Tuesday, April 21, 2009

10 innovations in preaching

it's always struck me as odd how innovative we are in liturgy and/or music, but how staid we are in our oratory. to be fair, more than almost anything else, good oratory rises and falls on the connection of the speaker to the people - whether through charisma, persuasion, rhetoric, or illustration - but, there are a few things that most of us could try but don't.

here's a few that've worked out pretty well for me at the winds, back in my old college group, and/or in some of the other venues in which i've taught over the years. i don't use them all the time, but we i them all from time-to-time and it keeps things fresh.

#1 - team teach a sermon...sometimes people get deaf to one voice, so mixing it up is a good option. i like an A-B-A structure with the more familiar voice on either end, to ground the teaching for the people.

#2 - teach through sermon series based on a metaphor. this is a distinctly different approach than a series based off a tv show or a biblical book. find a metaphor that truthfully teaches a biblical concept and then unpack that metaphor each week. one the first week explain the metaphor, and every subsequent week go deeper and deeper into the biblical theology that makes the metaphor sound. by referring back to the metaphor, the "top-shelf" theology becomes really understandable for normal folks (instead of just bible geeks). a good example of this was our recent series at the winds called sin monkey (sinmonkey.info) where we said that everytime you sin it's like you've brought a pet monkey home to your house, and that monkey destroys all your stuff...so everyone needs to kill the monkey and fix their furniture (i.e. stop sinning and make restitution) in order to make things right.

#3 - create a teaching atlas...take some time and prepare all your sermons in manuscript form in advance of the series you'll be teaching on. add some original artwork (use deviantart.com or istockphoto.com if you're not "artsy"), some q&a (for any satellites/bible studies), and maybe some illustrations (to connect with right brained folk). it's a beastly amount of work, but a VERY useful tool.

#4 - create a cobblestone translation of a biblical book while teaching through that book...a cobblestone is a mashup of as many different english translations as possible. so 1.1 might be from NIV, while 1.2 is from ESV or NKJV etc. to make it all thread together well, do a little homework (with the NIV commentary series, for starters, if not something more substantial) and pick key terms and phrases that you translate personally and use everytime that phrase/word is used in the text. this is a fantastic way to dive deeply into the text, become familiar with the emphasis of all the english translations quickly, and have a little fun. i encourage our people to do one of their own, too, though maybe with only 3-4 versions (whereas i usually use 15+). note: please do not try and pass off your cobblestone as "just as good" as another translation...there are a lot of interpretational rules we're bending here, but provided we treat this as a devotional tool those rules really aren't too problematic.

#5 - use twitter more creatively than just for q&a...questions are cool, but other - cooler - versions of twitter use include an official "note-taker" or "quote-taker" that everyone call follow and copy, a silent reading guide that takes everyone through a guided meditation following the sermon, personal reflections from you (the teacher) after the sermon describing how you feel and what you sense God saying to you right then (in service, perhaps while the song following the teaching is still playing), etc. of course, all of this could be done privately (via iphones and pcs) or publicly (through screens and projections or tvs, etc), but i suggest that the broadcast medium be given equal consideration as the interactivity. my friend Jvo has some good ideas on twitter here.

#6 - break up the teaching into 5-8min segments....after all, not everyone connects well with oratory, so break it up into a few chunks and allow folks to digest morsels instead of meals. also, consider doing each part of the talk from a different location, with different lighting, and utilizing a different teaching technique - exegesis, metaphor, illustration, anecdote, etc.

#7 - have a scribe...this has become a more popular idea lately, but often it's too business-like. a scribe is someone who will artistically interpret what you're saying through illustrating relationships + keywords + main ideas + fantastic imaginings and implications. on a so-so day this looks like arrows and globes and cartoons, but in the bad-assest of worlds this includes new art, charcoal, live photoshop or livesync (as of yet to be tried at the winds), and something new and intriguing being brought into the world.

#8 - use a dancing partner/VJ...have someone mounted on motion dive or arkaos VJ finding and displaying google images, captured vids, etc and posting them while you teach. this can be distracting to thinkers but engaging for artists, so i'd suggest limiting the presentation to half or 1/3 of your screens and giving a kind of warning. the best experiences i've had with this have involved a sizeable chunk of preparation and someone i trust at the helm.

