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Multisensory Preaching and Teaching: 4
"Simply Entertainment?" by Rick Blackwood
In today's post I'll address the third question raised when considering multisensory preaching and teaching, "Is it simply entertainment?" But first some background:
Some fundamentalists view the pulpit itself as a doctrinal issue. Any form of teaching that replaces the pulpit as a means of communicating the Word is seen as compromising and as theological error. One well-known advocate of lecture only preaching complains that, "Instead of a pulpit, the focus is a stage."1 The suggestion seems to be that only pulpit teaching is pure, and any other method of teaching is deemed to be "entertainment."
The same well-known advocate of "lecture only" communication writes: "There seems almost no limit to what modern church leaders will do to entice people who aren’t interested in worship and preaching. Too many have bought the notion that the church must win the people by offering them alternative entertainment…"2
What does "Entertainment" Mean?
The implication is that any form of teaching other than lecture falls into the realm of entertainment. That criticism, however, raises a question: Exactly what is entertainment, and is entertaining teaching an unpardonable sin for teachers? Webster defines "entertainment" as, "something engaging." Is that not our goal as teachers of the Word, to engage their minds intellectually? The word "entertain" is also defined as,’ to keep, hold, or maintain in the mind." Is that not our mission as communicators of the scriptures? Are we not trying to keep, hold, and maintain in the mind the Word of God?
I am struggling to understand the complaint? I am having a hard time finding a theological problem with that kind of teaching. Do we not wish to engage people’s minds? Do we not wish for people to hold and keep what we are teaching in mind? In fact, when I check the antonym of entertain on my computer, I get the word bore. You have to ask yourself, are we trying to bore our people, or are we trying to captivate their minds so we can impart truth?
Don’t get me wrong; if we are talking about grandstanding and trying to amuse people, then I too am against that. I have to admit; I have seen some multisensory teaching that was carnival like. I loathe that as much as any lover of the Word. That, however, is not my understanding of entertaining the mind of an audience. Hosea was attempting to use multisensory teaching to entertain the minds of the Jewish people. If that is what some people mean by entertaining…
I Plead Guilty
Calvin Miller makes a revealing contrast between "entertainment" and "interest." "Entertainment and interest pass very close. It’s difficult to tell if a sermon has interested or entertained the audience." He continues by saying, "In some sense then, I believe that all can experiment with how to hold an audience’s attention. To entertain means to occupy time engagingly. Every time I am prone to doubt the value of this engagement, I turn again to the arts for the best demonstration of this. Movies, plays, novel, paintings all have the same glorious virtue: the arts intrigue us as they teach us."3
It’s interesting that scripture admonishes us, "Do not forget to entertain strangers." Heb.13: 2. Each week, "strangers" show up at Christ Fellowship, and our goal is to entertain them mentally and relationally. By entertain, I don’t mean to put on a show for them, but I do mean to engage them intellectually and compassionately.
Answer to Question #3:
Multisensory teaching is entertaining in the sense that it engages the mind.
1) MacArthur. John F. 1993. Ashamed of the gospel: When the church becomes like the world. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. 69-70 1993.
3) Miller, Calvin. 1994. The empowered communicator: Seven keys to unlocking an audience. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers. 152-53
Rick Blackwood (DMin, Grace Theological Seminary; EdD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as the senior pastor of Christ Fellowship in Miami, Florida, a large and growing multicultural congregation comprised of more than seventy nationalities. Christ Fellowship has been listed in the 100 Fastest Growing Churches in America. Prior to his ministry in Miami, Rick served churches in North Carolina. Rick lives with his wife and two children in Miami.
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