Modernization has initiated radical changes to the contemporary world. Social setups like the family coupled with educational and religious institutions have been affected, as people tend to shift to the Western culture, which is thought to be the most civilized of all the cultures. New lifestyles have been adopted, thus resulting in a postmodern culture that is diverse. With the onset of new trends in language and culture shift, evangelists have found it difficult to spread the gospel to the masses. This aspect has created impediments towards in-person preaching to the point where its viability and sustainability have become debatable. This paper will cover the effect of radical language and cultural shifts on the sustainability or viability of life or in-person preaching in the 21st century.
Culture and preaching
The culture revolves around aspects such as social groups, language, religion, daily life, history, arts, and the economy. In the 21st Century, these aspects of culture have radically changed, thus leading to the shift towards new values, attitudes, behavior, norms, and expectations that are in line with popular culture. Harrington and Bielby (2005) argue that the rise of pop culture has seen the increase in the acceptance of hip-hop music, an increase in hooliganism, more soap operas on television screens, and the popularization of the ‘hustler’ culture. Due to this aspect, the practice of in-person preaching has been affected due to the new ways of life in the postmodern world. The following section will highlight aspects of the culture shift that pose a threat to the sustainability and viability of live preaching.
Postmodernism has brought about numerous challenges to the preachers of contemporary times as new social groups and classes emerge. Those in the upper social class tend to lead private lifestyles by forming clubs that restrict membership, and thus they tend to resist in-person preaching in their settings. Lose (2013) says that preachers need to adapt to the new settings by employing techniques that will enable them to proceed well with their evangelism works. With the new social classes that keep on widening due to social mobility and economic factors, it becomes essential to abandon the old ways of preaching by embracing technology and being flexible with language in a bid to create a ‘we feeling’ with the listeners. This move aims at loosening the rigidity that comes along with the past ways of evangelism. Lose (2013) adds that preachers need to be spontaneous in a bid to enhance their sustainability since each needs to be approached differently considering his/her social status.
Technological advancements of the 21st Century society have influenced culture shift and language change. According to Burker (2003), the dominance of television and a pop-culture society has compelled many to source information from technological devices that are perceived to be trendy and classy at the same time. The move towards digitalization has threatened the viability and sustainability of in-person preaching today. Over the decades, Christians have been attending live church services in churches across the world. However, today more people are immersed in the pluralistic society, which tends to embrace technology, thus resulting in the growth of religious television programs (Burker, 2003).
The postmodern culture is composed of a populace with higher literacy levels as compared to the previous generations. As part of cultural diffusion and dissemination, education has rendered many people literate as they are socialized based on the ideas and expectations of the modern world. According to Harrington and Blelby (2005), disciplines such as economics emphasize the creation of wealth, hence influencing the society to pursue material wealth instead of spiritual wealth that is recommended by religion. In this regard, preachers find it challenging to shift the focus from material to spiritual prosperity. Consequently, preachers tend to face resistance as they carry out their missions of evangelism to the society where questions on whether believing in the word of God will bring food to the table have risen. A conflict arises on which is the source of the truth between education and religion (Harrington & Blelby, 2005). For instance, cults have emerged due to the main religion’s failure to explain some social phenomena that are well explained by science.
The shift towards a pluralistic culture driven by skills acquired through education has led to more people engaging in income-generating activities. Consequently, less time is allocated to preachers, thus leading to a decrease in the number of congregation members of some churches today. This move has seen an increase in the number of people working on Sundays as they seek to toil for their daily bread instead of attending church services, thus leading to a threat to the sustainability of live preaching.
Popular culture and Christian living have become almost inevitable to some individuals in the 21st Century. The relationship between the two poses the need for an in-depth analysis of its impacts on the spread of the gospel today. The question of whether watching television is a wastage of precious time granted by God comes up with others regarding it as sin. Christians are thus worried whether the culture surrounding them has an impact on their spiritual growth and nourishment. Preachers normally get a hard time trying to advise Christians on how to balance popular culture and religion. Turner (2003) argues that a biblically informed mind appreciates one’s understanding of pop culture. It is possible to be simultaneously critical and spiritually and spiritually engaged in a world surrounded by popular culture in the form of television, games, music, and film. The viability of in-person preaching, in this case, can be enhanced if the preacher helps the listener understand how religion and pop culture relate.
There exists a close relationship between language and culture. The cultural reality is expressed through a language communicated by people who understand it. Socialization and acculturation are facilitated by the existence of a language implying that preachers of the 21st Century need to familiarize themselves with the language of the contemporary listeners (Kramsch, 1998). The postmodern culture has further led to the emergence of slang language, which is used by particular groups familiar with it. Culture shift on the aspects of new language expression in the form of slang has rendered it difficult to communicate effectively when preaching in cases where the preacher does not understand slang. Kramsch (1998) recommends that there is a need to familiarize oneself with the commonly used language in a particular setting if the preacher’s message is to be easily comprehended.
Globalization has led to the growth of a pluralistic culture in the 21st Century. People of different cultures interact in urban areas with tolerance and respect for other people’s cultural backgrounds. The management of diversity has become an area of concern for efficiency, especially in workplace settings. Aspects of equality and peaceful coexistence brought about by the pluralistic society need to be areas of consideration for the success of live preaching. The sustainability of in-person preaching in the pluralistic culture has compelled evangelism to take an approach that respects the social, economic, and political backgrounds of the listeners. Failure to do so tends to create hostility as some listeners might find it difficult to tolerate the message, which might not be in line with their cultural beliefs and expectations.
