Future of the Sermon Topic of CMU Church in
Is the sermon dead?
|Dr. Tom Long
People might be wondering that today, considering all the new ways people get
information and entertainment —the Internet, TV, video games, Ipods and a hundred
other ways. In this world of fast-paced stimulations and distractions, is
preaching the best way to communicate today? Or is it time to declare the death
of the sermon?
“I don’t think so,” says Thomas Long, Professor of Preaching at Candler
School of Theology in Atlanta, GA, and keynote speaker at the January 14-15,
2008 Church in Ministry Seminars at CMU. “But I do think that preachers
have to work more creatively to get a hearing. There was a time when people were
attuned to getting their information from the human voice. Preachers could
assume that congregations were at least ready to hear them if they did a good
job of preaching. But that’s not true anymore.”
According to Long, “people today get their information more randomly and
episodically. There’s no plot line to their world. People’s attention is so
fragmented, and so attracted by a burst of energy there, a burst of energy here,
that making any sense of the whole is a difficult task.”
Long says that preachers today need to recognize this new reality by changing
the way they preach.
“It’s not possible today to preach a traditional sermon with a narrative plot
that has sequential sections,” he says. “If somebody quits in an early section,
the whole thing is lost.”
|Dr. Dan Epp-Tiessen
Long’s current thinking is that he will “no longer start with sentence one
and assume a continuity of listening through to the end of the sermon. I think
of my sermons in terms of chunks. For each section, I want to be sure to give
the congregation the information they need to listen to what I am saying and be
able to use it.”
While at CMU, Long will be speaking on the topics, “Engaging the Biblical
Text in Preaching,” “Engaging the Hearers in Preaching” and “Preaching in a
Windstorm—Speaking the Gospel in Today’s Culture.”
In addition to Long, Dan Epp-Tiessen and other CMU faculty will be offering
workshops and clinics on sermon-related topics at the Seminar, which is titled
The Witness of Preaching.
“Sermons need to be lively, engaging, and not drag on” if they are to capture
and hold the attention of the congregation today says Epp-Tiessen, who teaches
homiletics—the art of preaching—at CMU.
Preachers also “need to use language and images that are vivid and lively and
that gets people’s minds and imaginations going,” he adds.
Both Long and Epp-Tiessen think the sermon plays an important role today. “I
believe that a carefully thought-through sermon has the potential to move people
and help them hear God’s voice,” says Epp-Tiessen. Adds Long: “The community of
faith . . . is sustained by hearing the voice of God speaking to it. A sermon is
a word of God for these people on this day. The preacher stands with one foot in
the congregation and the other in scripture and says: ‘This is what I hear God
saying this to us in this moment.’”
Cost of the Church in Ministry Seminars is $125, before Dec. 15.
Click here for more
information or to register.
Posted November 3, 2007
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