Does Preaching Have a Future?

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A homiletics professor offers 14 thoughts on the future of preaching in the American church.

As a homiletics professor, I usually spend the last class of each semester peering into my crystal ball imagining what the future of preaching holds.

Not being a prophet, I am only making assumptions so please read the following with a discerning mind. Also, I don’t make these statements to be critical of anyone in particular or any church. I am simply making observations and doing a little forward thinking.

So here are 14 statements about current trends and guesses as to the future of preaching:

1. The history of preaching remembers constant movement in terms of methodology and technology.

Change is nothing new to preaching, and whatever is “new” is simply that which stands on the shoulders of the past.

2. The 21st century of preaching will face ever-growing opportunities and challenges of societal and technological change.

Again, this is not new, but change comes much quicker and has wider impact than in the past.

3. Technology has flattened the globe by providing instantaneous information.

We now live in an information saturated culture. Anyone listening to a preacher has all the information the preacher has as they sit in church with whatever “smart” technology they brought with them.

4. The internet has provided a wealth of preaching resources and it is replacing many preachers and congregational gatherings.

Some people will continue to choose their favorite online preacher over the “live” preaching in their church. Video church is now a reality and will continue into the foreseeable future. Young, inexperienced preachers are more intimidated about preaching than in past generations because their church members have so much excellent preaching at their disposal via technology.

5. Video technology allows for multisite communities, but it has created a geographical and incarnational separation from worshipers gathering as a body (ecclesia).

This is a much further step than multiservice. It is true that having multiple services is a step away from having the entire congregation gather for worship, but when congregations gather across town or across the states, there is a much greater sense of separation. Having to watch the pastor via video screen also creates a significant separation from preacher to listener.

These are key “incarnational” aspects to preaching that are being stretched.

Dwayne Milioni Dr. Dwayne Milioni is the Lead Pastor of Open Door Church where he has served since 1999. He is blessed with Kay, his wife of 23 years and four children. Dr. Milioni has an M.A and an M.Div from Liberty University and a PhD in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where he teaches as Adjunctive Professor of Preaching and Pastoral Ministries.

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  • alwaysaconqueror

    Fascinating article! It’s quite alarming what we are witnessing in this last hour with all of the trends that are currently “defining” church culture. This new wave of “relevance” is influencing many pastors, young and old, how they’re to govern their church services by attempting to cater to peoples conveniences. Churches have become spiritual “microwave” ovens and have succumbed to a Burger King mentality of “you can have it your way!” But God never intended the Church to form democracies instead, He wants theocracy to be the preeminent factor in how we run our churches. The problem with some pastors is they’re afraid to be labeled “old school” in how they do things. God help us to be confident in what we believe.

  • tom

    Harnessed to technology and harassed by it as well. I am also an adjunct professor, fulltime high school teacher (5yrs) and former pastor of some 20 yrs. I enjoy using technology so I’m not a Luddite. However, in the pulpit, when it fails “technically”, it’s so much more of a distraction and a point of criticism than when maybe we said, “turn to Ephesians 4″ and we meant Galatians 4. I am also not convinced that the youth of today are the “visual” learners we think they are. I actually believe that some people/students are turned off until you speak to them. That’s my hope for preaching, not the gadgets, but the real unadulterated communication of the human voice to the human ear to the human heart that distinctly knows and says, “You care about me”.

    • jim

      Amen, I agree. For preaching is to man as foolishness; Only to the holy spirit can take it and use it to further the kingdom of God.

  • Tim

    The fact of the matter is this: the Holy Spirit will use whatever He chooses to advance the Kingdom. If it is something He can use (which, I’m convinced, is nearly anything and everything) AND it is true to the Word of God, then it is good and perfect.

    Sometimes, we lose the whole picture when we look at possible detriments of a particular church trend. For instance, multisite churches more often than not are the ONLY way a church can expand with its given resources. If the church has hardly any money in savings, a god-given pastor in which the church is unable to pay, and a desire and mission to reach a new community….then BAM! A new work is born!

