Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Amusing Ourselves to Death

The most incredible thing about the Anglican Diocese of Sydney motion to limit sermons to twenty minutes is that there is an antecedent. 
free and unattributable

The key theme of Amusing Ourselves to Death, a book published in 1985 about media ecology, by Neil Postman, is that television format will come to persuade all other communication formats.  Postman argued that television essentially packaged everything as entertainment – even the nightly news bulletin with its opening pieces about war/famine/petulance and its happy ending of a new panda born at the local zoo.  Postman argued that the thirty minute span of most programs would drag people’s attention spans downward to match.  In this way, television makes us like goldfish.
Of course, thirty minutes of television is rarely thirty minutes of content, as identified in the lyrics to this song:
Endless joy and endless laughter,
Folks living happily ever after.
All you need to make you wise
Is twenty-three minutes (plus advertisements).

Read more: Matilda London Cast - Telly Lyrics | MetroLyrics

I’m not comfortable packaging the delivery of God’s word to a timed format – that’s too worldly.  It stinks as if it is a response to Postman’s prophesy.  The motion is peculiar in that the Anglican Diocese of Sydney model operates such that local ministers are best to preach in response to their knowledge of their local flock (thus favouring individual minister assessment of sermon length).
I want my preachers to be moved by the Spirit to orate as needed to conclude the delivery of the Word.  A quality forty-five minute podcast of a sermon by Pastor John Piper or Pastor John Macarthur is a genuine delight.  Indeed, I even want preaching to post its own battle response against the goldfish-like attention spans that the world has thrust upon us.  And, I certainly do not want my preachers to have any time for television as the Bible tells them all they need to know of the World.
As implied by the title of Postman’s book, do not allow factors of sermon length or format result in death.

Note 1: all links good as at 11 October 2016
Note 2: from another perspective perhaps the problem is not with the audience, but with the preacher.  After all, the preacher need be mindful of the famous Mark Twain quote: "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead."
Note 3: I am very pleased that another blog writer referred, via this link.

1 comment:

  1. What is the solution then if people generally aren't getting as much out of a 45 min sermon than a 20 min one? (I think leaving it to the discretion of pastors is best, and just informing them of the statistics on attention)