Most Americans still prefer a real-live preacher to a video sermon, according to a survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
About a third (35 percent) say they will only visit churches with a live sermon.
Three in 10 say a video sermon won’t keep them from a church, but they still prefer live peaching. The same number say live or video sermons are fine.
Less than one percent prefer to watch a video sermon.
“I don’t think anyone gets up on a Sunday morning saying, ‘Boy, I’d really like to watch a video sermon,’ ” said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research and author of Multi-Site Churches: Guidance for the Movement’s Next Generation. “But the fact that many churches utilize video sermons means other factors such as relationships, preaching approach, music, relevance, and location can be more important.”
A post I saw in the NCR:
I have been thinking about the best preacher I ever heard. Not about the single best homily or sermon, but about the best and most consistent preaching I have encountered.
When it comes to preaching, we all have our horror stories and I have done my fair share of grumbling.
But rather than focus on the bad preaching, I have been thinking about what makes the good preaching good…
So what is it about the best preaching I ever had and what about it made it consistently good?
As I thought about it, I kept coming back to one particular priest that week in and week out offered good solid preaching. I realized that he was the best preacher I ever had. So what about his preaching made it so good? Well, no one particular thing. I have tried to distill certain elements of his preaching and other good preaching to come up with a list of things I think are at the root of it.
—He rarely gave a homily more than 10 minutes long. Most of the homilies were in the 7-9 minute range.
—Every homily he gave was prepared in advance (with obvious care) and he worked from notes.
—He did not walk around during his homilies, but rather stayed put at the pulpit referencing his aforementioned notes but never reading.
—He spoke in a clear, assertive, and masculine style that avoided any misplaced interrogative lilt, the fake soft voice (think Harry Reid), or the sing-songy style so common today. In short, he spoke as one with authority.
—His brief homilies and sermons generally sought to make a single point and to make it well. He avoided the temptation to tangents and humorous asides. Any stories or quotes served to illustrate the main thrust of his sermon.
—And perhaps most of all, his homilies and sermons were all theologically solid, teaching unequivocally what the Church teaches. They were never fire and brimstone just as they were never soft-pedaled. There is no greater sign of love than plain truth stated plainly.
I believe that his consistent application of the above principles and methods resulted in consistently good (and sometimes great) preaching. Just as we emulate saints to be more holy, priests looking to become better preachers can emulate those who are so good.
I am not saying that there is only one way to do it, but my experience has shown me that consistent application of these sound principles will result in consistently sound preaching…
Over at Canterbury Tales a day or two ago:
Yesterday was the feast of Saint Peter Chrysologus (AD 380-450). The Greek nickname Χρυσολόγος means “golden-worded.”
His nickname refers to the fact that he was the most celebrated preacher of his time. He was the Saint John Chrysostom of the West.
But if you study his famous sermons, you’ll discover that this sermons were short. He was a master of packing it tight and thick. He did not waste words. He could preach a brilliant sermons in five to ten minutes and blow away his audience. He new that people are bored quickly. If you’re going to make an impact, you’d better do so quickly.
He is proof that good preaching is not necessarily loooooong preaching. Short and sweet.
Saint Peter Chrysologus, pray for us.
Msgr Charles Pope writes:
Some years ago I was stationed with a priest who, while he often liked my homilies, would often critique my use of what he called “fear based preaching.” Perhaps I had warned the congregation of punishment for sin, or even let slip that certain things were mortal sins that would exclude one from heaven and land them in hell. I would often playfully remind the congregation that missing Sunday Mass was a mortal sin by saying, “Go to Mass or go to hell.” I would also warn that fornicators would not inherit the Kingdom nor idolaters nor adulterers nor those who practice homosexuality, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (cf 1 Cor 6:9).
Of course I was quoting Scripture and preaching out of a voluminous biblical tradition of warning texts. Nevertheless, the older priest would often wag his finger and say, “Ah that’s fear-based preaching…fear based!”
Perhaps it was, but so what?
Dear Father X,
Every Sunday, as we walk out the door, we shake your hand and say, “Good sermon, Father.” We’re not lying. We’re usually fairly satisfied with what you have to say, but no one is perfect. Even Kobe Bryant misses the occasional easy layup.
You studied preaching in seminary, and presumably your professors gave you tips. We wonder, though, if you know what the average person in the pew is looking for in a homily. Maybe you’d appreciate some feedback. If so, here are some thoughts for your consideration.
First off, your sermon is very important to us. We know that we should read the Bible on our own and maybe participate in a prayer or study group. That’s not possible right now, though, so your homily is basically all the religious instruction we get. Please make it your priority. We understand that you have many demands on your time, but we’re not asking for a 30-minute Billy Graham production. The Vatican says a homily should be about eight minutes long, and that sounds good to us.
One reason we don’t read the Bible on our own is that some passages are confusing. Why did Jesus curse the fig tree for not producing fruit when it wasn’t the season for fruit? Why did Paul send the runaway slave back to his owner? Isn’t slavery wrong?
So, if the Sunday lessons include a difficult passage, please help us understand it. We don’t need a long history lesson, but we appreciate a little background. John 10 makes so much more sense now that you’ve explained how shepherds made a circle of stones, led the sheep inside and lay across the opening to protect them through the night. That is just like Jesus laying down his life for us. Thanks.
