I debated whether to post this today.

In the end, it’s not about singling out one guy. But sometimes dealing with a real situation can make a truth appropriately pointed. So here goes…

The pre-story

I recently read a post by an Australian pastor boasting that he was going to preach on Bono on Sunday.

I commented urging him to preach the word instead. I was soundly rebuked and brushed off as immature. I was told this pastor does not accept correction from the likes of me.

Well, the message has been preached and posted. You can listen for yourself if you please.

So I listened to the message.

It was cute. It was trite. It was lame.

As he shared Bono’s testimony, he had to apologise for Bono’s “salty language” in the testimony. He said he could only judge by Bono’s fruit but then just about the only fruit he could come up with was that he was faithful in his marriage. Um… ok. That’s good.

To his credit, he did get the gospel in there. In fact, it was almost clear… if you assume he meant what I think he meant.

My beef

Here’s my beef.

Who cares what Bono is, says, or thinks? It doesn’t matter! It really doesn’t. Not even a little. Bono is irrelevant.

Yet the message was on Bono. The word of God hardly got a mention. He didn’t even make the token gesture of giving a text. He just openly admitted to the world that he’s speaking on Bono instead of preaching God’s word.


We live in a world that desperately needs the timeless truth of God’s word… note: God’s word… and our preachers get up and speak about Bono?! And all the while the sheep are starving to death as the shepherd indulges shamelessly in pop culture fads.

It’s an “are you for real?!” moment. Seriously.

Might as well say it

About now, you’re expecting me to give a flaming diatribe, so I might as well do it.

How dare you?! How dare you stand in God’s church and speak in God’s name and then talk about your own infatuation with pop culture?! How dare you?!

That’s flimsy. That’s shallow. You probably got most of your content by Googling some popular sites. Shame on you!

Get out your Bible. Pick a passage. Any passage. Dig into it. Don’t wait for “a word” from God. You have the word of God in front of you.

Read it! Study it! Explain it to your people! Then, when they understand it, explain it again. And again. And again.

That’s your job!

This is not optional. This is essential.

Why post this?

I have nothing personal against this guy. I hope he will have the wisdom to at least consider my critique in this format since he would not consider it in my previous format. But this is not for him. It is for others who sit under men like him.

Don’t play that game. Don’t sit around eating the rare crumbs that fall from your fad-engorged shepherds.

Get out. Find a church that preaches the word of God. Find a church that preaches it carefully. Then settle down there and feed sumptuously.

This man will give an account to his own master for what he did in his “preaching.” You will give account for what preaching you choose to put yourself under.

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About Jason Harris

Dr Jason Harris is a writer, pastor, and academic. He has authored multiple books, articles, and papers including his book Theological Meditations on the Gospel. Jason has a PhD from James Cook University as well as degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research. Jason has lived in Cairns, Australia since 2007 and serves as pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at jason@jasonharris.com.au.


  1. RoSeZ 5 November, 2009 at 6:31 am

    Very good post, Jay. It’s an interesting thought that we will also give account for the preaching we put ourselves under and settle for…I hadn’t considered that before…

    How true, though. Since God doesn’t allow us to pass blame in any other area of our lives, how can we expect that we’ll just be able to tell him, “Well God, it was my pastor’s fault that he didn’t preach the Word.”

    Thanks for sharing…

  2. Robert Apps 5 November, 2009 at 6:50 am

    Jason, I had a look at the links you posted though have not listened to the message. Do you think there is value even in leaving posts on those kind of websites?

    I saw the curt responses between you and the pastor and it seems that short of a face to face meeting, or extended dialogue, where you get to define terms (eg what is preaching the Word?… the place of topical messages) that sparks are always going to fly when 2 preachers with different paradigms of ministry engage like that. would you post again on sites like that?

  3. Jason Harris 5 November, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Well, I don’t think I would have left a comment if I’d have anticipated that response. Comment threads are, in the main, places where disagreement is allowed, even encouraged. I think this man revealed some serious similarities to a bad aspect of Fundamentalism when he chose to censor disagreement.

    Blog comment threads are designed to be a venue for extended dialogue.

  4. Gordon 5 November, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    We clearly have two preachers coming at things from different directions. I think a bit less of the
    “shepherd who indulges shamelessly in pop culture fads”;
    “person who gets most of your content by Googling some popular sites”; and “fad-engorged shepherd” – would have made your post sound a lot less like it was issued forth from Pharisee Central?

    Jesus taught a lot in parables, many of them using examples from the agrarian culture of the day to illustrate spiritual principles. To many people, using Bono to illustrate spiritual truths is highly relevant (obviously not conservative types).
    If this ‘fad engorged-shepherd’ engaged in this type of preaching on a weekly basis your overboard language might be fair, but it does a disservice to the balance of his ministry and therefore I think perhaps you didn’t think long enough before you wrote him off with such derision.

