Preaching in an Audio-Visual Culture

Jolyon Mitchell

It is frequently argued that television has reduced congregations' capacity to listen; this can be too simplistic but it is true that our audio-visual ly saturated environment cultivates particular habits of listening. That is, it has not undermined but changed how people listen. It has influenced expectations about length, expects a more colloquial and spontaneous style, and has transformed the style in which we expect to be addressed (the rhetoric not of battle but reconciliation). People do not come with their minds a clean slate but have a whole range of images already engaging their attention. Also, the preacher is not the only educated voice in town. The paper argues that this changed context offers new opportunities for preachers. It first develops the analogy of the multi-camera approach, then explores that idea that the sermon is a conversation between congregation and biblical text (from the more conversational style of discourse of the media). Then is discussed the response to an image-saturated culture (paraphrase of Barth – need Bible in one hand, newspaper in the other, and the television on in the background)  when the preacher needs to try to experience imaginatively the world of the biblical text. This may lead to more pictorial and multi-sensorial language.

Volume 35 Spring 1999, p2
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