Preaching: Lessons from a Digital Age


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1/2 hour session for 'Preaching and Teaching in the 21st Century', with Fresh Expressions and CODEC, St John's, Durham University (1st March 2014)

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  • This is how I started a piece for CofE Research & Church Growth Unit – picked up a lot of interest: Where people are looking – if want to connect – really important to be seeking to connect with them – WHERE THEY ARE LOOKING/SPENDING TIME…
  • Could take the debate into the question of ‘presence’ and the need for embodiment, etc. … but please do that over the break! What we’re really concerned with here is the notion that what happens online is not something that is just “virtual” – it’s real – people connected to the computer through their fingers, online affects offline, (particularly within a local context). Seeing as ‘virtual’ makes it easier to dismiss, whereas if we understand it’s real, and a part of whole (many no longer see something as ‘technology’ any more than a pen is…) Pope Benedict XVI put it this way (2013):  The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young. Social networks are the result of human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of communication, which builds relationships: a considered understanding of this environment is therefore a prerequisite for a significant presence there.
  • Not seeing it as marketing, but as ourselves, and our congregations to live ‘authentic lives’ where share full community…
  • Note – this responsibility doesn’t have to sit with the Minister, but needs support/active involvement… needs to be thought of as an intrinsic part of any communication, strategy… seeing what you are doing as part of whole life of community, same as preaching is part of whole picture of church…
  • Relationships/networks…. If I share something on my own page – far more likely to pick up comments than if it’s on BB’s page… The ‘digital age’ brings the opportunity for a wider range of voices to contribute to conversations: many online will engage with ‘church’ through their friends rather than formal Christian organisations or formal church leadership.
  • Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side (education has also been battling with very similar questions) – we have got used to the broadcast age, model of passive-presentation based services .. (jokes about 3 points in a sermon – indicates however has become formulaic – so does formulaic means successful?) Members of the congregation physically present can engage with sermons through tweeting along, checking something on their online Bibles or Google, sharing photos of church activities, or reflecting upon the sermon with live blogging (something that many have done for years in paper journals). Moreover, digital communication allows for communication with those we cannot speak to already. It allows us to break out of the same old voices feeding into our worship. Guest speakers can be invited from all over the world (using tools such as Skype); the housebound can be invited to both enjoy and participate in church services (using tools such as live streaming). People can request and be offered prayer, whenever and wherever it is needed, notices can be texted out, offerings given through digital banking, and share the fullness of discipleship living through all kinds of media. (From forthcoming conference paper - ECSM, July 2014)
  • (p44)Where traditional preaching models involve a consistent content specific message delivered by asingle speaker, Pagitt suggests that with progressional dialogue “the message will change depending on who is present and who says what. This kind of preaching is dynamic in the sense that the outcome is determined on the spot by the participants.”
  • Here – reiterate some of what I’ve said … and a contribution I made (90 seconds requested on Mark 4, along with a range of other voices – no direction except – something it means to you!) … make use of the technology that people have available to them…
  • Can do it more formally … with e.g. webcasts – can allow ongoing conversations
  • Livestream/webcast, etc… those who miss it can see it live (or podcast) – see 100+ views from that morning’s service, not including those who watched live…NOTE: We don't need to sit through the average or mediocre sermons anymore, either. The number of views and shares, tweets and likes, let us select the best, most dynamic, most beloved, preaching available. Note legal requirement to provide an area that’s clearly marked as camera-free… (this particular one used to be even more interactive, with a chat box – now just broadcasts, but can talk on Twitter?)
  • We’re very geographically concerned, but accept global nature of sermons – often been given in a sense that there is a ‘group knowing’… how accept that anyone could be watching (and may be ex-members of congregation, but not necessarily)
  • If are going to do this, think about helping congregation understand why, and have someone who’s a bit of a champion for this! 2 mins from KathrynWhy might they want to/not want to tweet about church? Recognise the assumptions that you might be making about them? What might encourage ‘engagement’ that’s more than a like…
  • As a result of these, people get involved in conversation – with similar on FB, had 3 people ask to come to church… but this requires that churches = GIVE PERSMISSION = encourage people to participate digitally BUT never force…
  • Richard Littledale – experimenting with using FB, etc. to collect ideas, and after the sermon to keep the conversation going… from own congregation, but social media also makes it easier to collaboratively develop sermon material (e.g. if are ‘sermon banks’ … does it save time on sermon prep, giving time for other aspects of engagement, etc.). Have heard of others who encourage sermon preparation in social spaces – e.g. cafes … some are transferring this to the digital café? Not just 'better sermons' but increased engagement, richer insights into lives. Think also – learning to write material that ‘competes’ with millions of other blogs … learn to write in a more enticing style?
  • Not about marketing results, but do want to ensure that are listening and meeting the needs of people … careful balance!
  • Preaching: Lessons from a Digital Age