  5. James 5 November, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    I have to agree with Gordon here. If it was a weekly happening, which it is not, there would be cause for concern. Whether or not we like it a lot of Christians today are very connected TO pop culture. This is in my opinion simply a case of taking something (or someone) people know and then helping use that to connect the people with biblical principles.

    I am impressed that you at least listened to the sermon before writing it off but I have to disagree that it was lame. For me it was well balanced for what it was, a topical sermon on a man often attacked by the Christian church who, though not being your cookie cutter Christian, manages to say a lot about God and faith to a very large audience that would never come to any other form of faith meeting. This was used to apply some good biblical points that I think would encourage the flock to get out there and spend less time critiquing every man and his dog and more time loving people and helping them enter thr Kingdom of God.

  6. lumpy 5 November, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Jason, we need to get that air-con installed…….what are you going to be like when it gets really hot?

  7. RoSeZ 5 November, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    But the question is, why preach on a man who is – by his own personal admission – not right with God? If you want an example to follow of loving people and helping them enter the Kingdom of Heaven, why not use Christ Himself?

    Also, what’s the use of Bono saying a lot about God and faith to a very large audience if his actions scream louder of the lawlessness and worldliness of any other rock singer? I admit, God can glean fruit using anyone, but a backsliding Christian is just as likely to drag people down as be able to share the Gospel message and help them enter the kingdom of Heaven…

  8. Jason Harris 5 November, 2009 at 5:36 pm


    I appreciate your feedback. I have read his blog for about a year now so I think I have at least an idea of the general tenor of his ministry.

    Also, I wouldn’t have been all that concerned if he had used Bono as an illustration. He didn’t. His entire message was primarily about Bono, not Scripture.


    This wasn’t a topical sermon. A topical sermon addresses a topic using Scripture. This was a biographical sermon, only with almost no reference to Scripture.


    I personally am no fan of Bono, so I agree with your general point. But that is not the primary point I’m concerned with here. My great concern is that this was not the preaching of the Word of God. This was a guy talking about a pop star.

  9. Jason Harris 5 November, 2009 at 5:44 pm


    I’m all for that!

  10. James 5 November, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    I have just listened to the message again because I wanted to make sure that my initial reactions to it were still the same. I appreciate that Jason has taken the time to listen to this message before commenting. I trust RoSeZ has done the same?

    All I can say is if you listened to that message and ALL you heard was ‘Bono’ then I suggest you were not really listening. Perhaps you were already convinced in your mind what was going to be said you missed what was actually there? There is a section towards the start where the Pastor in question quotes an interview that Bono had a while back. In it he expressed his understanding of faith, grace and the like. Listening to that again I realised I myself could not have worded the way Grace works much better than Bono did. A clear, concise explanation of the gospel of grace.

    In that explanation Bono rejects Karma, a philosophy which has taken root in the world today. I could appreciate this and it would in my opinion connect with people in the congregation who previously had held to Karma. It would be an encouragement to be reminded of the GRACE they had discovered and how they’d been freed from Karma. It is in Bono’s words but it IS the Gospel being preached.

    U2’s songs are filled with Christian lyrics and metaphors which help break down barriers between ‘religiosity’ and true Christian faith in my opinion. I have spoken with people who are NOT Christians and have talked about U2 and their music in the PROCESS of sharing the gospel. Understanding how big U2 is in the secular world and utilising that to help spread the gospel is, in my opinion, a usual tool. Talking about Bono (and in extension U2) and hearing about his faith can help people in their sharing of the gospel, in my opinion.

    Another key point that the pastor in question raised is how Bono is known for his action, not just his words. His efforts to help reduce world poverty are very much driven by his faith in God. He is not someone who stands behind a pulpit each week and speaks but is someone that is known for working hard towards making a difference. He isn’t your ‘perfect Christian’ WHATEVER way you wish to measure him by, but then really who is? What IS known is he stands up on the worlds biggest stage and says ‘God wants us to help the poor’. This is gutsy and can be an inspiration to your normal pew sitter.

    And that’s it, a lot of this message was not about Bono but about encouraging us to get out there and share our beliefs. The Pastor talks about how when we do this, we WILL be criticised, we will be misunderstood. BUT that is just part and parcel in following Jesus.

    I guess ultimately we merely hold different opinions on what it means to ‘preach Jesus’. I like to think that Jesus message is more than just words in a book (a very important book though might I add) but are alive and can be seen all throughout creation. As Christians we ‘call out’ where the gospel exists in this world as a way of pointing people to Jesus. I believe that you can preach the gospel without having to quote scripture (as long as it still FITS with scripture) but I hesitantly guess you’d disagree here, and that is ok.

