PASTORING: Preaching Is Pastoral Prime Time


This article originally appeared in Issue# 35

With a million other demands to consider, why should a pastor take the time to study media? Even more important, with all the issues in the world, why should media claim a slot on the agenda for preaching, the true pastoral prime time?

The primary reason is the unique view the media can provide into your people's theological agenda, a true window into what they are thinking and feeling. This insight can provide a "fix" and a focus to touch base with where your listeners' hearts really are.

How can I say that? Think about it. Research on mass media — films, TV, books, etc. — says that their primary effect is to reinforce and support people in things they already believe. Simply put, the popular media are popular because they are telling us things we want to hear.

Situation comedies tell us that the world is really an all right and benevolent place. Detective mysteries tell us that the problem in life is that there are bad guys, and the solution is for the good guys to catch them.

Things become popular when they match up with people's internal agendas — with what they want to hear and be supported in. Therefore, you can look at what's popular, and with a little reflection, identify the assumptions about the way the world works that people — your people — find appealing.

Once you've done that, you can take the additional crucial step of comparing those assumptions to the religious perspective.

Some of the views our popular media embody are consistent with Judeo-Christian values. In that case you can build upon them and support the movement that is afoot in the culture. Other expressions represent opposing values, in those cases you can point out the dichotomy for your listeners to consider and move toward identifying the corrective.

In either case you will find that many issues you pinpoint on the basis of media popularity will be issues of care and concern to your parishioners. And that connection is a first principle for good apologetics — good communication of the gospel — "Go where the people are, not where you wish they were."

Author Bio: 

Leonard Freeman is rector of St. Martin's by-the-Lake Episcopal Church, Minnetonka Beach, MN. He previously served as head of communications for Trinity Church Wall Street and Washington National Cathedral.