I wonder if Bible Colleges and other theological training centres use TED talks as part of their training in preaching?
A talk with a serious message given by one person with minimal staging and taking less than 20 minutes - for churchgoers among you, does that sound familiar? If I add that the vast majority of TED talks closely engage both the immediate audience and, in many cases, millions of people worldwide then maybe the familiarity decreases.
I've been known to say that the traditional lecture-style sermon is way out-of-date and an appalling way of attempting to engage with modern people in the modern world. There is an elderly and declining population of churchgoers who often like them like that, of course, but I have long argued that a new approach is needed.
In many ways I still believe that: sitting passively consuming the words of a supposed expert is a lousy way to learn. Yet the global success of TED talks does suggest that there is life in the format yet, so I think it's worth looking at some of the typical characteristics of a TED talk.
Pretty much all TED talks are given by people with genuine and obvious enthusiasm and expertise who are speaking about something which they believe matters.
The vast majority have a speaker who moves around the stage, rather than being trapped behind a lectern.
Many TED talks involve some sort of projection/PowerPoint accompaniment, used as a visual backup and complement to the talk itself; whilst the talk remains the main focus.
Many of the talks involve humour - but rarely in the form of isolated jokes, more as ways of making or supporting a particular point.
Some of the talks involve some degree of interaction with the audience, but this is nearly always limited. People want to listen to the speaker and there is a tight timescale.
So I would say it is time for preachers to rethink their methods, congregations to rethink what they ask of their preachers, and occasional visitors to church to give more feedback on how they experience the preaching in that church.
If a preacher doesn't have expertise and enthusiasm then why on earth are they there? If the preacher doesn't make the effort to engage with the congregation through movement, interaction, relevant visuals and/or humour then why should they expect the congregation to engage with them? And if a preacher isn't talking about something which has meaning and importance to listeners and to their neighbours then why is s/he wasting everyone's time?
What do you think?