Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

April 5, 2009


 Preachers need more than a strong voice to preach effectively


          Some dogs are no longer trained in “obedience” schools. Trainers now use a new technique. They use “praise” to train dogs. They praise the dog before asking him to perform a trick, and then praise him after he has done it. The praise plan works with old as well as young dogs.  

          To know that old dogs can learn new tricks is encouraging. Daily I feel the challenge to learn new ways of doing things or risk being left behind. Pardon the pun but I am doggedly determined to keep up. I don’t want to live in the past. Whether it is a Blackberry or an IPod, I want to learn how to use it.

          New discoveries change our thinking. As recently as 1930, uranium was listed in textbooks as a useless element. Then scientists learned they had been wrong. Textbooks had to be rewritten.

          Modern technology is constantly changing the way things are done in almost every arena. That is certainly true of the arena I know best, that of preaching. The way people listen to sermons has changed dramatically in my lifetime. The day is past when a strong voice is all a preacher needs to communicate the gospel effectively.

          When I began preaching in 1950 the “sound system” was the preacher’s lungs. Very few churches were equipped with a microphone and an amplifier. The preacher who did not learn to project his voice was simply not effective in preaching to a large audience.

          Sound systems soon became standard equipment in churches. This made it possible to turn up the volume so the preacher could be heard. And it made it unnecessary for preachers to shout as loud as they had in the past. But sound systems only made sermons more audible, not more interesting.

          Some preachers have learned how to use the latest technology to help them communicate. They still use their voice to preach the message, but they also use video clips, PowerPoint, music, light, and other visual aids to help the audience “see” the sermon.

          The first time I saw this done by a preacher, I realized that technology was changing the methodology of preaching. Not the message but the method. Television has changed the way people listen. Only the finest orator can hold the attention of an audience in our time for twenty minutes. Now people want to experience the message visually as well as hear it.   

          While people retain only a small portion of what they hear, they retain much more of the content of what they both see and hear. That being true, the wise preacher will find ways to use new technology to enhance the effectiveness of his preaching. The preachers who resist this change may find it harder to compete with those who embrace this new methodology.  

          If farmers can learn how to use a satellite to track their milk cows, then preachers can learn how to utilize modern technology to communicate the faith in more exciting ways. We could give up for Lent doing things the way we have always done them. Perhaps some of the folks who went to sleep during our verbose sermons will come back to church. + + +