“Distracted” is an interesting choice of terms to describe our culture. I say that it is interesting because this word normally carries the connotation of failing to focus on something upon which one had implicitly or explicitly agreed to focus.
For example, when two people are engaging in an intimate conversation there is an unspoken agreement between them that they will give the other their undivided attention. If one of them fails to meet this obligation of politeness he will apologize by explaining that he was distracted.
The problem with preaching in our contemporary culture is that no consensus exists about the appropriate subject of our focus. Historically, the practice of preaching has depended heavily on the assumption that God deserves our attention. Such an assumption can no longer be safely held. Thus, our culture is more disoriented than distracted.
In the face of such a culture, perhaps the greatest temptation of preaching is to recognize such disorientation and to alter accordingly. The prevailing wisdom calls this relevance; I call it surrender.
The problem with this approach is that preaching becomes just as disoriented as culture, because it agrees that there is no central focus around which our lives ought to rightfully revolve. In such an understanding, man no longer exists to glorify God. Rather, we are not sure why man exists, but we do know that we like to be entertained, and we find it useful to do what we can to make each other kinder and more highly functional while we are here.
Thus preaching devolves into an endless attempt to keep up with what people want to hear, what is amusing to them, and what topic is of immediate interest. That is, preaching becomes just one more distraction competing with many others.
In response to such a situation the faithful preacher must refuse to agree to the tacit assumption of modernity that the other concerns of life are more important than God. The pastor must be deeply formed in the classic disciplines of the Christian faith so that his life will not be disoriented. He must be correctly oriented if he would serve as a guide to a lost culture.
The pastor must be “distracted” with God.
– excerpt from Preaching in an Age of Distraction by J. Ellsworth Kalas