19th September 2012
Rev Dr Peter Davis spoke about preaching after Christendom at the 2012 ACC conference (Adelaide September 15). His Powerpoint overview is attached here (slide show read-only).
In considering the context, Peter asks the question 'How can preachers best communicate in a world like this?' He also outlined some of the reasons given for the Crisis in Preaching.
1. The Emergence of Postmodernity
Some people locate the source of crisis within culture impact of postmodernism has raised significant challenges for preachers.
2. Distrust of Words
Profound distrust of human speech within the wider culture at the same time as humanity is bombarded with diverse forms of communication there is a deep mistrust of words. Talk is commonly perceived as being cheap.
Words are also associated in people's experience with parochial morality on the one hand and the fast-talking television preacher on the other. People are sceptical of both. How can anyone regard words as a means of grace in a world like this?
3. Overemphasis on the Personality of the Preacher
A focus on the person of the preacher, in particular an over-emphasis on the personality of the preacher has led to an overemphasis on the preacher's part in preaching and a devaluing of God's activity in human speech.
4. Too Cognitive
Our Western tendency is to communicate cognitively rather than in forms that are creative and holistic.
5. The 'Hearer' has Changed
If the late 19th and early 20th century focussed on the personality of the preacher, the last 50 years have seen a turn to the listener - the measure of a ‘good' sermon now resides with the hearer not with the preacher or in the academy.
6. New Technology
The communications revolution changed the way congregations hear and process sermons in past five decades from print culture to an electronic culture. People process information in largely visual ways. in Contemporary communication, with its computer-based technologies, is shaped by the convergence of multiple media forms (visual, audio and print). It relies on the ability of people to quickly and affordably produce their own multimedia communications and the ability of contemporary hearers to rapidly process information and respond to multiple stimuli concurrently. Preachers frequently feel under-resourced and inadequately trained to communicate in a highly competitive environment.
7. Ambiguous Place of God
In what way can the preacher speak an authentic word? Is the sermon simply an act of human speech or can we speak of preaching as divine speech as well? Alan Walker said that: ‘preaching is not just speaking or lecturing, but daring to proclaim a message in the name and with the authority of Jesus Christ.'
But the idea that human beings might express the mind of God in their own speech appears both audacious and worrisome - today for many it seems presumptuous to argue that preaching is part of God's action in history.
8. Biblical Interpretation
Some people believe that insufficient consideration is given to the Bible, focussing instead on the needs and problems of human situations. The last five decades have seen an enormous amount of work on new theories of preaching: for example the work of Fred Craddock, David Buttrick & Eugene Lowry to name just a few. It's been exciting time with much change exploring new models and alternative approaches.