Preaching Zen

July 21, 2009 by

We’ve had a lot of comments on last week’s post about John Piper’s thoughts on video and mass media in sermons. Short recap: Piper doesn’t like them.

You can read all the comments on the post. You can read Collide Magazine’s response. Here’s my take: Preaching, just like any presentation, doesn’t work if you can’t communicate it well. If you drown your sermon in PowerPoint slides and fancy video, you risk losing people. But if all you do is stand at the pulpit and talk, you risk losing all the visual learners and ADD people who simply don’t learn that way.

The more I hear conversations about the pros and cons of technology in preaching, the more I think Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen is very applicable to the church. Reynolds talks about how to give great presentations, and the same advice applies to preaching.

Rather than argue about the place of video and drama in Sunday morning, how about we focus on giving better presentations? If that means less video, so be it. If that means more video, so be it. Focus on the ideas and the clear, concise presentation of those ideas, and you’ll be good.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

7 Responses to “Preaching Zen”

  • Steve
    July 21, 2009

    If you believe that preaching is merely a matter of the “preacher” being an empty vessel and allowing God to speak through him/her, then you shouldn’t need anything else. In practice, I’ve yet to see this happen.

     | Permalink
  • Josh Britt
    July 21, 2009

    Great Closing! We can get way to wrapped up in things that don’t matter. We need to be ready to deliver. It may be with clips or with out. I don’t think it really matters. You have to know how God made you and what He wants to communicate through you.

     | Permalink
  • Rick Wilson
    July 21, 2009

    We missing something VERY important here. The culture has drastically changed. Our presentations can be clear as the driven snow and we’re STILL going to miss persons 18-34.
    In my own blog, I referred to a story about a church using Twitter and Facebook to enhance the power of their preaching. The pastor in the story said “People don’t want to be talked at. They want a circle of conversation.”
    Here is part of a response from a a genXer that is very thoughtful.
    “what I like most about the concept of the “circle of conversation” is that it breaks down the congregation into subsets based on commonalities (thought, background, or otherwise). I think this allows the message to be applied more effectively, but only as long as lay leaders help guide the discussion. I’d really *really* love to engage in virtual circles like this.”
    Real simple – listen to these folks or loose them!

     | Permalink
  • James
    July 22, 2009

    What you’re forgetting is that our presentations can be clear as the driven snow and we’ll be just as likely to miss persons 34-49, 49-54, 54-69, etc.
    Each generation thinks it’s the unique one, the one that breaks all the rules, when the only thing that truly changes are the outward trappings (clothes, music, etc.). The reality is that the longings are the same, the emptiness is the same, and the hope is the same. We can use all the bells and whistles we want, but they mean nothing unless the Lord is really and truly there.
    If we let the method become more important than the message, then the message is lost.

     | Permalink
  • Jim
    July 22, 2009

    i’m not into the video stuff during the sermon, but i do think that we need to give the best presentation possible.

     | Permalink
  • Kara
    July 29, 2009

    Thank you for mentioning Garr Reynolds in your post. I work for Peachpit Press and thought you and your readers might be interested in knowing that he just released his first online streaming video, Presentation Zen: The Video, where he expands on the ideas presented in his book and blog. The DVD is now available for purchase as well. More info can be found here:

     | Permalink
  • Church Outreach
    December 8, 2009

    People go to different churches because of the style of preaching. This is ok in my view because every preacher has a different style. I do believe in being all things to all people but I believe we all have a way about us. That is why some people can reach others easier.

     | Permalink