Jim, I can't help but be curious if you meant the title or the content of the article was dangerous. Your remark, "A preacher who fully expounds the Bible and applies it to his readers life can not help but be interesting (even entertaining)..." is true but that seems to me the very same thing as "tethered" preaching. The art of application is absolutely essential for helping the hearers see that the message is important to them on a personal level.

Alexander Drysdale Lay Preacher Uca Australia

commented on Mar 25, 2014

If we agree that God has a sense of humour which he must have had when he created us, then he can smile at our pleasure in worshipping him. Stories and songs and hymns based on the Bible and set up for specific circumstances are all part of worshipping God with a congregation. We learn something EVERY time we go to church to worship however the service is organised. Sermons do not have to be dry exegis. They must reach out to whoever God wants to speak to that day through you and that we must never forget. Entertainment? Perhaps. God's message always.

Toby Awasum

commented on Mar 25, 2014

The ultimate preacher, teacher preaches the message by BEING the message "a living epistle". Jeremiah unlike Hannaniah (Jeremiah 28), preached the message by wearing a yoke around his neck for years, Isaiah went around naked for years not entertaining but to relate God's message to his people. Paul says "And my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Cor.2:4). The word of God whether preached or written should be based on one principle: "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21). Following this principle, the is no book, chapter, or verse in the bible that is meant to entertain. God is very economical with words because His Word is Him and He is not a comedian He is God and Lord!

Suresh Manoharan

commented on Mar 25, 2014

Witty humor should supplement God's Word but never substitute it.

David Overstreet

commented on Mar 25, 2014

Just another Calvinist. They all think they are the only ones who know how to preach. They think they are a little bit better than everyone else. If you do not do everything their way you are wrong. They are spreading division among the family of God.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

I couldn't agree more with you and others about Calvinist! They are some of the most condescending people at times. I guess it comes from the pride of being "chosen."

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

I couldn't agree more with you and others about Calvinist! They are some of the most condescending people at times. I guess it comes from the pride of being "chosen."

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

I couldn't agree more with you and others about Calvinist! They are some of the most condescending people at times. I guess it comes from the pride of being "chosen."

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

I couldn't agree more with you and others about Calvinist! They are some of the most condescending people at times. I guess it comes from the pride of being "chosen."

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

I couldn't agree more with you and others about Calvinist! They are some of the most condescending people at times. I guess it comes from the pride of being "chosen."

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

I couldn't agree more with you and others about Calvinist! They are some of the most condescending people at times. I guess it comes from the pride of being "chosen."

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

I couldn't agree more with you and others about Calvinist! They are some of the most condescending people at times. I guess it comes from the pride of being "chosen."

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

I couldn't agree more with you and others about Calvinist! They are some of the most condescending people at times. I guess it comes from the pride of being "chosen."

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

I couldn't agree more with you and others about Calvinist! They are some of the most condescending people at times. I guess it comes from the pride of being "chosen."

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

I couldn't agree more with you and others about Calvinist! They are some of the most condescending people at times. I guess it comes from the pride of being "chosen."

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

I couldn't agree more with you and others about Calvinist! They are some of the most condescending people at times. I guess it comes from the pride of being "chosen."

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

I couldn't agree more with you and others about Calvinist! They are some of the most condescending people at times. I guess it comes from the pride of being "chosen."

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

I couldn't agree more with you and others about Calvinist! They are some of the most condescending people at times. I guess it comes from the pride of being "chosen."

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

I couldn't agree more with you and others about Calvinist! They are some of the most condescending people at times. I guess it comes from the pride of being "chosen."

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

I couldn't agree more with you and others about Calvinist! They are some of the most condescending people at times. I guess it comes from the pride of being "chosen."

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

I couldn't agree more with you and others about Calvinist! They are some of the most condescending people at times. I guess it comes from the pride of being "chosen."

Ruben Charles

commented on Mar 26, 2014

Subliminal message: "Calvinism good! Arminianism bad!" as if poor pulpit skills are limited to one side of the soteriological aisle.

Gregory Attaway

commented on Mar 26, 2014

All of these conversations are very interesting but there's one thing that we have to remember is that there's diffrent type preachers for diffrent type people, one thing that me as a believer don't tolerate is a precher that thinks he is already in heaven no problems no issues just perfect that's not what we represent , paul sent Timothy, titus and others on missions because he knew that they could relate to diffrent type people so be cautious when you talk about diffrent preachers approach you will fi new d yourself losing more believer's than you gain..

Gregory Attaway

commented on Mar 26, 2014

All of these conversations are very interesting but there's one thing that we have to remember is that there's diffrent type preachers for diffrent type people, one thing that me as a believer don't tolerate is a precher that thinks he is already in heaven no problems no issues just perfect that's not what we represent , paul sent Timothy, titus and others on missions because he knew that they could relate to diffrent type people so be cautious when you talk about diffrent preachers approach you will find yourself losing more believer's than you gain..

Dav Ross

commented on Mar 26, 2014

This article makes no sense, unless it is intended to bash non-Calvinists.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

Very sorry about the multiple post. My computer is acting up!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 27, 2014

I thought there used to be a delete button.

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