Preaching in the Digital Era: Options, Choices, and Methods of Feedback

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Smith, Stephen Bradley
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Digital preaching , Media landscape , Oral preaching , Dramatic presentations as preaching , Video preaching , Use of media in preaching , University of the South , School of Theology thesis 2013 , School of Theology, University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee
In an era of rapidly changing and expanding media options, the way we communicate in the United States is going through. Meanwhile, in the midst of this digital age preaching remains largely an exclusively oral medium. This project will examine options for integrating media options into the task of preaching. It will present a four-fold methodology to help a preacher move beyond his or her current limits of style and content. First, a written project will describe the cultural context and the congregational context in which we find ourselves. With material from Shane Hipps, Tony Jones, Fred Craddock, Dianna Butler Bass, and Walter Ong, I will examine the rapidly changing media landscape in which we find ourselves and the ways in which it may affect the task of preaching. Citing Hipps, Reuel Howe, Dianna Butler Bass, and Craddock, I will look at how this changing media landscape impacts the congregational context of preaching (i.e., how preaching takes place in a community, not just as the task of the preacher alone). In the second section I will present options. I will list and describe the forms of oral preaching delineated by Wesley Allen, Jr. I will cite the work of Thomas Troeger and Edward Everding on appealing to multiple intelligences. I’ll provide excerpts from interviews with Tony Jones, Shane Hipps and a fellow preacher Paul St. Germain that describe how they undertake the preaching process. I will offer options for dramatic presentations as sermons from Tom Long and Friends of the Groom drama troupe, and present some suggestions from fellow preacher George Glazier who occasionally uses what he calls “the offering plate sermon.” In the third section I will describe the congregational context in which I serve, and how it has developed into a community where a number of these options are put into practice. Not only will I offer a brief history of that movement, but I will also provide quotes from a videotaped feedback session with a select, multi-generational group from the congregation. I will also provide an internet link to the complete video. In the final section I will present three sets of sermons. In each set the first sermon is from a previous era of my ministry and found in text/oral form. The second sermon in each set reflects on the same lessons but utilizes some form of media other than just the spoken word. In this section I will describe the intent and reason for the uses of extra media and provide comments (received by email) from the same feedback group in section three. The emails will provide feedback as to whether or not the introduction of additional media actually made a difference in hearing the message of the Gospel. In conclusion, I will offer a summary of the effect of rapidly changing media on preaching from the perspective of my congregational context and the means by which a preacher may respond.