Hot Preaching

Posted: May 8, 2013 in Modern Life, Technology
Tags: , , , ,

People contact network

Sorry, this post isn’t about attractive women preachers or hellfire and damnation sermons.

I’ve been thinking today about different kinds of communication and the degree to which they invite/involve participation from the user.  I’m interested in this subject because it affects the way we think about communicating truth to the various generations.  In particular, the Mosaic/Millennial generations (those born from 1984 onward) place a high value on participating with their media rather than simply consuming it.

Decades ago, Marshall McLuhan pioneered this discussion with the labels “hot” and “cool”.  “Hot” media, according to McLuhan, allows for less participation while “cool” media invite more participation.  In McLuhan’s opinion, movies are “hot” media because they dictate the user’s experience completely; the visual, audio and even room environment are completely beyond the users control.  TV, however, is “cool-er” media because users can change channels, turn the volume up or down, etc.  While I think McLuhan did us all a great service by putting this conversation on the table, I’m not convinced his categories are ultimately the most helpful…but it’s not a bad place to start.

Another way to think about this is static vs. dynamic.  I’m talking here about the degree to which a user’s decisions affect the communication experience itself.  A book is fairly static, because the text doesn’t change, but it is not as static as, say a stone tablet.  Users can carry the book somewhere else, turn the pages faster, back up, etc.  In that sense, a book is more dynamic than a stone tablet.  But a book is not as dynamic as an iPad, obviously, where user decisions not only affect the size and rate of the content is displayed but also the content itself.  iPad users can call up whatever info they want to interact with.

Thinking of media as static or dynamic isn’t quite the same thing as thinking of it as participatory/non-participatory, but they’re closely linked.  As the way we consume media/content becomes increasingly dynamic, it naturally follows that we also want to be able to participate more with the content.  Today’s media consumers want to be able to respond to content, challenge it, agree with it, ask questions related to it, etc.

So, does our communication of truth about God allow for this?  Does our preaching take this desire/need seriously?

Interestingly, the sermon is a more dynamic/participatory medium than many others.  In a sermon, the speaker can read his/her audience and change delivery speed if it is perceived that the audience is not connecting.  Hulu can’t do that.  A preacher can change content by adding an illustration or dropping a complex explanation if he/she feels that the audience isn’t understanding.  Youtube can’t pull that off.   In many ways, a sermon can be a very hot/dynamic/participatory medium.

But are we taking advantage of that?

Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about this morning.  Any insights?


  1. Josh Werger says:

    Sounds good but I wonder what a sermon would be like if the audience was somehow actually able to ask questions or give comments, then it would be dynamic for them as well. If they could it would probably be more of a distraction and hard to control but I also don’t think those of us who are teaching really want the audience to respond, I think most people want to teach or preach and are afraid of what someone might ask. Maybe they wouldn’t have the answer or it got off their topic or whatever. But what if those of us in the audience actually felt comfortable enough to say something. What if the preacher asked a question and really wanted an answer and made us feel comfortable enough to speak? Could be cool.

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