    I will give an example that is similar. If you go back and read the book of Esther would you say we learn ANYTHING about God and how he cares for us? How he makes plans to help us in times of need? Esther is a book full of meaning and depth and YET…not ONCE is God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit mentioned. The only reason we know it has anything to DO with the Christian God is because the key characters are Jews. But even without God expressly being spoken about we learn so much about his character, his love, his plan. Now if this was to be repeated throughout ALL of the books of the bible we’d be in trouble. If the pastor in question was to NEVER preach specifically on Jesus we’d be in trouble. Luckily…neither of these is true. And so I have to agree to disagree with you that this kind of sermon does not have a place in the church.

  11. Alen 5 November, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    I listened to the mp3. I don’t even know what he was trying to get at, first talking about the difficulties of the Christian life, then helping the poor and then lastly in closing a brief mention of Lazarus.

    You seem to be backtracking, James. At first you say that not preaching from scripture was okay once in a while but if it was a regular occurrence then it would be concerning. Why would it be concerning when you can ‘preach Jesus’ through ‘creation’?

    All your theology is based on special revelation, not the general revelation around you. You wouldn’t even know what the gospel is or be able to ‘call out the gospel from where it exists in this world’ without the Bible. I mean even to justify your stance that “Jesus message is more than just words in a book” you would need to rely on scripture to back up your claim like your doing using Esther.

    Therefore when we are before a congregation our only authority in our preaching is through the word. Why should I care if Bono does ‘X’? Why should I do likewise? Why should I care about the poor? Why should I care about what this motivational speech has to say? It’s just another guys opinion without any authority.

  12. Jason Harris 5 November, 2009 at 9:26 pm


    You are correct that at one point he quotes Bono’s rendition of the gospel and it’s almost clear. I say almost because there was some significant things that were not carefully defined and which the average person would probably hear differently than I hope he means it. But for what he said, I’m glad and I intended to give him credit on that score.

    As far as feeding the poor, while it has a definite place in ministry, frankly, it’s easy to get people stirred up about feeding the poor. It is the cross of Christ that is offensive and I just don’t see that as the message of Bono’s life.

    That said, my issue was not and is not Bono’s faith or testimony. He may be genuinely a believer and I’m sure he’s getting a lot more than me done in many areas. But my issue is what it means to stand in the pulpit and proclaim the Word of God.

    Paul told Timothy to “preach the Word.” That is the preacher’s mission. We speak in the place of God. We do not give our ideas. We give God’s. We do not try to convince people of our right to speak. We speak with authority because it is God’s Word we speak.

    There is a place for giving our thoughts and opinions on things, but in the place of preaching is not that place. I think Alen put it well.

    Grace to you.

  13. James 5 November, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    I take your point Jason. I myself probably would approach the idea of speaking differently and would focus more on using Bono as an illustration rather than the main focus, however I do still feel it can and does have a place. I’ve listened a few times and do feel he preaches the word, just not as directly as I suppose some would desire. Fair call on that.

    Different paradigms, different idea’s, same faith. Blessings to you.

  14. Robert Apps 6 November, 2009 at 7:57 am

    I say lumpy puts in Jason’s air con asap

  15. Gordon 6 November, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Jason I think you mistake what the preacher in question writes in his blog for real life. A genuine understanding of his week to week faithfulness in the Gospel can only be seen by people who are there week in week out. What we decide to put on our blogs can range from the trivial to the complex, the light hearted to the heavy. Blogs are often an escape from one dimension of communication and into another.

    I have no doubt that the preacher in question is as committed to the Gospel as you are. On a related topic: The Apostle Paul covered the issue of what to do with meat dedicated to false gods. The crux of that issue was the different approaches of conscience that believers have to certain things ‘of the world’. (That’s not a value judgement on Bono). Paul felt a freedom that shocked others.

    You (and others) clearly don’t want to touch Bono with a barge pole, this preacher does. It’s a matter of conscience and you are as free as this preacher is to take your particular position, but not to denigrate the other.
    My primary issue with Bono is that he wears sunglasses inside…..

  16. Jason Harris 6 November, 2009 at 10:02 am


    I’m sure this guy does do a lot of things better than he did this. My concern in this is not Bono. It’s not even the gospel. My concern in this is what it means to preach.

    The word which is most often translated “preach” is kerusso. It means to proclaim with authority. The only way we can do that is to do what Paul actually instructed Timothy which is to preach the Word.

    A preacher has no authority for his thoughts on Bono or any other topic. His authority comes straight from the Word of God. This is what Luther grasped so well and we must grasp it too.

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