What Are Pastors Searching For? A Conversation with Marty Duren

Maybe pastors still haven’t found what they are looking for.

Even if LifeWay is no longer strictly a resource for Southern Baptist Churches, one wonders how it is, after the dust has settled for most in the SBC on the matter of inerrancy, what does it mean a that Biblical Hermeneutics tops the searched for data on its Pastors site in recent months?

Suit(able) Preaching?

An old friend is coming to preach at Snow Hill this Sunday. Allan called to see what the dress code was for our worship service. One hot Oklahoma August I looked up and saw not one tie. More than 15 years later I might don the occasional bowtie. Otherwise, the neckties come out for weddings and funerals. I told Allan a tie is optional for the preaching uniform.

Another top search subject at LifeWay Pastors, “What style of preaching is most suitable preaching?”It is likely the queries cared little about suits and ties. Who knows? Search engines often cut off the most common phrase leaving it open as to whether the cause for the search was clothing or method as style.

So what about suit(able) preaching?

Context matters. If the majority wear suits and ties, then it may be best to follow suit. You see how I did that?

On the other possibility, the question could point to wrestling with verse-by-verse-book-by-book programs of preaching, series preaching on a particular subject, what some wrongly criticize as topical or preaching with or without Powerpoint.

The question reveals that pastors search. They, we, are not always the most confident breed despite our projections.

A Christian Rock Musician and a British Revival Preacher

Christian Rock? Really? Long before the advent of CCM, Contemporary Christian Music and the Dove Awards, a number of American Rock-n-Roll musicians turned toward Christian lyrics for their style of music. Names like Larry Norman, Keith Green, Randy Stonehill, Mylon LeFevre Phil Keaggy, Petra and Rez Band would likely be unknown today.

Marty emailed that high on the search list at LifeWay Pastors included Keith Green and Leonard Ravenhill. Though I never indulged the available drugs in my youth, I admit to a flashback. My mind began recalling the lyrics for, So You Want to Go Back to Egypt. The Prodigal Son Suite. I Wish We’d All Been Ready. I began looking for the DeLorean DC-12.

What do Keith Green and Leonard Ravenhill have in common? Both would have been considered prophetic types. Combine Green’s Asleep in the Light with Ravenhill’s best selling, Why Revival Tarries and they would still be considered fringe dwellers today. Take this from Ravenhill,

“I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, “Save OUR children” bellow “Build more and bigger bombers.” That’s right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from “OUR” bombers! This does not jell.”

Yes, Ravenhill would get Jeffress’d and Graham’d spouting that stuff today.

Mash It All Up

What are pastors looking for? Based on the searches at LifeWay it is reasonable to conclude pastors search for insight to interpret the world, their world, as it is experienced in local church ministry. Ciphering a suitable style for preaching may be as much about exegeting a given setting to know what might connect better. Discovering, or re-engaging, past prophetic voices, be they lyrical or revivalist, could indicate an underlying sense of a world in need of a provocative word from the Lord.

Marty and I pick up on how the search results intersect by acknowledging the way the Bible is read, interpreted. We mused about the recent back and forth between N.T. Wright and David Bently Hart and their respective translations of the New Testament.

I suspect, as long as Pastors grapple with the Scriptures, the world, and human lived experience, search engines will always have a place.

Check out Marty’s podcast with Bob Smietana. Marty writes about what prompted his podcast venture,

I started The Fourth Estate podcast to counter the unfortunate ease that bad information seems to be found all across the Internet and social media. The tagline “Because Facts Matter” is important to me. As a follower of Jesus, who I believe to be “the way, the truth and the life,” all truth is important to me. It is less important to me that a certain party holds political power than we know the truth as far as we can.

If you find the podcast helpful, share it with your friends. Share it with your pastor friends as well as folks you know involved in leadership that touches on the pastoral. Also, consider heading over to iTunes, login, search for patheological and give us a five-star rating and a kind review.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

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