Seth Godin and Preaching

Seth Godin has an article up on [Really Bad PowerPoint]( that speaks (I think) directly to the task of preaching. It’s simple; it’s good, and you should read it.

I swear, when I am pastor of a church, I am going to hire Seth Godin and have him train my evangelists. I am not kidding. I am going to have conferences on preaching and evangelism (and maybe even worship and spiritual formation) and have him come and speak at a round table forum right next to John Piper. And I’m not even sure he’s a Christian.

I don’t know particularly that he would be interested in participating in a religious seminar, but he’s got a message that a lot of Christian speakers need to hear. Preaching is made up of two parts – the message that you are trying to get across, and the way that message is communicated. For the first part, Christians have a process called exegesis, which basically can be summed up as reading your bible, and reading it well. But for the second part, a lot of people seem to think that all that’s required is a clear, succinct transmission of the information the pastor has acquired in his study. As Mr. Godin says, “If all you want to do is create a file of facts and figures, then cancel the meeting and send in a report.”

Seriously: pastors, if all you want to do is get information into the heads of your congregants, then cancel church, and send everybody an email. Start a blog, post your sermon, and spend Sunday helping the poor. Why not? Are you going to tell me that the reason you have to speak your sermon is because you have to make sure that every one stays to listen to you? Is preaching preferable to reading because it’s an accountability scheme in disguise? Are you going to tell me that the reason you must speak your message is that some people in your congregation are aural rather than visual learners? Send out a poll and ask them whether they’d really prefer to sit and listen to somebody talk for half an hour, rather than read 6-10 pages of text. If it’s more than 10 percent, I’ll be really surprised.

In the reformation, it was common to hear people insist that the sermon was absolutely necessary precisely because so many people in the church could not read. In America in the 21st century, that’s not exactly the case any more, is it? In fact, reading levels were so low that many considered it of the highest priority simply to get the local parson literate, and let him read a sermon that was cribbed from somebody else. Again, in the modern West, that isn’t a very good argument, is it? My pastor insists that the preaching (and hearing) of the sermon is the highest point in our worship service, a point that I’m not quite ready to concede. But even if that’s the case, how great can this worship be if the highest point of our worship could easily be done as effectively at home?

The answer, of course, is that preaching is not merely about transferring information. It’s selling something. And when you’re selling something, you want to get a response. Robert Webber says that all worship can be boiled down to revelation and response. God reveals his nature, his character, his purposes, and we respond accordingly – first in the service itself, and finally in our lives. As Seth Godin says, “Communication is the transfer of emotion. Communication is about getting others to adopt your point of view, to help them understand why you’re excited (or sad, or optimistic or whatever else you are.)”

Frankly, I can’t think of a single thing in his post on PowerPoint that doesn’t apply to preaching.

Author: KB French

Formerly many things, including theology student, mime, jr. high Latin teacher, and Army logistics officer. Currently in the National Guard, and employed as a civilian... somewhere

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