Craft of Preaching

Columnist

Field notes from preachers you trust -- Nathan Aaseng, Patricia Tull and others.

Above the Ambient Noise

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Do you ever get the impression that preaching is a dying art and that we who stand in the pulpit are dinosaurs who have yet to come to grips with our impending extinction?

Yes, there are times when I can practically hear the old calcium fossilizing as I crank out another sermon.

The sermon is in peril because people today are bombarded by so many voices. I heard recently that the average person today processes more information in one day than the average person in the Middle Ages did in an entire lifetime.

A single voice proclaiming from a pulpit could make a huge impact on a person in the Middle Ages. Now it seems to take fireworks and screeching at the top of one's lungs to even register above the ambient noise.

Most of the voices that bombard the world today blast out information,  opinions, and even lies  in slickly packaged, consumer group-tested bites that are far more accessible, technologically advanced, and easily digestible than the dusty old sermon.

In so many ways, the preacher is a horse-and-buggy driver trying to compete on the NASCAR circuit.

I don't know what will happen to the sermon in years to come. I don't even know what should happen, at least as far as form. Maybe effective preaching will eventually take the form of blogs, or morph into some social networking framework.

But I do know this. Preaching matters more today than ever, and in whatever form it takes, it will continue to matter.

This is true because we live in a time when gap between rich and the poor grows ever larger. It's no wonder, really. Who but the rich and powerful, with the means to slickly package and consumer-test their message, with access to the levers of government and broadcast, and the money to exploit the available technology can break through the ambient noise?

Increasingly, the message getting through the noise, the one that is taking hold is that it's all about the bottom line. It's all about getting mine. It's all about maximizing profits. It's all about competing and looking out for number one. We can't afford compassion. We can't afford to take care of the most vulnerable in our society.

The voices of the poor, the powerless, and the downtrodden cannot compete with this. They cannot be heard above the din. Increasingly, the poor and the powerless have no voice in our world. In such a world, peace is not possible.
Jesus came to proclaim good news to the poor, the powerless, and the downtrodden. To speak for those who have no voice.

As the voices of the poor, the powerless, and afflicted are silenced by the clamor of those with louder and more compelling voices, who will take up this task? Who will speak for them? Who will proclaim good news to the poor, the powerless, and the downtrodden?
As disciples of Jesus, our task is clear.

Yes, it's on you, disciple of Jesus. It's on you, preacher. You have never been more desperately needed than you are today.

Preach it, brother and sister! Proclaim the Gospel with every ounce of passion and skill and creativity that you can muster. For while our voices may not be as strong or as influential as they once were, at least we still have a voice.

Use it in the service of our Lord, and let the Spirit flow. And may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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