Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

January 29, 2012


Preaching today involves much more than the spoken word


      Preaching presents an interesting challenge these days.  Less than a hundred years ago it was not uncommon for a preacher to pound the pulpit for two hours or more.  But that does not work today.  A generation brought up on the sound bites of television has a limited attention span. Image has become more important than substance. People who are satisfied with a few words and a couple of pictures are no longer willing to listen patiently to a long sermon.

      So today’s preacher resorts to the use of visual images on a screen plus platform scenery linked to a sermon that consumes about 30 minutes. A cross, two candles and a vase of flowers are no longer enough.

An example is what we have been doing at our church for several weeks. Our lead pastor and I have been preaching on the theme, “Giant Slayers.” Each Sunday we focus on one of the spiritual “giants” that seek to destroy us in the common battles of life. Thus far we have offered biblical help to people in their fight with the giants of fear, family, finances, and failure. Our scriptural basis for the sermons has been the story in First Samuel of David slaying the Philistine giant named Goliath.

One good thing about this new plan is that it brings many new people to the table. Each week many creative people work hard to design scenes for the stage or pulpit area that capture the essence of the pastor’s message. These scenes utilize lights, curtains and art work. All of this is done in an effort to communicate the gospel through the eye as well as the ear.  A creative worship design team can greatly strengthen the impact of the preacher’s sermon. And the team can share the joy of reaching people with a message that speaks to the real needs of people.

 What we call “contemporary worship” has become more popular today than “traditional worship” though most churches recognize the need for both forms. But traditional worship today is much different from traditional worship a generation ago. Nowadays traditional worship usually employs the effective use of a screen that enables people to see as well as hear what the preacher is saying. This increases significantly the capacity of the listener’s memory.

Music is a huge element of meaningful worship. It helps us to sing our faith and it helps even more to sing with gusto. Instruments play a larger role in worship now. In years past a worship service might have utilized only a piano or an organ. Now the use of both piano and organ – and other instruments as well – help worshipers to enjoy praising the Lord. A spirited choir makes a huge difference in the quality of any worship service. And I like having soloists added to the mix especially when the singer sings with heart and soul as well as the voice. Singing together strengthens and encourages believers.

Though I am an old man I welcome the innovations that younger people have brought to worship. Within reason we should use every method we can find to convey the good news to hurting people. The one thing we should never forget is that though the methods may change, the message does not. The stage may look different, sometimes strange to old eyes, but the message of God’s redeeming love must remain the focus of the sermon. If the preacher begins chasing rabbits in his preaching, it will not matter how beautifully the platform is decorated. + + +