On Not Blogging About Bad Preaching
Every now and there‚Äôs a topic I want to blog about, but can‚Äôt quite fashion into a good blogpost. About three weeks ago I wrote something on bad preaching, using examples I have heard to make a humourous point. It was very funny, but too cruel. It has been revised twice and both times, it […]
Every now and there‚Äôs a topic I want to blog about, but can‚Äôt quite fashion into a good blogpost. About three weeks ago I wrote something on bad preaching, using examples I have heard to make a humourous point. It was very funny, but too cruel. It has been revised twice and both times, it didn‚Äôt feel right. So, I decided to drop the examples all together and just make the point.
We need to rethink preaching. We live in an age of unparalleled education and whilst most people‚Äôs capacity to absorb and sift information is growing, the depth and content of a lot of preaching is shrinking. Ministers need to stop underestimating the ability of their congregants to process complex ideas. Congregants need to help ministers understand the creative ways that information can be presented today. We are all in this together.
By now you are probably wishing I had included the jokes and funny anecdotes. But the fact is, I‚Äôm tired of the ‚Äúsay something negative to make a positive point‚Äù approach. Christian discourse has too many cheap laughs, too many pot shots at the unarmed. We all hear bad sermons – what can we do about it?
I was interested to read Jonny Baker‚Äôs piece on preaching, Throwing a Hand Grenade in the Fruit Bowl (pdf download). In particular I liked the ideas clustered around remixing the sermon. We can start by asking what is the function of a sermon in the context of worship, in the context of the church‚Äôs mission and then consider how we could fulfill that function with our current technologies.
Instead of homiletics, how about homitechnics?
By that I don‚Äôt mean doing a powerpoint presentation! I‚Äôve blogged a little on that in the past and there is a lot more to come when I review Edward Tufte‚Äôs new book, Beautiful Evidence next week.
The idea of remixing the content is a powerful one. What if we start to think of the ‚Äúpreacher‚Äôs‚Äù role as being content provider? Let me give an example.
When I was at Gordon Baptist Church, myself and Heath Smith, the youth pastor, set up a team to coordinate the evening services, call the sub. Officially, it was the sub-committee of the Worship committee, but of course, the sub had a more immediate meaning, subversion. The problem we had was typical of programmatic small churches. A preacher, a worship leader and a music director, not a lot of creative ministries and unclear communications. We tried to bring more planning, more people, more spark and more risk into the process.
Each service was to have a ‚Äústory‚Äù (thanks Heath, you taught me a lot with that!), with various elements pulling together. A big part of creating that story was having the core content of the ‚Äúsermons‚Äù (we used panel discussions, dramas and a few other things in place of traditional sermons at times) available to the team ahead of time. The story of the service then developed as the choice of songs, arrangements, dramatic presentations, artwork, handouts and other elements were chosen and fine-tuned together. Often, the sermons themselves would evolve in different ways as a result of this creative process.
What I learnt was that the members of the sub, the worship leaders and in fact most people involved grew through the process of creating content and presentation elements. In one sense, the core ideas were still with the pastoral team (for those thinking about leadership and authority questions), but on the other hand the final content and presentation was something all-together more fluid, dynamic and compelling.
Oh and it was a lot of fun. I have never laughed and smiled so much in behind the scenes church meetings!
Coming back to the point, it was remixing the content – saying here is the what we need to discuss, to consider, to learn, lets work with it. It created community through participation and creativity. It also embodied a lot of the ideas in today‚Äôs piece from Garr Reynold’s excellent Presentation Zen blog(looks like The Corner and Tensegrities are reading that blog as well!). It was as Daniel Pink says, ‚Äúhigh concept, high touch.‚Äù
‚ÄúHigh concept involves the capacity to detect patterns and opportunities, to create artistic and emotional beauty, to craft a satisfying narrative….High touch involves the ability to empathize with others, to understand the subtleties of human interaction…”
I encourage you to take a look at the summary six aptitudes of good presenters as outlined on Presentation Zen. They embody a lot of what I learnt from the experience with that team at Gordon and a lot of what I have tried to do in other contexts as well. The also give us a really helpful typopology to think further on this issue.
We can do a lot to fulfill the function of preaching in new and fresh ways, but it takes risk, hard-work, play and the willingness to let go of control about the final product. If we can accept that, I believe we can all do amazing things.
[tags] Homiletics, Homitechnics, Preaching [/tags]