For pop culture to remain appealing, it has to change. The dynamic nature of pop culture renders it unpredictable, hence new trends crop up now and then. Once a product has been offered and consumed, a need to replace it with something new emanates (Lytham, 2012). For instance, new television programs keep on premiering on almost a daily basis in a bid to satisfy the pop culture market. The inevitable changes that have accompanied 21st Century society pose the need for dynamism in the way the practice of in-person preaching is conducted. Traditional techniques of preaching are forced to be altered to accommodate the new trends that surface on almost a daily basis. This aspect entails the use of the latest technology in churches and one-on-one preaching where videos can be shared to spread the intended message to the listener.
Enhancing the sustainability of live preaching
Preachers should not engage the listeners at the cost of the message they are delivering. When preaching, the preachers should stick to the message and avoid too much pragmatism, which might change the perspective. This move aims to enhance confidence and belief in God’s word. Postmodernism can inflict a sense of being overwhelmed on the part of the preacher. Hence, the more the message is direct; the engagement becomes more purposeful, thus leading to a sustainable approach. Radical language changes have altered the way parties communicate today. Language as an important aspect part of culture has a great influence on the way one identifies with a particular group. The preachers should be skilled in communication in a bid to deliver the intended message, which is considered the truth. For instance, the nature of the Bible’s message is usually divine; hence, the basic principles of communication have to be applied to avoid fallacy.
A dialogical approach can be used to enhance the delivery of the message. By doing this, the preacher cultivates the anticipation of objections and doubts from the listener. This aspect welcomes the listeners to a discussion on the message delivered whereby they can raise questions comfortably and seek clarification in areas that they do not understand (Lord, 2009). The skeptical nature of the postmodern culture needs to be addressed to minimize the negative attitudes towards accepting the message that come along with the Christian teachings.
Inductive preaching can also be put into practice when preaching to the 21st Century listener. In the previous cultures, before addressing a congregation about particular Biblical teaching, a declarative proposition was stated (Kramsch, 1998). In a bid to avoid suspicion and doubt, a justification of the ideas preached followed. This move involved backing the statement with other statements and ideas from the Bible for the case of the audience. This method is not relevant today since it is deductive in nature. Therefore, the listeners perceived the messages to be biased and communicated the preacher’s agenda. The need for a new inductive approach arises whereby the preacher approaches the listeners by presenting ideas first before the declaration later in the sermon. Delaying the declaration enhances the listeners’ understanding since they are mentally prepared for the ideas preached (Lose, 2013). Efficacy is consequently achieved by the inductive approach, hence controlling unnecessary suspicion from the 21st Century listener.
Communications skills alone are not adequate for the viability of live preaching in the postmodern society. The ideas of the Bible need to be relevant and meaningful to the situation. When preaching to the postmodern listeners who do not understand the meaning or the significance of the word of God, the preachers have to be aware of the background of their audience first (Lose, 2013). Doing so enables them to know where to start, hence dealing with resistance from the postmodern listener. In this regard, communication is not just about delivering words, but ensuring that the postmodern listener, who is influenced by cultural shift and radical language, receives them comprehensively and concisely.
Engaging the listener is essential for the viability of the preaching practice in the postmodern culture. This aspect involves getting into the lives of listeners to create a rapport and understand them better. The contemporary listeners are alert to every bit of information presented to them (Kramsch, 1998). Therefore, the preachers’ message is freed from obstacles that may prevent effective communication. In a bid to enhance the listeners’ involvement, the preachers should address an area that is of need to the audience.
The postmodern listener identifies well with high-tech communication. With the face of radical language change, which is influenced by information technology in contemporary times, preachers need to embrace technology in live preaching. Romanowski (2006) insists that the use of audio-visuals, drama, and art when preaching can influence communication since it is a language well understood and preferred by most postmodern listeners. Ideas that are spread through images are better registered in the brains of the listeners, thus leading to an effective sermon delivery.
Managing cultural diversity in a pluralistic society is essential for the sustainability of live preaching. The preacher becomes an individual who accommodates and tolerates different cultural practices for them to be good managers of their profession. Abu-Nimer (2001) insists that managing diversity entails avoiding conflicts, coordinating activities, planning, and engaging listeners in healthy interactions. Equality among the people of different cultures has to be an issue of concern since the 21st Century culture upholds the value of equal treatment without discrimination. In the case of preaching in rural areas that are likely to be less diversified, a consideration of the homogeneous nature of the audience needs to be addressed to achieve effective preaching (Romanowski, 2006). This move entails changing one’s approach to language, perspective, and adapting to the culture in a bid to get the listeners involved in the process.
The 21st Century has experienced a wave of culture shift and radical language change. The evolution of popular culture has affected various institutions of society such as religion. Technological advancements have settled in contemporary times, thus affecting the way people lead their lives and how they interact with others. A shift towards pop music, trendy dressing, entertainment, professionalism, and many other aspects of change have an impact on the way preaching is conducted today. With the threats that postmodernism has imposed on the preaching practice in evangelistic activities, the preachers have to employ techniques that will ensure viability and sustainability. This aspect entails embracing technology, managing diversity, maintaining good communication skills, inductive preaching, and generally adapting to the dynamic culture of the 21st Century. By doing so, the future of live or in-person preaching can be secured, hence enhancing viability and sustainability.
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Kramsch, C. (1998). Language and Culture. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
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Lose, D. (2013). Preaching at the Crossroads: How the World and our Preaching is Changing. Kitchener, Ont: Fortress Press.
Romanowski, W. (2006). Pop culture wars: Religion and the role of entertainment in American life. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Turner, S. (2013). Pop Cultured: Thinking Christianity about Style, Media, and Entertainment. Chicago, IL: InterVarsity Press.