Summary: Preach the timeless Gospel with modern techniques
This lesson is designed to encourage preachers to be innovative and culturally relevant, to be a Greek to the Greek (1 Corinthians 9:20).
Jesus' preaching was innovative and different than the usual preaching in the synagogues of his day. Throughout church history art has been used in many novel ways to preach or illustrate the Gospel. Originality is not just a 21st century concept, but a very old idea. Creativity finds its origins with God, Creator of all things.
On the other hand, innovation ought to be limited to how to preach, not what to preach. Novel doctrines are dangerous and often lead into apostasy, heresy and cultism. However, innovation in the presentation of the timeless truths of Christianity is perfectly acceptable and even recommended. The Gospel never changes. The way we present it does. We must continually find ways to be a Greek to the Greek, and a relevant 21st century preacher to 21st century people. Same meat: different sandwich. Same Gospel: different times.
We will discuss a number of sermon techniques that have been used sometimes successfully and sometimes not so successfully, depending on their cultural context, a preacher's personality and talent, and how patient or spiritually mature a congregation is.
A word of caution is in order. Not every church is ready for a change. A friend of mine told me about over a hundred people leaving his church because they added a contemporary service for the young. A few hundred years ago, organ music was considered sinful, because that was the music played in bars and houses of ill repute. Guess what they played before organ music. Yes, they played on stringed instruments. Today, organ music has been out of date for a long, long time. In some churches, introducing innovative preaching may require small steps, while in others it would have been good to have begun a long time ago.
1. Visual Innovations
Because our generation is so geared towards visual entertainment, digital television, computers and video gaming, it is wise not to neglect that in preaching. On the other hand, someone who sits in front of a computer all week, may not want to sit in front of a screen at church too. It's a judgment call. Not every church needs the video projector and the animated, audio-adrenaline-rush of Presentation software. Sometimes, those unskilled at using Presentation software are actually worse off, being overly distracted by each frame when it is not working well. And audiences can be so distracted by a slick audio-video animation that they actually almost totally miss the message. Of course visual innovation can be many things, such as: -
Bring in a live sheep or other small animal to illustrate a biblical point (put down water-proof plastic and straw to protect the floor).
Give the church an assignment during the week to be reported on by various ones the next week.
Show a short 3 minute film.
Use presentation software or old fashioned slides or overheads for visual impact of important points.
2. Audio Innovations
Our generation is spoiled by excellent quality surround-sound systems with earth-shaking subwoofers, and music that is full-bodied and attention-grabbing. Not every church can afford to go with the latest and greatest sound equipment, but if we are to be considered relevant, we need to think about this area. Yet audio equipment is not the only way to reach people through their ears. Some ways to be innovative in the area of audio are: -
Have a talented person sing a relevant song as special music in the middle of your sermon.
Play a brief audio presentation.
3. Tactile Innovations
Many people learn best by being able to touch things or be actively occupied. They need that hands-on experience or be physically involved in some other way. Here are a few ideas: -
Have people stand when they answer yes or no for a particular question.
Hand out small objects such as leaves, balloons or small bundles of wheat as an illustration.
Send people outside to gather evidence that God exists.
Do skits, pantomimes or puppet shows. The script does not have to be memorized, but people can dress up if they want.
Hand out surveys or even blank cards for people to fill in with ideas.
Hand out an envelope with a secret message inside.
Hand out a quiz.
3. Interactive Innovations
Because many people today spend so much time in front of a computer and a TV, actual human interaction is lacking in some people's lives. One of the few times of the week that people actually spend time in face to face human interaction, may be at church services. Here are a few ideas: -
Have the congregation break up into small groups to discuss an issue, and perhaps even have a representative of each group verbalize their consensus or give the preacher a written summary. It is important that the preacher does not monopolize the session, but gives the congregation plenty of time for genuine interaction. Keep the preacher's summary to a few short minutes at the end.