Thursday, August 6, 2020

Zoom and shorter sermons 1)

Others have also noted (and often rejoiced) that with churches employing zoom for their services in lock-down sermons have often shortened to 12-15 minutes.  Now for some traditions that is normal or even too long, but within the Baptist tradition that I know best many preachers speak for 25 minutes or (much) more. So, for some preachers this has been a new experience.  It's been said that zoom is here to stay for the future because even when we are allowed to worship freely again (which seems a long way off still) the benefits of allowing those who are housebound or travelling away to share are immense. (Now I know that it is smaller fellowships that have used zoom and I guess that larger church congregations who have streamed their services have not necessarily seen a shortening of sermons!)

However, staying with those that do use zoom this question of shorter sermons raises a number of issues. The important question is: Has the sermon lost its power if its shorter? Is God able to speak to his people less effectively? God has never needed length or quantity to make his point. Just look at the short stories Jesus told and his pithy teaching. Truthfully it's not how long a sermon lasts but its biblical reality and spiritual quality that enables God to encounter his people afresh by his Spirit. 

So obviously zoom challenges preachers about their sermon preparation habits including length of time. Why, do they always feel they have to preach for 30 plus minutes and begin in the same way?  Of course, I know why preachers hold on to the known pattern because they find it the easiest way to keep preparing. But it flies in the face of the rich variety of biblical communication as well as people's listening habits. Maybe, perhaps, zoom had shaken us preachers up in a helpful way to question well-worn habits. 

Less obvious issues are also raised by zoom.....

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