From Doug’s Preaching Mentorship Notes:
Design2Delivery #7 – Wednesday October 26 2016 – Rev. D. Johns
More and more we are preaching to an audience that is ‘disposed to distraction’. I have preached outside and had to compete with animals, wind, rain and beautiful scenery. I have preached in old ‘steeple churches’ and had to do battle with rodents on the floor and bats in the air. I think my ability to raise my voice above babies crying and old men snoring scores high on the concentration scale. I have preached through power outages and natural gas leaks. All that being said, the biggest challenge these days is to somehow communicate with an audience accustomed to fifteen-second sound bites; an audience that lives with continuous visual stimulation much of their day. It’s an audience that doesn’t have much patience for a delayed punch-line.
But I think the built-in attention-avoidance to lecture and preaching so prevalent our culture runs much deeper than a quick fix of video or PowerPoint. Somehow we have to capture their interest at the outset in such a way that the subject we speak or teach about is so compelling, so essential, that minds are jolted into awareness that this moment in time could indeed be a ‘game-changer’. This means, though, that each time I speak, I have to be satisfied with the knowledge that my effectiveness is going to be measured in small numbers. I mean, not every Sunday will be a ‘game-changing’ experience for all who are present. It also means that the introduction might be of more value, and therefore demand more preparation energy and creativity than hitherto invested.
Caution: Don’t let the preacher off the hook too quickly. It is all too easy to label the audience as ‘low concentrators’ while elevating the speaker into the heaven-blessed thoughtful, reflective, meditative zone of super spirituality. The preacher can easily be led into ‘the land of lazy’ just as much as the listener. Attention spans for all of us need some serious re-training.
Matt Woodley recently wrote an article in Preaching Today, titled Deep Preaching in a Distracted Age: Will anything capture people’s attention and keep it long enough for God to do his work? You can see the full article here
Recent articles and books highlight what Microsoft researcher Linda Stone calls our “continuous partial attention.” Consider this trio of recent articles from The New York Times—”Addicted to Distraction,” “The End of Reflection,” and “Don’t Distract Me.” The stats don’t lie about our heightened distractibility. The average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8.25 seconds in 2015. Little wonder, since an American on social media receives 54,000 words and 443 minutes of video every day.
I love what he calls a ‘counter-intuitive strategy’ to take face this challenge head – on.
In a distracted, outraged, shallow culture, people begin to hunger for something rare: the focused, balanced, deep. Because we chronically distract ourselves, we crave depth. Deep preaching is our best chance to change lives.
Matt’s plan is to foster four disciplines which impact the development of deep sermons. But be warned, there is no quick and easy solution to reverse the fall into distraction and diversion which has debilitated our society by depriving us of the power of vocal persuasion. Surprisingly though, a slow, deep, and thoughtful preparation on our part can lead to a deep, vibrant and substantial life-change – which in turn becomes noticeable in a loud world that is searching for reality beyond the superficial and transient, above the brevity and shallowness this world has to offer.