This has me thinking about streams of ‘information’…
As Stacy explains," “How could I compete, with an hour of a sermon on Sunday, with a person who was committing hours and hours to media and information on YouTube and Facebook?”
In particular, Stacy noted that the younger members of his congregation were dialed into one stream of information and the older members were tied into another one.
But as for me and my tribe, we are connected to trustworthy, reliable sources of information online.
[ This one is esp. good. ]
But back to information… I’m wrestling with the thought of the sermon as a source of ‘information’. I’m not opposed to it being that, but I suppose I’m worried if it’s approached only as that. I mean, I hear Stacy’s frustration and lament with him. He and many other preacher-proclaimers are living examples of the difficulty of living and breathing/speaking into a world saturated by content…or noise, mostly. Peoples’ attentions are often directed elsewhere. And when their attention is on the sermon, what are they hearing? How are they (how am I??) approaching it?
Sometimes I think we can approach Sunday worship as just another place where information is disseminated. So we come in, consume (whether actively or passively), then move on to the next piece of content. For people who desire wisdom – and, as Christians, we are taught to desire wisdom! – the pitfall can be to consume more and more in order to plot the wisest course of action. And church somehow becomes lumped in with the rest of the streams of information…becoming little more than a place of intellectual stimulation.
But that’s part of your point, isn’t it…that church is a relational community, not just a social or philosophical club. We commit to one another as we individually and collectively commit to Christ and His work in the world. Thus, an online community would need what the church community needs: thoughtful, gracious engagement/participation. Continuing to pray that this space will facilitate that!
So I’ve always heard of the sermon as a transformational encounter with God and his word through the Spirit-empowered proclamation of the preacher. I believe this to be true - whether or not anyone listening does.
However, increasingly I see preachers thinking about the sermon as a kind of TED talk. There’s wisdom to be gained about how to communicate from secular sources - I’m not opposed to that at all.
And also, we see people vote with their feet - we choose a church based on which one has the ‘best’ talks on Sunday morning. Again, understandable and reasonable.
I think it’s a tension, not a black-and-white either-or. In our context, is the sermon a message from God? If so, how are we as a church community engaging with it, and each other, and most importantly, with God? It seems to me that whether it is in a small group setting or an online context, the critical piece is that we actively think through it and make a resolution about how we will apply it to our lives - and follow through on that resolution.