Against Preaching: Preaching In A Media-Saturated Culture

This post is part of The Disciple Making Preacher series. This series attempts to answer those who are against preaching and to propose that preaching is an irreplaceable means of disciple making in the church today.

The prophets of doom in today’s Church are confidently predicting that the day of preaching is over. It is a dying art, they say, an outmoded form of communication, ‘an echo from an abandoned past’. John Stott

Modern forms of communication have had a profound effect on preaching, preachers, and parishioners today.

Some preachers have shortened their messages to cater to the dwindling attention spans of their people. Others have supplemented their sermons with video clips and other visual aids in preaching.

But perhaps worst of all, there are those who have decided that preaching is completely outdated and must be replaced altogether. While supplementing a sermon with video or drama on occasion is not inherently bad, supplanting the sermon completely is a big problem.

A Media-Saturated Problem

The average American watches nearly 5 hours of video each day on TV’s, phones, and computers according to the latest Nielsen Cross-Platform Report.

The average YouTube video is 2 to 3 minutes. Most hour long TV shows might have 6 or 7 commercial breaks.

Hollywood movies have even found a mathematical formula that lets them match the effects of their shots to the attention spans of their audiences.

The Disciple-Making Preacher

Preaching is under attack.

Many have already abandoned preaching for newer, more trendy methods. Others have decided that Jesus and the apostles never preached the way we preach today. Still others have problems with authority. Finally, there are some who simply have never heard a good sermon or have never delivered one themselves and have concluded that sermons are ineffective in the church.

Some have not only abandoned preaching but have made it their mission to preach an anti-preaching message. They constantly oppose the straw man preacher who hides behind a pulpit and delivers a boring 30 minute monologue to a disinterested congregation.

This assault on preaching leads us to carefully consider the following questions:

What is the goal of preaching?”

“Is preaching still a helpful means of making disciples?”

“What are the features of a disciple making sermon?”

“How do we respond to those who have abandoned preaching?”

5 Responses to the Anti-authoritarian Mood Against Preaching

This post is part of The Disciple Making Preacher series. This series attempts to answer those who are against preaching and to propose that preaching is an irreplaceable means of disciple making in the church today.

Some wisdom from the late John Stott (27 April 1921 – 27 July 2011) on responding to the anti-authoritarian mood against preaching:

The prophets of doom in today’s Church are confidently predicting that the day of preaching is over. It is a dying art, they say, an outmoded form of communication, ‘an echo from an abandoned past’. Not only have modern media superseded it, but it is incompatible with the modern mood.

What is the anti-authoritarian mood against preaching?

Seldom if ever in its long history has the world witnessed such a self-conscious revolt against authority. Not that the phenomenon of protest and rebellion is new.

What seems new today, however, is both the world-wide scale of the revolt and the philosophical arguments with which it is sometimes buttressed…All the accepted authorities (family, school, university, State, Church, Bible, Pope, God) are being challenged.

Stott gives 5 responses to the anti-authority mood against preaching:

7 Reasons Why You’ve Never Made A Disciple

Jesus tells His disciples to make disciples. That’s our mission. But apparently, only 1 in 20 Christians has even shared the Gospel.

Less than that will ever lead someone to Christ.

Less than that will ever invest time in leading that new disciple toward Christlikeness?

What are we to make of so few disciples actually making disciples? If you’ve never made a disciple (or haven’t in a long time) there are at least 7 factors that might be contributing to your disciple making slump.

You aren’t obeying

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

What you can do: Confess your disobedience and ask God to equip you to become a disciple-making disciple. Remember, it’s in the context of the Great Commission that Jesus says, “I am with you always…” (What else? – Read this post on The Mission of the Church)

How to Effectively Plan Sermons

I’m currently developing a workflow for my sermon preparation and thought I would share my plan here. I’ve always had a pretty good informal system for sermon preparation but I am wanting to become more effective and consistent. This post is kind of a ‘note to self’ but perhaps others will get something out of it. I would love to hear your ideas as well.

Step #1 Gather Relevant Information [ongoing]

Before even developing a workflow for sermon preparation, it’s important to pray and think about the needs of the congregation and spend time listening to God. Are there specific themes or deficiencies in the body that need to be addressed? Is God giving you a message that has become a “fire burning in your heart” that you can no longer hold in? (See Jeremiah 20:9)

Keep an ongoing journal or a computer file of ideas for series, titles, illustrations, insights, etc.

What topics and books of the Bible have already been preached in recent months/years? It’s good to have some sort of spreadsheet that includes sermon text, topic, main idea and any illustrations used so that you don’t keep preaching the same thing over and over. The idea is to “declare the whole plan of God” (See Acts 20:27)

Are there other resources that could be useful here like a church-wide survey or a discussion with others in leadership?

Does the Holy Spirit Speak Through My NIV?

I recently had an interesting conversation with someone named Dan about the value of exegesis and the role of the Holy Spirit in helping us understand God’s Word. I made the argument that faithfully studying the context, author, purpose, audience, and even the languages can help us to more fully understand a text. This doesn’t negate the role of the Holy Spirit in illuminating the words on the page but I think these language and contextual tools are helpful.

Dan said,

I agree that there is certainly value in studying the original language and historical aspects of a text, but I would lean toward those being nonessential, because ultimately The Bible is nothing but words without God’s Spirit working in the heart of the reader/hearer.”

I wouldn’t say they are nonessential. I would even say that they are essential because without them we wouldn’t even have an English translation. Further, I would say that the more questions we ask of a text and the more we can use cultural and contextual and linguistic tools to help us answer them, the more faithful we are as students of the Word.

When we get a letter in the mail it’s helpful to know the author, the recipient(s), the subject, the purpose, etc. Why wouldn’t we also employ what we know about a biblical text to help us more fully understand the message? Especially since that text is from a culture years removed from ours today. There is a lot of insight that can be gleaned just from doing 5 minutes of research from a commentary or with a word study. Again, no seminary education necessary just a healthy desire to meditate on and study God’s Word.