I asked in the previous post if preaching should be entertaining.
My thinking is that preaching must ultimately be, like the Christian Scriptures, engaging. That is, preaching must arrest the mind, heart, soul, and strength (to borrow from the Shema—Dt 6:4) and compel a reimagining of reality and a reanimation of our lives.
In this act of engaging, preaching may well be entertaining.
As noted earlier, Christian critiques of entertainment media need to be more nuanced. I write in the opening of TheoMedia that all media was once religious. This is because “media” are means of communication and self-revelation, and for ancient and modern-day Christians communicative initiative begins with the Triune God. The concept of “media” goes back to this one phrase:
“Let there be…”
God spoke, and thereby employed “media”—specifically, the medium of speech. And by that medium he created the multi-media world of creation. Our God is a multi-media God.
So we need to be careful with our negative connotations of “media.”
Entertainment media, however, has rightfully earned itself a bad wrap in many respects, like when it seeks to engage an audience by appealing to our shallow fancies and our unhealthy curiosities. Sermons that merely titillate to maintain a congregation’s attention are little different from television studios who throw in gratuitous sex and stylized violence to maintain an audience.
This is not the job of Christian preaching. Entertainment is not its goal, but engagement. At the same time, it is okay (and perhaps right!) when engaging preaching entertains us.
But this is not “entertainment” that, as mentioned above, arrests our attention by appealing to base interests and shallow fancies.
What should most arrest our attention is truth. What should hold our concentration is a compelling vision of the Triune God. What should awaken our interest is the urgency of sin and injustice. What should seize our minds and hearts should be Christ crucified and the cosmic scandal of a burst open tomb.
And these realities and convictions are what Christian preaching must offer through the medium of speech.
Preaching will be entertaining at times. It will also be unnerving. And if we are plying the homiletical craft faithful to the subject matter, then it will grasp and hold the attention of those who have ears to ear.
Next Post: “Everything is Bad for You… Including Preaching.” A look at how HBO’s The Newsroom and NBC’s Parenthood model a new mode of television that informs the craft of preaching.