Wednesday, January 16, 2013
The power of the voice or the Word...
A microphone allows its user to impose his voice I quote this phrase from one blogger because I think it gets the point of this all. We spend more time evaluating the sermon on its delivery and impact than on its content. A good sound system should be almost imperceptible -- gently enhancing the sound of the preacher's own voice instead of turning that voice into the most important prop of the sermon. What has happened is that the preacher spends more time on the imposition of his voice (delivery) than on content. I will admit to falling victim to this thinking. I hope other preachers will also be as honest.
Note that I am NOT suggesting that it is fine for preachers to read their sermons instead of preach them or that they should be oblivious to the aspects of delivery that mark a good sermon. What I am saying is that delivery, as fine as it might be, is worthless unless the Word is preached in all its fullness, rightly dividing the Word of God between Law and Gospel, and preaching not the opinions of man nor his elocution instead of the Word of God.
I grew up watching Archbishop Fulton Sheen on TV. He was a master of the voice and the stage. Now as I look back, I am not so sure it was what he said or how he said it that was so attractive to me. The media has done us great harm by portraying the good preacher as the shallow preacher who preaches feelings and cliches but preaches them very well (and with a little humor thrown in). Who can forget the portrayals of preaching in sketches and movies by Mr. Bean! These expose both our weakness and our failings -- both as preachers and as hearers.
The power of the sermon is the Word -- not as verbatim quotes of Bible passages strung together but the Word infused and intertwined within the preachers words so that it all conveys one message. It is God using the preacher's voice to speak to His people, convicting them of their sin and then delivering them from its miserable prison with the cleansing of blood and the sacrifice of life into death for our life. When our technology confuses or muddies up the water on this and it becomes the voice more than the Word, then we are in deep trouble.
I am not saying we need to ditch the mic and turn off the sound system. I am saying that being heard and being animated is not necessarily the definition of good preaching. Unless we preach the Word of God (so that the Gospel predominates) we have wasted our people's time -- even if we have entertained, inspired, encouraged, and distracted them effectively!