    Paul go this. “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” All possible means is pretty wide open. God is pretty creative sometimes. (like…a donkey!)

    • ndc

      I agree with what you are saying to a point. I am not arguing against it, but here are some things that come to my mind

      While it is true that the Holy Spirit will use whatever He chooses… the question is, IS this what he desires? I was on staff with a pastor who was that donkey that somehow God used. He was in deep sin, while reading a script of a sermon from a prominent pastor which you could purchase full manuscript sermons. It never seemed right at the time that he was just printing off sermons and sometimes not even changing them. Then, when the sin came out it made sense.

      I think the main point of the article is pointing more to the negative trends going on in the church today. Is God using it? Only He really knows. The more important question is, Is this what God desires to be happening? Or is it the church conforming to the culture, instead of transforming it? Just cause it works doesn’t mean it is God’s will, or His desire.

  • Derwin L. Gray

    Brilliant. Thank you.

  • JEB

    I feel your message and think that much of your message is not waiting for the future. To me the question is how will preaching be improved without practice? Many of the preachers I have heard recently seem to feel imitation is the way (easiest way) to become effective preachers.

  • Doug

    I find myself believing that preaching in the context of the traditional worship is now only appealing to a small percentage of Christians. Jesus, Paul, Wesley, and others went to where the people were. Whitefield for instance filled the streets with hearers.

    What if preaching is reaching to people by serving them at food banks, or free medical clinics, or being mentors in schools, not in terms of pressuring people to convert, but by persistent grace, mercy, and love. Of course, Jesus himself who offered healing was still tortured for offering love, grace, and mercy to the world. Still it strikes me that a newer paradigm than the sanctuary sermon, or stereo-typical street preaching is in order.

    A go to the people model seems to be called for in our time as Church attendance, save for the celebrity status Churches, is on the decline.

  • Vincent Aja

    It is the time that everyone of us should get down to pray for God to intervene. This writer has foreseen something very important. The spiritual battle is not yet over (Ephesians 6:10-17). There are more than 2 billion people that have never heard the Good News about the Death, Burial, Resurrection and the Ascension of the Lord Jesus. Yet the Bible said that the Lord Jesus will never return; not until the gospel is proclaimed in every nation and tribes (Mathew 24:14, 28:19-20). Perhaps this is one reason that we have the internet, satellite- televisions and radios, but the problem is that those who have the Word of God that can “Transform” lives do not have the money to buy the Air Time. (And even when they have …some of the secular minded leaders at their local Churches would not permit Pastors to invest such huge money in the networking.) While it was only the salesmen and saleswomen that can through, or with their smart approach reach the world because they can easily find the money…. I think that this is the main problem, and besides this, nothing is wrong…. So our prayers should be that these smart talkers should reconsider the eternal consequences of their actions towards the Lord`s business. And return back to their First Love (Revelation 2:4).

  • Grady Walton

    Regarding #9: I wonder if Dr. Milioni has any thoughts on whether the massive Boomer generation will insist on embedding themselves in age-related enclaves within the church. As a Boomer, I long to connect with younger adults in the church but I also feel the powerful urge to hang with my age group. Short of re-learning to consume mass quantities of beer, developing my Tweeting skills, and playing “epic” bouts of video games, I have little idea how to connect with Xers and Mosaics.

  • Ryan

    I think preaching will always have a future. A bigger question is will it be an income for pastors? Good points about technology and internet usage. Like the postal service, I can see the internet hurting the business side of church. Has this contributed to church closings? I haven’t gone now for 3 years. How much has that cost what ever church(business) I could have attended? Children moving away from parents after high school and college breaks them the habit of going. The question is did they/can they retain a relationship with God without encouragement? I’m much older than college students. I’m more set in mind and haven’t forgotten God. I still pray every day. Bible reading is always up and down even the years in church. I attribute my continued desire for God to His Spirit. I think this article shows the direction things are going.