Some seminaries went as far as teaching how to gaze upward, hold hands firmly in the air, make a Power Stance, and – in some cases – eliminate all traces of “distracting accents.” It was not unusual for someone to speak one way in a pulpit and another way in regular conversation.
Maybe this still happens in some 21st Century seminaries. But while fewer people are interested in listening to traditional sermons (according to assorted church attendance studies), live storytelling slams and radio shows are booming in popularity. I, for one, listen to This American Life, StoryCorps, Radiolab, and The Moth podcasts faithfully every week, and I’m not the only one.
They have become the sermons that inform my life and stir me spiritually.
Ira Glass – called “the most influential speaker” here utters kind of a nasally, imperfect sound. The great Sarah Vowell has a playful voice with which she speaks hugely informative and entertaining tales about U.S. history. They do not sound like polished (insert certain famous-ish seminary name here) graduates, but I could listen to either of them all day.
This excellent article speaks to why 20th Century Preaching is not as well-received in these days of “slangy approachability” and “confessional tones.”
So imagine this: a trained professional pastor (if we must have one) sets up a real person’s story with The Story from scripture. If I’m the preacher, I read from one of Paul’s letters or a Minor Prophet’s warnings or a poetic Wisdom piece or one of Jesus’ parables. And then someone tells “a true story told live” in The Moth‘s parlance.
I’m in. How about you?
Ira Glass says it best: “Any story hits you harder if the person delivering it doesn’t sound like a news robot but, in fact, sounds like a real person having the reactions a real person would.” Amen.
PS – Ira Glass? Sarah Vowell? Yes. I am a stereotype.