Stop what you are doing right now and listen to this. Or this. Or this. Honestly, these stories could change your life.
People rarely say that about sermons.
Church Consultants have been saying for years now that standing up in a pulpit and preaching a sermon is passe. We are a visual people. We like multi-media presentations. We have short attention spans.
Even screens don’t always help.
Churches are finding that, even if our preachers are entertaining, charismatic, and silver-tongued, people still will not “come to church.” Sermon, by definition, equals boring to most of the world.
A Pastor Nominating Committee, in considering their idea of a dream pastor recently, described “good preacher” in their job description. But then someone asked, “What do you mean by that?” For some a good preacher is entertaining. For others a good preacher is bookish. For others a good preacher moves and inspires.
We can’t even agree on what makes a good sermon.
So why do thousands of people clamor to watch TED Talks (Ideas Worth Spreading)? Why do people so love The Moth (True Stories Told Live)? Why is Chicago Ideas Week increasingly popular in the Windy City? And why do people subscribe to podcasts?
(Some of our favorite podcasts are actually sermons.)
If listening to sermons in church is on the decline, why are live story-telling and live idea sharing on the rise? I’m not talking about collaborative conversation here; I’m talking about people who will pay thousands of dollars (TED Talks) to hear interesting people stand up and talk about what’s on their mind. There are increasingly people who will pay good money to attend Moth Story Slams and Pecha Kuchas.
Why are sermons not like other ‘talks’?
- Are church buildings intimidating? Do they scream “intolerance” or “irrelevance“?
- Does “going to church” feel like too much of a commitment when going to a story slam feels like an easy in and out?
- Do we prefer to pick our own topics?
- Do preachers sound fake?
- Do high pulpits give the impression that preachers believe we are superior, while stages with spotlights are clearly just for the accoustics?
I wrote a doctoral project years ago about preaching as group spiritual direction and I continue to see how the very act of preaching has shifted from Dogmatic Teaching to Spiritual Reflection intended to be discussed in community. But I also want to discuss what I hear from Brene Brown and Eboo Patel.
Can you help me dissect all this? (Thanks.)
Images clockwise from top left: Brene Brown, Rose George, Sarah Jones, Peter Sagal, . None of them are preachers.