The Problem of the Gifted Speaker by Stephen Perks

One of the problems facing the Church in the Western world today is the problem posed by the “ministry” of those who are considered “gifted speakers” and consequently idolised by the Church. Stated in its most simple form this is the problem posed by the prioritising of the personality, charisma, “profile,” popularity, stage presence and ability of the speaker as an orator and entertainer over the content of the message being delivered—in short, the triumph of style over content, the consequence of which has been the creation of an intellectually feeble-minded and theologically malnourished generation of churchgoers who are over stimulated by sentimental and mindless entertainment worship masquerading as spiritual edification.  
The problem has a long history, but it is made particularly problematic today by the intellectual dumbing down process that currently afflicts British culture generally and has produced a semiliterate society. That the Church should also have fallen into this ditch is particularly problematic because her role in providing spiritual, moral and intellectual leadership for society is vital to the health of the nation. Without the leadership of the Church the nation cannot recover from its present descent into cultural degeneration and the neo-paganism that is its inevitably accompaniment. While the Church is obsessed with the mindless prioritising of style over content that is vitiating the cultural life of the nation as a whole she will remain useless and irrelevant to society, and therefore unable to provide the leadership that the nation so desperately needs.

This perspective could also advance and enhance the role of "ruling elders" or non-teaching elders. Since eloquence is not a requirement in order to address the assembly. Churches with no pastor could benefit, as well, by the implementation and activation of their "laity".

More about the author: Stephen is the Director of the Kuyper Foundation. He is the Editor of Christianity & Society, the Foundation’s journal, and has contributed articles on a variety of topics to journals in Britain, Europe and the USA. He has lectured on a variety of issues, including theology and Christian world-view, economics, politics, education, legal history and music, at conferences in Britain, Europe, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Africa and has been regularly invited to contribute to local radio programmes dealing with various contemporary ethical issues.
And his broad copyright notice: Permission is hereby granted for the downloading, printing and copying of essays, articles, book texts, journals and audio files and films contained on this web site for personal use and for redistribution to others for personal use provided: that this is done on a strictly non-profit basis, that all material downloaded from this site and subsequently reproduced identifies the authors of such material and displays their copyright, and that the Kuyper Foundation is identified as the source of this material and its full postal address (Post Office Box 2, Taunton, Somerset, England, TA1 4ZD) and web site address ( are included.
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Comments (1)
    • This is a very good read, and should take roughly an hour of your time. I recommend it to the Body of Christ as a way for you to consider how the "cult of personality" may distort your view of the redemptive power of Christ.

      When we remodeled our home several years ago, we made sure that all of the seating spaces were designed such that the center of each room was the center of focus so that each person in the room was equal to all others. Our kitchen table is large and round. We eliminated the TV set from the family room. When you enter any room as a guest in our home, there is no obvious place of honor. Every seat is a seat of honor.

      I imagine this to be how the church should be. The "gifted speaker" only exists because they are the focus of all of our attention when we are seated in the church pews. The pulpit draws our attention to them. Our bulletins tell us to be quiet and respectful in the church sanctuary. Reverence is only achieved when we all follow the prescribed dictates for orderly worship. The parishioners never initiate, but only ever respond to their leaders at the appropriate moments. It is the perfect setup for the "gifted speaker" as they have complete control over the crowd, and no one ever questions their authority.

      Congregants have been led to believe over the centuries that true worship comes by following the formula that the church has set up. We are seldom, if ever, confronted with the reality of our sinful nature and our unholiness before God. When we are, it is, as Mr. Perks mentions, in times of emotion manipulation (i.e. blackmail) as in Jonathan Edward's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" sermon.

      I love reading about Paul in Athens (Acts 17:16-34). In this passage we see Paul observing the workings of Athens and engaging those around him in dialogue. It is the exact opposite of everything that we are told today that we need to do to make the church a success. Interestingly enough, when verse 22 tells us that Paul was "standing in the midst of the Areopagus", the Greek word for "midst" (μέσῳ) is the same one used in Luke 2:46 to describe the boy Jesus in the temple as He remained behind...

      41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. (emphasis mine)

      The picture of both Jesus and Paul is that of interactive dialogue. Maybe if we started asking the "gifted speaker" some difficult questions from the pews, we would soon see that there is no substance to their content.

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