The Lecture is Over

the-lecture-is-over-02272017-650It’s time to preach a hard truth.

It’s becoming clear the lecture is dying as an effective communication strategy in today’s postmodern cyber culture.

No, it’s not extinct yet but the writing’s on the Facebook wall.

The sermon (as lecture) had a great 500-year run, thanks to academic reformers like Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin who refocused Protestant worship from the experiential Eucharist to the authoritative Scriptures. The sermon-lecture found particular efficacy in the Enlightenment era when Great Awakening preachers like Jonathan Edwards, Alexander Campbell and George Whitefield roused their flocks using rhetoric and reason. And once technology permitted sound to be amplified and images televised the sermon was staged and spotlighted. From Billy Graham to Bill Hybels, from Mars Hill to Saddleback, power communication and “personality” preachers wired countless churches.

Of course, none of this matters to a postmodern culture that’s grown frustrated and disconnected by the conventional, traditional and typical church.

Millennials (b. 1982-2004) are voting with their feet. One study suggests three in five churched Millennials graduate high school and church on the same day. A recent blog ignited social media fire (and ire) for daring to outline “why Millennials are over church.” Some of the more insightful reasons included “nobody’s listening” and a desire for mentoring instead of a sermon.

But these sentiments aren’t just from Millennials. Gen X (b. 1961-1981) has also lost heart with the Church. Call them “church refugees” or “dones” or whatever, but these 40 and 50-somethings are equally troubled and tired. Church has become painful, irrelevant and disconnected. “It’s just a concert and TedTalk anymore,” one Gen Xer opined about his church experience.

When Gen X began its exodus in the late ‘80s, churches merely shrugged. It’s just how that generation handles stuff. They’ve always been anti-institutional. Then the Millennials commenced their departure (early 2000s) and everyone was puzzled. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Millennials were the church’s “baby on board” bunch. We created amazing children’s and youth ministries just for them. We cajoled and coddled them, even bribed them with candy, Bible Bucks and other prizes.

Now they’re leaving? Shocking.

So WHY are they leaving?  Simple. They struggle to hear us anymore.

In my book Sermons Reimagined: Preaching to a Fluid Culture, I explain the problem is rooted to communication. Post-modern generations (Gen X, Millennials, iTech) simply can’t “hear” or “understand” the Message because they process and communicate information differently than older generations (thanks to changing technology). This cultural shifting is nothing new. Approximately every 500 years, culture evolves when new “mega-techs” re-orientate cultural interactions.



1500-2000 AD

2000 AD – present

Mega-Techs: Printing Press, Mechanized Clock, Telescope

Mega-Techs:  Internet, Television, Cellular Phone

Closed. Print. Passive. Control.

Open. Image. Experiential. Choice.

Preacher-Centered Universe

Hearer-Centered Multiverse
Content: Organized, Never Changing

Concepts: Organism, Always Changing

Reason: Scripture as Textbook

Revelation: Scripture as Letter
Generate answers: get to the point

Create questions: embrace the process

Lecture, Sermon, Monologue

Experiences, Interactivity, Visuals

For many postmoderns—Christians or not—going to “church” is eerily like going to another class lecture (boring!).

Postmoderns want to talk about Faith. We want to talk at them.

Postmoderns want to experience Truth. We want to define Truth through principles, propositions and points.

Postmoderns want to see God working. We want them to hear God’s Word.

It’s no wonder we’re losing touch and becoming irrelevant. We’re like an 8-Track cassette: great music but packaged by obsolescence.

It’s why the sermon is dying.

The lecture is over.


(this blog was originally posted to REFRESH THE CHURCH on 2/27/2017)

About rickchromey

Dr. Rick Chromey is a theologian, philosopher, historian and cultural expert. He has empowered leaders to lead, teachers to teach and parents to parent since 1985.

Posted on February 28, 2017, in Christianity. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. My church wants me to lecture, hey I like to lecture. I’m 59 years old and propositional truth is what I know. We do a few more funerals then someone to do mine and we’ve successfully gotten out of here faithfully. Or have we? Can it be faithful not to leave a legacy? We are shrinking in number as we die off and younger people run away from us. But how does an old dog learn new tricks especially when those he serves are quite comfortable just the way it is and don’t want me to change. My friend and Elder has a theology degree from CBS and I very much appreciate his knowledge but he perhaps is the greatest resistance I face. Ideas to seek to be more relevant are intellectually extinguished. I know my calling is here, I’m not seeking a change in venue but I have a great challenge ahead. Thanks for your writing it helps inform me and I appreciate it.

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