John Piper: Video Clips make Sermons Weak

Interesting quote from John Piper.  Agree or disagree?

I think the use of video and drama largely is a token of unbelief in the power of preaching. And I think that, to the degree that pastors begin to supplement their preaching with this entertaining spice to help people stay with them and be moved and get helped, it’s going to backfire. It’s going to backfire.

It’s going to communicate that preaching is weak, preaching doesn’t save, preaching doesn’t hold, but entertainment does. And we’ll just go further and further. So we don’t do video clips during the sermon. We don’t do skits.

What do YOU think?

A few of my initial thoughts, (which will probably get me in trouble)…

1.  Preaching DOESN’T save.

2.  Most preaching doesn’t hold attention these days.

3.  Do you think that preaching is the ultimate?  Can God not work without preaching?  Will people not be saved?  Will people not grow without preaching?  Is preaching the ultimate reason we gather on the weekend?  Is it far over and above worship, fellowship, giving, etc.?

4.  Jesus did preach in the NT, but we also see Jesus doing many other things that seemed, at least to him, to be really (really) important.

5.  Piper is right.  I mean… Jesus and Paul never used video clips or skits when they preached.

6.  Jesus was a storyteller.  To say that he would only tell his stories today through spoken word is a stretch, I think.

I like John Piper… but I think that he’s kind of putting his type of preaching on a pretty big pedestal, which is fine.  Many pastors do.

Don’t get me wrong.  Preaching is important.  But it’s not the be all end all as some would like us to think. At least not in my opinion.

OK… take your shots at me.  I’m wearing my armor.



Here’s the link to the article…


  • Len Wilson April 5, 2012 Reply

    Jesus didn’t preach. At least not the way John Piper does. According to Luke 4, when during the service Jesus stood in the Temple and read from Isaiah, he certainly knew the method, and could have taken an expository or deductive approach to discussing Scripture. He simply chose not to. Mark 4 shows us that Jesus exclusively taught in parable. He told stories.

    Even if Piper agrees to this, he might claim that oral stories, in a sermon context, are the only holy way to go. Or he might acknowledge that communication systems change, even in the Bible (which supports both oral and written), and that visual communication, far from mere entertainment, is now the primary means we have to share stories with our culture, just as Jesus did.

  • Rod Gauthier April 5, 2012 Reply

    As I read your post, my first reaction was, “Preaching doesn’t save!” Then I saw your points! Jesus saves, and he uses many methods, preaching, teaching, stories, video, dramas, music, personal interaction, print, internet, radio, etc. When we limit God’s use of his tools, we make fools of ourselves. Just my thoughts anyways!

  • Leonard April 5, 2012 Reply

    Piper is brilliant but I would respectfully disagree.

  • Michael C. April 5, 2012 Reply

    Here are some of my thoughts.. Disclaimer: I’m not infallible like Mr. Piper, but I try 🙂

    1. Preaching doesn’t save, but it is the method God uses to bring people to salvation. (Romans 10:14)

    2. A lot of preaching today is terrible, powerless, and can’t hold my attention. I don’t want to hear you give a ‘talk’, I want someone to declare the Word of God with boldness, excitement, and authority. I want to know you’ve heard from Jesus this week.. not just from your favorite preacher or Google.

    3. Videos, drama’s, etc.. are perfectly fine to use in addition to proclaiming of the Gospel. I have no problem with using other methods to drive home your message.

    4. Videos, drama’s, etc.. that are corny and cheesy make the church look stupid and foolish and are not perfectly fine to be used in addition to proclaiming the Gospel. For example, YouTube ‘tithe rap’.

    5. It is true that Jesus taught in parables, however, you don’t see this method from any of the apostles nor anyone else in the New Testament. That being said, I have no problem using stories, humor, examples, or personal experiences in your message to help illustrate your point.

    6. Jesus did do ‘many other things’ other than preach.. like heal, deliver, set free the oppressed, and cast out devils. God promised that he would ‘confirm his word with signs following’. I do agree we need more ‘action’ with our words.

    • Steve Miller April 7, 2012 Reply

      I was trying to think of how to respectfully disagree with John Piper. Michael nails what I wanted to say. I would only add I’ve never seen Piper preach; but I have seen videos of him preaching and they were incredibly powerful. The Holy Spirit can use just about anything He wants to empower; sometimes even something as silly as me.

  • John April 7, 2012 Reply

    First, Jesus didn’t go to church. Think about it.

    I doubt John Piper meant that preaching saves but rather the preaching of the Word brings one to salvation.

    It is the ‘hearing of the Word’ that brings one to salvation and so preaching is one way to hear the Word. I know pastors who are jerks….wannabe commedians…who use skits, copy sermons from the Internet, use props and copy what the biggies use, etc. Effective? Not really. Do people in the congregation whisper ‘this is stupid’ and ‘this is an insult to my intelligence’ during such? Yep.

    Why would the Bible say “Preach the Word”….because the Word is to be preached. The power is in the Word. Even a pastor who is not a believer can be used to bring one to salvation because it is not the preacher—it is the Word.

  • Peter April 9, 2012 Reply

    I’ve heard sermons that really could have benefited from a video.

    I’ve heard sermons that had a video that didn’t help them at all.

    I think the Evangelical church worships preaching too much in either case.