Many books on how to give a speech suggest opening with a joke. That’s not necessary, especially if you don’t normally crack jokes. On the other hand, people always like stories. That’s probably why Jesus told so many. If you’ve got a good story that illustrates your point, we’d love to hear it.
Some priests claim that Protestant ministers have the edge in storytelling because they’re usually married with children. True, but you grew up in a home with parents and siblings. You went to school. You have friends and favorite sports teams. Surely you’ve seen how God acts in everyday circumstances. Tell us about that.
The story doesn’t have to be about you. It can be something you saw on TV or overheard while shopping. For example, Pope Francis recently preached on Luke 24 (the road to Emmaus). He said some people spend so much time complaining about life’s disappointments that they don’t notice Jesus is walking beside them. That’s a clear, simple illustration of how a Scripture passage applies to our everyday life.
We like knowing something about your personal faith, but spare us your pet peeves. Don’t make every homily about the evils of abortion or how we should all tithe. Don’t scold us. Don’t grumble about the people who don’t come to church. We’re here, aren’t we?
Theology is important, but, honestly, we spend very little time pondering the Trinity or the mystery of transubstantiation. Mostly, we worry about our kids, our parents and our jobs. We struggle to forgive those who have hurt us. We wonder why the world is such a mess. We feel guilty that we don’t do more for others. Show us how Christ can help us with these issues right now, and we’ll bless your name. Who knows? We might even tithe.
The very great interest aroused by the Pope’s brief homilies in the course of the Masses celebrated every morning in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta, poses and continues to pose often the question from different parts on the possibility to access such celebrations or such homilies fully and not through the syntheses published every day by Vatican Radio and L’Osservatore Romano.
The question is understandable and has been taken several times into consideration and made the object of profound reflection, and merits a clear answer. First of all, it is necessary to keep in mind the character that the Holy Father himself attributes to the morning celebration of the Mass at Saint Martha’s.
It is a Mass with the presence of not a small group of faithful (generally more than 50 people) but whose character of familiarity the Pope intends to preserve. Because of this, despite the requests received, he has asked explicitly that it not be transmitted live on video or audio.
As regards to the homilies, they are not given on the basis of a written text, but spontaneously, in Italian, a language the Pope knows very well, but it isn’t his mother tongue. Hence, an “integral” publication would necessarily entail a transcription and a rewriting of the text on several points, given that the written form is different from the oral, which in this case is the original form chosen intentionally by the Holy Father. In short, there would have to be a revision by the Holy Father himself, but the result would be clearly “something else,” which is not what the Holy Father intends to do every morning.
After careful reflection, therefore, it was decided that the best way to make the richness of the Pope’s homilies accessible to a wider public, without altering their nature, is to publish an ample synthesis, rich also in original quoted phrases that reflect the genuine flavor of the Pope’s expressions. It is what L’Osservatore Romano is committed to doing every day, whereas Vatican Radio, on the basis of its characteristic nature, offers a briefer synthesis, but accompanied also with some passages of the original recorded audio, as well as CTV which offers a video-clip corresponding to one of the inserted audios published by Vatican Radio.
It is necessary to insist on the fact that, in the whole of the Pope’s activity, the difference is carefully preserved between the various situations and celebrations, as well as the different levels of commitment of his pronouncements. Thus, on the occasion of public celebrations or activities of the Pope, broadcast live on television or radio, the homilies or addresses are transcribed and published in full. On the occasion of more familiar and private celebrations, the specific character of the situation is respected, of the spontaneity and familiarity of the Holy Father’s expressions. Hence the chosen solution respects first of all the will of the Pope and the nature of the morning celebration and at the same time it enables a wide public to access the principal messages that the Holy Father offers the faithful also in this circumstance.
He is preaching extemporaneously.
In the Anglican Journal:
Myths abound in our culture. The field of homiletics is no exception. Everyone who goes to church regularly has benefited from thousands of hours of sermon preparation. But we are also the recipients of a number of common misconceptions that greatly reduce the power of all those hours of Sunday morning preaching. Consider these six myths.
The first myth: sermons are largely irrelevant in today’s world. Many pastors have been heard to say, “I don’t know what I preached on last Sunday. How is anyone else supposed to remember?” The implication is that preaching has little more value than a pep talk. Fortunately, this is not the experience of many people. I have done surveys of sermon recall following dynamic deliveries. Ninety per cent of those in attendance remembered the basic message after one week, and fifty per cent after six weeks. Some people even speak of homilies from years ago that blessed them with exactly what they needed at that time. Clergy and lay people need to know that when parishioners come back week after week, it is because they experience many sermons as vehicles of blessing for personal growth in faith and life.
The second myth is particularly applicable for Anglicans. William Vaughan Jenkins and Heather Kayan published a fascinating piece of homiletic research, “Sermon Responses and Preferences in Pentecostal and Mainline churches, in the Journal of Empirical Theology.
Three conclusions from their research stand out. First, “The data showed that Anglicans desired significant intellectual content…compared to Pentecostal members.” Second, “Participants from both churches responded to sermons in a predominantly emotional way.” Third, members of “both churches wanted to hear sermons on grace and forgiveness” above all other topics. Despite our preference for cognitive material, we clearly judge sermons by their emotional appeal, and prefer homilies on personal faith issues. It is a myth that the sermon must be aimed at people’s heads rather than equally at the mind and the heart…
Read on here.