Sounding Symbols by Paul Gregory Alms

Sounding Symbols

Paul Gregory Alms on Sermons That Survive by the Grace of God

Who, among the X-Box children and Fox News parents in our pews, can be expected to sit still for twenty minutes to watch and listen to someone . . . just stand there . . . and talk . . . about God? So many other ways to “share the gospel” seem better suited than the sermon to reach the visually minded, relationship-oriented citizens of the digital age. We have no expectation that they will be able to profit from a rhetorical discipline already ancient by the time of Augustine and Chrysostom.

“Shock and awe” Jesus campaigns that assault every sense organ with overwhelming data are the order of the day. The experts on “sharing the gospel” advise emotional appeals, humor, entertainment, practicality. Denominational headquarters peddle such things. Large churches routinely replace the sermon with skits, and small churches scurry to keep up by turning the preacher into a performer.

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Paul Gregory Alms (paulgregoryalms.blogspot.com) is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Catawba, North Carolina. He is a graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with both MDiv and STM degrees. He has written extensively for journals such as First Things, Concordia Theological Journal, Lutheran Witness, Lutheran Forum, The Cresset, and others. He is married and the father of four girls.

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