aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Performing without a net

The guy running the microphones and overhead screens asked if I had any visuals yesterday. I hadn't prepared any, so he said, "We'll just have a low-tech Sunday, then." We even had to sing from the Hymnal. Imagine.

Anyway, I told him, "You know, if you went to see a performance of Stand-up at a theater, you'd pay upwards of fifty bucks just to watch some guy walking around a bare stage, talking. What that shows is that if you're good, you don't need any special effects."

I also told him that I am part of the last generation of preachers to be trained to preach without microphones. Not every church had them when I started in the mid-1970s. For that matter, there were still churches that didn't have air conditioning. (Or indoor plumbing.) But I digress.

Now, I could make up slides to show while I preach. I know how to use blackboards, posters, and whatnot, and such things can add great value to a presentation. But I see a lot of preachers today who don't know how to preach without gimmickry. It shows up -- shows them up -- sometimes, especially when they show a brief video clip as part of their sermon. Even a few seconds of video from TV or a movie show what really well-done production by talented, professional communicators can achieve. And when the clip is over and we return to the preacher, what we notice is how diminished the guy (or gal) standing up there talking now seems, in comparison to those who really know how to hold our attention.

Jonathan Edwards' sermons are known for their vivid and emotion-laden imagery. People swooned and cried out in conviction of their sins when he preached. What students of preaching often fail to realize is that the near-sighted Edwards read his sermons from a full manuscript that he had to hold up to his face while simultaneously holding a lantern or candle to read them by. I'll bet he read them in a monotone, too. Yes, how you deliver the words matters. But it's the Word that is of prime importance; if you let the Word be obscured by technical jiggery-pokery (or anything else), you have failed.

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