Posts tagged ‘Preaching’

March 13, 2013

Preach it!

mcluhan2The first Christian sermon was delivered by Peter on the day the church began.  But with the pace of technological change and the various ways that we get information in this era, could there be an end in store for preaching?  I don’t think so – and this post says why.

Ever heard the expression, “the medium is the message”?  It’s a quote from academic Marshall McLuhan (pictured) who started using it in 1964.  This is the concept that he was trying to get across: a medium affects people not only by the content delivered, but also by the nature of the medium itself.

That is a pretty difficult concept.  Here’s that sentence again – a medium affects people not only by the content delivered, but also by the nature of the medium itself.  So if the medium is, for example, television, then the mere fact that a message is delivered by a TV show (especially if it is on a commercial channel) means that it might be regarded as entertainment rather than education.  It does not matter what the content of the show is – the mere fact that it is a TV show affects what people think of it.  Don’t get hung up on my TV example – the point is that the medium does affect the message.  In my opinion McLuhan is making a quite profound point.

Here’s another idea, one that I have heard stated by various Christian leaders over the years – “the message never changes but the way that we deliver it does.”  At one level that is clearly true – that you are reading this blog post makes the point.  No Christians in the 18th century had blogs.  But people in the 18th century could read the bible and publish their thoughts about it, just like Catherine and I do here.

But on another level it conflicts with McLuhan’s insight that the medium is the message.  One of the peculiarities of the Christian faith is that it has been spread primarily by preaching from the day that the church was born all the way to the present day.  This Sunday the vast majority of Protestant churches on every continent will feature preaching as the centrepiece of their meeting.  In the West, where technology is most advanced, it is just the same.

Last year at Hillsong conference they routinely had a multimedia presentation in the late morning time slot, usually lasting about 45 minutes.  It was well made – I could not complain about the production quality, the sound, or any technical detail.  But it just did not inspire.  If I never saw anther one again I would have no complaint.  I found myself sitting there wishing that it would end and that someone would get up and start preaching.

I think that the medium of preaching contains a message in and of itself.  Even if the preacher manages to say nothing good at all, the mere fact that a sermon is delivered in a Christian church service says that:

  • What we are doing today is a continuation of what the Christian church has done for centuries, so if you buy into this you are buying into these      traditions;
  • The subject matter that we are dealing with is so important that we devote a 30 minute talk to it, and only very serious subjects get that sort of      treatment;
  • The truth that we are talking about here is not up for discussion – what the      preacher says is what we believe and we don’t enter into correspondence      about the truth.

The medium is the message, and the medium of preaching is here to stay.  In the US there are numerous Christian television channels, and there is no lack of ministries that have the resources to produce good quality Christian TV.  Yet most of what you find on Christian TV is people preaching.  Here’s my tip – no matter where technology goes that won’t change.


April 4, 2012

Pentecostal Preaching

I first became a Christian at age 12, through the Christian group that met in my High School.  It was 1986.  That group was really my first church.  I then got involved at my local Anglican Church –St Paul’s Castle Hill, in Sydney.

Then an interesting turn of events occurred that saw me end up in a Pentecostal Bible College in 1992, my first year out of school.  After I moved to Melbourne in 1997 I have only ever attended Pentecostal churches, and that is certainly where my future lies.

That diverse background has made a profound impression on me.  Pentecostals and Sydney Anglicans believe 98% the same stuff but the differences in personality and practice are massive.  One of the differences is the style of preaching.

Anglican preaching usually consists of a passage being followed through in a systematic way, with precision and discipline. With definitely no shouting.

Pentecostal preaching often takes a passage as a starting point and then wanders into various places that may or may not have much to do with what the passage read at the start is about.  It’s all usually done with great enthusiasm as well. You may think that this is a criticism but I making a point – God could have told us how he wanted his word preached.  He chose not to.  I further note that Jesus, God made flesh, did a lot of preaching and he mostly told stories from his imagination to make the points that he wanted to make.

One of the peculiar parts of Pentecostal preaching is the use of maxims or proverbs.  I don’t mean Proverbs as in the book in the bible; I mean short sayings that make a point.  In literature the proper name for this is an “aphorism” which is “a concise statement containing a subjective truth or observation cleverly and pithily written.”  Here are some examples from a recent sermon that I took notes of on my iphone –

  •  Stay in your season until your season is done with you, not until you are done with it.
  • Sometimes you don’t understand how important the beginning is until you arrive at the finish.
  • God  uses your setback for someone else’s comeback.
  • The measure of our emptiness determines the measure that we can be filled.
  • The  suddenly’s of God come with change.

All of those are from the one sermon.  Some of them don’t make much sense without the context they were used in.  But for me the use of maxims and proverbs is one of the most charming and helpful things about Pentecostal preaching.

One other that I heard recently that I liked was (speaking of adversity), “It’s not the stuff you go through, it’s how you go through the stuff.”

What about you?  Have you heard any goods ones recently?  What do you like / dislike about the way people preach?


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