#9 - instead of using powerpoint (yuk) for displaying your notes/slides, have someone make a microsite in flash (get resources here) and use a little new cleverness in your design.

#10 - use a soundtrack...Jvo did a cool talk once where he went out and mined the soundtracks of famous films and timed their entry into his sermon. it was a cool way to connect people emotionally with the message and it was a lot of fun (and a lot of work)

#11 - use a video for which you are the narrator...we've all used video as an illustration, but here i'm referring to a film that's made specifically for you to talk over. get some stock film from istockvideo.com or barnafilms.com and create a landscape over which you can speak a mood or tone. this is a great backdrop for scripture readings, especially the prophetic pieces from the major prophets.

#12 - preach through an original story you've written/told...like cs lewis or jrr tolkien, use fiction to illustrate a point that may be too difficult to understand literally, or too tired to understand in a fresh way. for example, the same-old explanations for how the trinity works only get you so far...so why not write a story about a dance or something to bring new life into eternal theology?

#13 - bring in a guest for an interview via phone or skype...sometimes a friendly voice via cell phone can help illustrate something cool that you want to unpack in a new way. call a friend (whom you've prepped for this) and ask them your questions over the phone. let everyone listen in to their response.

#14 - preach through a lens...like wesley's reason: tradition: scripture: experience, or the four medieval lenses of literal: metaphorical: analogical: anagogical as a way to unpack the many layers of meaning in robust pieces of the word

#15 - use fictional stories (that you have NOT written) with which people are unfamiliar...i've used terry brooks' "sword of shannara," tokien's "children of hurin," and george rr martin's "song of ice and fire" as cool ways to re-contextualize the movement of the spirit in and around us. be careful not to canonize fiction, but be intentional about showing people godsigns in the culture when they show up. lots of preachers do this with popular tv shows, but i always feel like that's cheap and dirty...expose people to something unfamiliar and provocative, and see what happens when you do this wisely.

#16 - argue with historical personages...imagine a conversation with plato or aristotle or confucius concerning your teaching. study them and hypothesize their responses to christ - this is a good way to engage the thinkers.

...ok - that was more than 10 - but so many other things in life overpromise and underdeliver, i thought i'd add a few bonuses in case you thought some examples sucked.



1 comment:

  1. Inclusion or Exclusion!

    Some people have an Idea that God is inclusive for mans eternal destiny, that all religions and all people will be saved. That God will allow all of mankind to enter into heaven because everybody is good so God must be fair and include everyone! It is true God does love the whole world but God is exclusive about mans eternal destiny without the Savior. To keep this simple man has a problem called sin in which man refuses to believe that there are eternal consequences for having sin, which is a one way ticket to hell. God is holy and he will not allow anyone with sin to enter into heaven. God is hurt and angry about our sin, we have broken his laws. But God is just and good and he knows our need so he provided a solution to our problem. His solution to our problem is to have our sins removed by having our sins placed on someone else, a sacrifice for us; paying for the penalty of the sin we have in our lives. So that someone else would get the penalty of Gods wrath and separation on him that was meant for us. So God sent his son Jesus on a mission from heaven to earth as our sacrifice to die on the cross on our behalf after this happened three days later Jesus came back from the dead, alive. But that’s not all remember I wrote that God is exclusive about mans eternal destiny without the Savior? The only way that Gods promise can be applied to your life is for you to turn from your way of thinking and know that your sin offends and hurts God and call on the Lord Jesus who’s alive to save you. Your sins are then transferred to Jesus for what he did at the cross, dying and being abandon by God because of your sins, for you and because Jesus arose from the dead he is alive you can now enter into a relationship with God. Will you call out to Jesus to save you? It’s your choice to enter in exclusively with God’s grace for you. Where will you want to spend eternity after hearing Gods promise for you?
    If the answer was yes that you do want Jesus as your sin bearer, Savior, and you do believe God raised Jesus from the dead you can pray with your voice.

    “Dear Lord Jesus save me.”

    Acts 20:21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.