  • Barry Whitlow April 10, 2012 Reply

    That’s like saying if television commercials went back to just voiceovers they would convince more people to buy. With respect Pastor Piper, Jesus modeled using the language of the day in a variety of ways to communicate his truth, not just sermons behind pulpits. Multimedia IS the language of our day. (*nice job Todd stirring the pot, thanks!)

  • Matt Steen April 10, 2012 Reply

    Are we STILL arguing over this?

    I thought we wore this stuff out a decade or so ago.

  • Matthew Tilley April 10, 2012 Reply

    Jesus isn’t our model for preaching, He is our message. We look at what Jesus did as the message we should be preaching.

    So He healed people. Should we heal? Not in our own strength … we should preach that Jesus heals. And we should yield ourselves to be God’s vessel of healing.

    So He fed people. Should we feed people? Not in our own strength … we should preach that Jesus feeds. And we should yield ourselves to be God’s hands, the conduit of His grace, to be used of God to feed the hungry.

    Therefore, you are correct to say that preaching doesn’t save, Jesus does … in the same way that “doctoring” doesn’t stop/cure/heal cancer, the death of the cancer cell does. But no one is suggesting that we replace doctors with DVDs or the Internet or more “interesting” things.

    I want what works. And God has prescribed the foolishness of preaching (I Corinthians 1).

    That can be done in lots of interesting and creative ways (including from a pulpit in a church). But what must not be lost is the preaching.

    May God save us from our “interesting” selves and allow us to find our hope, peace & salvation in Jesus through interesting ways, uninteresting ways and any other means that He deems worthy.

  • Spica April 11, 2012 Reply

    Not sure whether that’s Piper had in mind exactly or not, but I tend to agree on the fact that we lack “powerful preaching”, the kind that captures the audience and keeps them focused and totally impacted by the message. And sometimes, it looks like some preachers try to make up for it by adding video or any other form of entertainment.
    It’s like having a bit of humor in a sermon is a good thing, but relying on that to keep everybody’s attention is flawed. It’s not using the video clips that is wrong, it is feeling the need to add them because people would lose interest in the message without them that is e bit sad.

  • Nate April 11, 2012 Reply

    I love Piper and think that he is a phenomenal communicator of God’s Word… However I respectfully and whole heartedly disagree with him on this.

    Jesus taught using stories and illustrations. I can guarantee he is still behind many of the videos that have moved me and many others closer to himself!

  • Matt April 11, 2012 Reply

    Preaching is an art, as is video editing.

  • kjc April 15, 2012 Reply

    In 2 Timothy 3 Paul tells the YOUNG preacher in light of all the things that will try and attack people from staying with Gods plan of Salvation – Vs 14 – 17,

    14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;

    15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

    16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

    17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

    Stay with what works, 1 God idea is better than a 1,000 ideas from Man, I read that qoute some where one time and I have remembered it…..the BIBLE always works and preaching is Gods method of that work, simple is it not. I am sticking to preaching myself, everything should migrate to the pulpit in my view, Right On Bro. John Piper.

  • Fred April 15, 2012 Reply

    And we should sell all the buildings and meet down by the river.

  • Lori April 16, 2012 Reply

    I love a lot of Piper’s stuff, but I disagree with him on this. If this were true then every pastor would have to retire their illustration book and stop using illustrations. A video clip is just an illustration. Sometimes it sums up the whole message and sometime it is used for a point in the sermon.

    I happen to like them more than some “fake” story illustration used to make a point.

  • Jim April 16, 2012 Reply

    Not surprising. Most people make arguments and theories through their gifting. Piper is a master teacher and scholar. He doesn’t need extra. However, a lot of us don’t have his gifting and mind, so please don’t make a blanket philosophy that only fits your wheel house.

  • Here2Serve April 20, 2012 Reply

    If I say to you, “Don’t think of a pink elephant.” What did you just do? You thought of a pink elephant. Why? Becuase we think in terms of pictures.

    I like Dr. Piper. I am currently learning his method of Bible Arcing as a graphical exegesis. Why would he use graphical exegeis? Becuase he thinks in terms of pictures. A text is easier to comprehend and remember when placed in a graphical form.

    I find it ironic that he would speak against using methods that help burn pictures in our mind to remember the key point(s) of a message.

    As a pastor, I do use drama and video. For the most part I only use them in the beginning of the message as an introduction or at the end of the message to illustrate the point I have tried to make and to transition into our time of response.

    I also use PowerPoint as I am preaching. While I may use some bullete points, I try to use graphs and pictures on the PowerPoint to reinforce what I am preaching. That is the power of a picture whether on PowerPoint, in a video, or skit!

    Here’s a test, preach a message on Sunday using tools like these to illustrate the points. One week later preach another message without these tools. Then the on the third Sunday, ask the members of the congregation to write one thing that they remember from either of the two previous messages? Which message are they more likely to talk about?

  • mitch July 19, 2012 Reply

    Communicating the gospel is what is important. Just preaching is one way and preaching with story illustrations or movie clips is another way. What’s important is using the best method to engage the audiences in ways that are easy for them to understand, relate too, remember and respond too. I personally have trouble listing to long discourse on doctrine. I need a story, an illustration, a parable, a hand writing in the sand or yes maybe even a movie clip.

    Many times it is hard to recall last weeks sermon. But I will never forget WingClips’ “Back To God” clip from the movie Les Miserables.

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