Years ago I read a book with a catchy title, and I vowed that I would never be one of the people it spoke about. The book title was The Seven Last Words of the Church: We Never Did it That Way Before. It spoke of the need for innovation – and of the resistance to it. I was sure that I would never be guilty of becoming set in my ways; after all I was in my mid twenties, hip to all things current and new and I would always be willing to investigate trends and new ideas. Then came my thirties, and forties – and fifties.
I lost a bit of the zip for the new. I became comfortable and then resistant. Here is the thing: I know that the Preacher of Ecclesiastes was a bit of a moping kill joy, but he was right when he said: 1:9 “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.” Truth is never new. Presentation methods can change, but only in the sense that changing resources make different techniques available. Sounds a bit complicated? Let me illustrate. When Jesus conducted His ministry, He used visuals:
Luke 12:27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
John 4:35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!
We say ‘Let me show you this video clip’ because we can’t glance over our shoulder to point out lilies or wheat fields. We don’t pull children up into our laps to talk about the joy of the Kingdom of God, nor do we point out fig trees to make our point. But we do use visual tools – they are just technology based.
Jesus launched out in a boat to speak to take advantage of the slope of the bank to create a natural amphitheater and He taught on a hillside to enable His voice to carry. Preachers of the 17th and 18th centuries used highly elevated pulpits for vocal projection. We use microphones and sound systems. The methods have evolved, but the idea is old.
In the past sermons were written down, reproduced in the pages of the Bible or in book form, and dispersed for the edification of those who were not there to hear the original delivery. Jonathan Edwards’ ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’ is probably the most famous sermon ever preached on America soil. We have it because it was preserved for us. If you desire, you can go to youtube.com and find reenactments of the entire sermon – we can hear and see it again. We can go to Godtube.com and find Louie Giglio’s message on laminin and see that it has been view over 1 million times! So we started with writing sermons down on broken pieces of pottery in the Old Testament era, moved to writing on vellum and paper, to reproducing messages on film, to broadcasting Billy Graham over the airwaves, to now throwing vast amounts of Christian material into cyberspace. The methods have evolved, but the Message has remained the same. So we better keep doing it with every evolving method like MemberHub, Facebook, and RightNowMedia.com, or we are going to be less effective for the Kingdom.