    1. 1. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Preaching: Lessons from a Digital Age Dr Bex Lewis Research Fellow in Social Media and Online Learning, CODEC g-lessons-from-a-digital-age for
    2. 2. hurchgrowth/growing_churches_in_the_di gital_age • For many churchgoing is no longer the ‘cultural norm’. People don’t actively ignore the church: they don’t even think about it. Matthew 5:13-16 calls us to be salt and light in the world, and for thousands in the ‘digital age’, that world includes social networks such Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest. With literally billions in the digital spaces, the online social spaces presented by churches need to be appealing, welcoming, and not look like they are just an afterthought: they are now effectively the ‘front door’ to your church for digital users, and you ignore those spaces at your peril.
    3. 3. REAL/VIRTUAL
    4. 4. • We are not selling something to the world that will make more people like us, believe in our story, join our churches. We are trying to be something in the world that invites connection and compassion, encourages comfort and healing for those in need, and challenges those in power to use that power in the service of justice and love • (Drescher, 127)
    5. 5. Image Credit: Purchased Stockfresh Social Media: More than the cherry on the cake!
    6. 6. Image Credit: Purchased Stockfresh Networks of Networks
    8. 8. Matt O’Reilly (2010) • Shane Hipps writes from within the Emergent movement and favors a dialogical preaching form which closely resembles that advocated by Pagitt. The Emergent worship scene described by Hipps includes a pastor who “periodically shares a Bible verse and a few brief thoughts, eliciting dialogue and feedback but being careful not to exude an aura of too much authority.” • m_Hearing_The_Scandal_of_Preaching_in_a_Digital_Ag e_
    9. 9. pmM02IE6oI
    10. 10. GLOBAL EXPERTS
    11. 11. nsdownebaptist/featured
    12. 12. John Wesley “I look upon the world as my parish.”
    14. 14. Sermon Soundbites
    15. 15. Is Using an iPad in preaching unholy? • …If I am a true priest, I can be so with a telephone in my hand, with a Bible in the other and I can be so with a newspaper under my arm, because it isn’t these instruments that speak alone, but our faith which is made of flesh and which speaks to the flesh; that is why my flesh will be the true synthesis. • • Digital Preparation Tools: • 5/digital-sermon-prep/
    16. 16. ar-salesmen-preachers-and-the-art-ofpersuasion/ • I loved working up a sermon in the lead up to giving it. Researching, looking at what others had to say on the topic, piecing together thoughts, looking for illustrations and examples (tangents) and then practicing giving it and making the last minute tweaks and additions in the day before Sunday arrived. •
    17. 17. ew-church-small-sermon-longsermon/ • The conspicuous and central Protestant sermon is one of these. It made sense in a educationand resource-poor (and frankly, entertainmentpoor) 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.
    18. 18. ee/belief/2010/dec/08/preaching-takingpulse • It's a sermon, not a lecture. Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles was praised for leaving the pulpit to "walk about in front of the altar as he spoke, looking in all directions so as to include everyone". • That was fine, but too much departure from traditional delivery into flat-out entertainment plays badly. One pastor "came over more like a stand-up act than a preacher", said an unhappy Mystery Worshipper. "Not that I didn't appreciate his message, but in terms of content it was light as air, like the froth on a cappuccino.
    19. 19. Connecting via The Feedback Loop • By posting my sermons online, I can get much more feedback than I can after church on a Sunday morning. People can leave comments on the sermon blog itself (though, like most blogs, this is rare). I get statistics about how many people read each post, so I can tell what resonates. I also share my sermon on both my Facebook profile and the church page. This is where I get most of my feedback. The likes, comments, and messages (or lack thereof) give me an indication about how I’ve connected, or not. •
    20. 20. TALK LENGTH… • We also saw that, contrary to popular wisdom about what goes viral, neither “difficult” subjects nor fact-filled presentations scare people off. Nearly 20% of the people who watched a deep dive into American health care policy thought it was worth passing along to their friends. A powerful historical video of a teacher giving her young students a firsthand lesson in bigotry was viewed more than 3 million times. And four of the posts in the top 100 were about the important (but thoroughly unsexy) topic of income inequality. the-most-upworthy-topics-of-2013
    21. 21. inistry-tools/main/18801-are-my-sermonsmaking-a-difference • "The digital age isn’t killing off preaching, but what the survey suggests is that too much preaching is doing too little to motivate people to look at the world differently and therefore live in it differently," said Paul Johns, a director at the College of Preachers. "If that’s so, we have to question what we preachers are actually saying about the Bible and about contemporary issues, and how well we’re engaging with our congregations."
    22. 22. RESOURCES:
    23. 23. QUESTIONS?