No matter how good a preacher or Bible teacher you may be, no matter how seriously you take the task of preparation and presentation—in the back of your mind, it is difficult not to have this haunting, nagging thought that you are competing for the minds of your hearers; competing against the polished news anchor person, the hip music video producer, and the New York ad agency. Compared to what Hollywood is producing, the simple preached gospel can start to seem very archaic, very out-of-touch, very boring.
What makes it even worse is the proliferation of Christian television programming, where Johnny (or Janie) Hair-Do does something similar to preaching on much nicer platform than yours and with lots of slick video production. It is tempting to think that we are up against that, and therefore must do something on par with what they are doing, or at least something that competes with them in order to grab people’s attention, and to keep people’s attention long enough to teach them something.
So in reaction, lots of Christian pastors and churches make efforts to sweeten the impact of their message with all sorts of technological whizbangery, movie clips, drama, interviews, light shows, professionally performed music and so on (you know what I’m talking about). I believe that many of these churches are sincerely hoping that they can package the gospel in such a way that it will be heard and accepted by a generation that is saturated with special-effects-laden movies and over-produced pop music and frenetic television advertising. When we respond negatively to those sorts of things we sound really funny, really out of touch and horribly anti-evangelical.
Therefore our response has to go deeper than the fact that we don’t particularly care for synchronized interpretive hula hoop dance teams, or whatever the entertainment of the day happens to be. And when people in our congregations wonder why we don’t do those sorts of things, and when we have the tingling temptation that maybe people would respond better if we showed movie clips during our sermons, we need to have a better response than “we just don’t do that.”
You see, the reason that this kind of pandering to whims of the culture is not helpful and is in many cases downright dangerous is that beneath all of this there is the underlying suspicion that the preaching of the gospel is insufficient on its own. We think it needs lots of propping up. It needs lots of decoration. It needs lots of pageantry, because all by itself it is just dry and dull. That’s the underlying assumption.
We have a fundamental lack of confidence in the spoken word of God.