The new church is still in the conceptualization phase, and so I’m taking the time to consider what unquestioned habits in everyday church life were developed when communication, city life and transportation were very much different than they are today. Habits which, however loved, make less sense in a church getting started.
The conspicuous and central Protestant sermon is one of these. It made sense in a education- and resource-poor (and frankly, entertainment-poor) age, but if I held forth for twenty minutes or more every Sunday, I expect to be regularly challenged (perhaps mentally, and in an unspoken way) by people who would Google for facts during my oratory. Another option is to take the high-flown or superstar route, but that so often leads to a lack of substance. For those who can manage extraordinary weekly preaching with integrity, at what opportunity cost? (It’s worth remembering that colonial preachers exchanged far more than ministers today, and I’m sure time management for preparing sermons was a part of the calculus.)
At the same time I thought about that fossil: the pastor’s printed book of sermons. I can hardly think of a printed genre that goes staler, and I hope its age is past. But it did make me think of the future. It might make sense for a minister to preach briefly — tightly, eloquently, perhaps around a single point — to the “live congregation” and have it spelled out later in another way. Not print necessarily, but perhaps a podcast or video, or forgoing these perhaps a live event more in common with an interview or discussion than fighting with hymns and prayers for attention.