Sunday, September 6, 2009

Glory in the cross

Paul wanted the focus of his preaching to be the cross of Christ. To that end, he made sure that he didn't employ the pop-wisdom and oratorical flourishes that attracted audiences and built reputations in his time (1 Cor 1:17; 2:1; Gal 6:14).

Would it be reasonable to equate Corinthian pop-wisdom and oratorical flourishes with the media production values being prescribed for today's pulpits? Is it to be the lights of Broadway or the light that shines brighter and brighter until the perfect day (Prov 4:18), which enlightens the narrow way (Matt 7:13-14), the only way to truth and life (John 14:6; Acts 4:12)?


  1. It seems reasonable to say that Jesus used powerful wisdom as He preached and used "word pictures" and "stories of life" and "contemporary" illustrations to concisely and clearly make His point. He was the glorious Son of God/Son of man and His words and methods (eating or healing on the Sabbath) challenged the status quo of the religious leaders of His day. If He were on earth today (in person) I think He would use our modern technology and probably include video clips to reach the maximum audience with His Father's love message. It is highly doubtful that He would turn the electricity off and not have heated or air conditioned buildings simply to maintain the status quo of the conditions of the first century. It is improbable that He would expect us to wear "robes" and sandals as that generation did. Holding on to the traditions of men was one thing He did not practice. His use of technology would be as anointed as His use of words and "the Word." Spotlights and flood lights have illuminated thousands of sanctuary platforms for many years simply to focus attention on the speaker and messenger. There might be some who are taking technology to the extreme but I am far more concerned with the "message being proclaimed" than the setting with or without technological enhancements. Since He said we are "the light" in the world, we must shine His light and love into the darkness wherever it is.

    I prefer to process these "media productions" (as you describe them in light of Gamaliel's wisdom and insight from Acts 5.

    33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed them: "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

    Consider those last two verse carefully. Stay busy preaching and be happy.

  2. I am worried that sound-biting the Gospel perverts it, that de-wording it in favor images could actually be violating the second commandment, and that what's driving a lot of this is "itching ears" not hungry hearts.

  3. I understand the concern but I also know that people learn using all their senses. I use graphics to illustrate the Word not take the place of the Word. While in Bible College and Seminary I was told that people learn more if they not only hear it, but see it, write it and say it/do it. The matter of the "itching ears" can and does happen with or without graphics or images used in any sermon. And I instruct the saints to "self-feed" on the Word and good books, but many in our culture do not read or dislike reading. I can impact and feed some of these people with sight and sound and Holy Spirit anointed messages that edify, exhort and comfort. The abuse of visual aids so the proclamation becomes entertainment is possible but the Gamaliel principle still fits: if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail, but if it is from God, you and I will not be able to stop it and we will find ourselves fighting against God.

  4. Raymond, I can see your point about illustrating the sermon visually when possible. Indeed, it makes me think of the drama that some prophets incorporated into their message. Hosea's marriage to a prostitute--now that was dramatic! Ezekiel's skits about divine judgment on Jerusalem (Ezek 4-5).

    Nonetheless, Marshall McLuhan did seem to be dead on when he talked about the medium being the message; we can't afford the naive idea that medium is neutral. An extreme form of that is idolatry. Even if you call it YHWH, a golden calf is still an idol.