Preachers must the difference between the message and the method. As preachers of the Word, we have a sacred duty to be true to the Word of God as revealed in scripture. But we have freedom in the methodology we use in communicating that truth. “3 points and a poem” is not the 11th commandment. As Calvin Miller points out, “Biblical truth is timeless, but the way each generation hears and appropriates truth is quite different.”
It is perfectly appropriate to adapt and use technological innovations as a way to more effectively communicate the gospel, so long as we are careful not to adapt the content of the message itself.
In his Ministry Toolbox newsletter, Rick Warren points out: “The times, they are a-changing, and they’ll keep right on a-changing whether we want them to or not. And that’s why at Saddleback, any time a new tool comes down the line, we embrace it. Right now we’re using TiVo to broadcast our weekend sermon into several different venues on our campus. In other words, someone who prefers a choir and more traditional music can worship in that atmosphere, and then at the scheduled time, see the exact same sermon as those worshiping in our main auditorium. This is duplicated across our campus with an acoustic worship, another aimed at Gen-X, and so on.
“The thing is: we’ve moved past the MTV generation into the Internet generation, and yet many of us are just now responding to the TV generation! Our message must never change, but the way we deliver that message must be constantly updated to reach each new generation. In other words, our message of transformation must never change while the transformation of our presentation should be continual, adapting to the new languages of our culture. . . .
“What is considered contemporary and relevant in the next ten years will inevitably appear dated and tired in 20 years. As a pastor, I’ve watched churches adopt many contemporary styles in worship, programming, architecture, music, and evangelism. That’s OK, as long as the biblical message is unchanged. But whatever is in style now will inevitably be out of style soon, and the cycles of change are getting shorter and shorter, aided by technology and the media. New styles and preferences, like fashions, are always emerging.
“Let me give you a word of advice. Never attach your church to a single style – you’ll soon be passé, and outdated. One of the secret strengths of Saddleback Church is that we’re constantly adapting; we’ve changed styles of worship, programming, and outreach many, many times in the last 24 years, and we’ll continue to do so because the world keeps changing.
“The only way to stay relevant is to anchor your ministry to unchanging truths and eternal purposes but be willing to continually adapt how you communicate those truths and purposes.”
Be constant in adherence to the biblical text, but be flexible in how we present its truths.
Michael Duduit is founding Dean of the College of Christian Studies and the Clamp Divinity School at Anderson University. He also serves as Professor of Christian Ministry. He is the founder and still serves as Executive Editor of Preaching magazine, one of the nation’s premier publications for pastors. His email newsletter, Preaching Now, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences. He is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching, Joy in Ministry: Messages from Second Corinthians, Preaching with Power: Dynamic Insights from Twenty Top Communicators and Communicate With Power.