What about media at the pulpit?

This morning, I was reading a response to Piper’s thoughts on the use of drama and movie clips in preaching.

I’ve thought about this a bit before from time to time. It isn’t something that I think is easy to pin down in detail in words alone. If I head to make an educated guess about how Christ would respond if He was physically roaming the earth and teaching us through His life and in parables, I don’t think He’d directly answer this question, but rather say something to turn the question on its head and get us all reflecting upon our heart motives beneath whatever side of the coin we fall on.

Clearly, I think it’s safe to say we do run the risk of dumming down a message if we are not careful in the way we use media at the pulpit. I can recall one seeker service I went to years ago that was more like a concert…that left me unsettled personally, but I don’t think that means you can never draw upon contemporary examples from media in preaching.

One ‘problem’ we face perhaps in making interpretations today is that when Paul was drawing upon common knowledge for his audiences in the churches, it was philosophies and literature that He was referring to. There is some research that seems to suggest that we read less now and view things instead and that average folks have less of a common knowledge of classic texts, literature, and philosophy. It’s been replaced with popular interpretations that skim the surface of these deeper works. So, how far can that new application be taken? It seems that the false philosophies people are drinking in are often viewed now rather than read, or that if they are read, it is by the means of some technological device. To what lengths can we go to reach the masses without diminishing the gospel?

Piper supports drama, but indicates he wants it separate from the pulpit. Well, what value then, does drama have? What are the boundaries around the use and purpose of drama? Can it have any meaningful impact on our spiritual growth?

Admittedly, I can personally take several steps back from these questions and say that I believe that drama has had a significant, life-changing effect on some of the people at my church. Drama isn’t the medium that reaches me most. I like words. I like books. I’d rather read than watch TV or play around on the net. However, increasingly, I’m in the minority on this and even in the context of the church. Again, how much should we stretch out to where people are at to draw them in?

Friends, this is a tough question from my perspective. I don’t want to detract from the power of the Word itself and the work of the Spirit. Yet, I don’t think I’m in a position to declare that churches are doing a second rate job at the pulpit if they use media. I think some of them are, but not all of them.

I also think that there is something to be said for the difference between ministering to spiritual babes and the spiritually mature. This looks different at times when it is being done effectively. One size fits all ministry at a church won’t work that well unless everyone is on the same page. New Testament churches appear to have had people with a variety of gifts and spiritual knowledge, depth, and maturity. Our churches will, too.

These are just a few thoughts that I consider.

Do you have further thoughts or considerations?


Resources to peruse

As I was skimming the July/August 09 issue of Books & Culture, I came across a few items worth looking into:

This Momentary Marriage/ John Piper

I read the excerpt on Amazon and this book looks wonderful. It really reminds us to see marriage from God’s perspective. Marriage is intended to bring God the glory and to point people to Him. (I have a couple of weddings to attend in August and was hoping to find a good book or two to include as part of my wedding gift.) Check this out! I hope to order a copy for the library sometime soon.

Earthen vessels: Hopeful reflections on the work and future of theological schools/ Daniel Aleshire

This book addresses the work and value of theological schools. I also read the blurb on this and thought it would be worth at least skimming. Sometimes even when we are contributing to something we believe in, we can benefit from the reminder that it is, in fact, changing lives.


Has anyone else heard of this? It is an effort to respond to the reality that many children spend a lot of time watching television, studies have indicated a decline in Christian youth staying committed to their faith post high school, and that there is a growing gap in the entertainment industry between very expensive media to YouTube videos.

Quotes from Piper’s Future Grace

Hodge, “Faith in his promises, founded upon the apprehension of his faithfulness and power, and their harmony with all his revealed purposes, [and] their suitableness to our nature and necessities, must produce confidence, joy, and hope.”

Piper’s response, “an essential element in the faith itself is confidence and joy and hope…[they] are part of the warp and woof of faith…Yes, it is true, that faith yields delights. But if we do not taste the beauty of Christ in his promises as delightful, or as satisfyiing, we do not yet believe in a saving, transforming way.

Is this not one of the reasons why so many professions of faith miscarry?…Unless we see the Lord as glorious, we will not be ‘transformed into the same image from glory to glory.’ When affliction comes, we will fall away. What holds us is prizing the surpassing value of Jesus (Philippians 3:8).”