Shane Hipps – How Technology Shapes the Sermon – #ppp09

Shane Hipps – How Technology Shapes the Sermon – the art of preaching evolves with every new technological innovation in a culture. do you know what is being done and undone by our technologies?

You can read be a bit about Marshal McLuhan (Predicted things like  the virtues of the internet.  He called it a global village connected by  an electronic nervous system).

“Our conventional response to all media, namely that is how they are  used that counts is the numb stance of the technological idiot.  For  the content of any medium is the juicy piece of meat carried by the  burglar to distract the watch dog of the mind.” – M. McLuhan

Christianity is fundamentally a communication event.

Some say the methods change but message stays the same.

Instead the medium is the message.

While I have this a but out of chronological order for the sake of an  easier post, he usually demonstrates that idea this way.

He puts up  this slide.

Reads it and generally the audience continues listening.

Then he advances the next slide:

There is usually some kind of vocal “ah-ha!” gasp.  “The boy is sad”.    Then he’ll repeat McLuhan’s maxim –

“The medium is the message”.
We become what we behold

Some equate the gospel simply to be:

Apologies for sins + believe in Jesus = go to heaven.

Bill Bright’s tract   Fact – faith – feeling

Many of us (evangelicals) were brought up with the idea that “Feeling” is not necessarily a good thing.  They have been known to betray us.

Hence, it’s the caboose of the Bill Bright Gospel Train.

But we cannot truly be separated from our feelings.  Thus, we must learn to use them and not be manipulated by them.  We ought not to resent them but understand what they are and how they inform us.

Our current digital age is a wall of mirrors – Reflection after reflection

Significance of the photograph – Hyper picture – began to lose our ability for abstract thoughts

Pictures and words are different modes of expression. This is why advertisers use images and not essays.  There is no debate in the mind.

There is now a major global company logo associated with every letter in the english alphabet.

Shane used to work for Porsche and while marketing the Cheyenne he remembers himself thinking, “I DO have to get one of these for myself.  I need it. I don’t care that I can’t afford it – It’s awesome!”

We are moving to a right brain thinking way of the world

Images always win

You will remember an image easier than a word of phrase

It hijacks the imagination

So why does it matter to us (as preachers)?

Depends on what you want to accomplish

But you need to understand the medium

If we become what we behold …

As we became a print culture,

our sanctuaries started reflecting that.

In middle ages (stained glass), the stories of Jesus emerged.

After printing press, Paul was rediscovered.

As we changed to broadcast  and digital culture,

our churches start looking less  2 pg column and more circular.

We are far better off in understanding (and exploring)

Before we critique

If so, we’ll be able to use our media, rather than be used by them.

(Session 2 – Hipps continued)

How this affects the church.

Church as a lecture hall – to give out new info – dense philosophical,  theological, not practical).

Jonathan Edwards – 4 Hr sermons. Only possible in a print-culture.

Broadcast era came in and ushered in a new age of church (how  attentive  you are, how entertaining you are, how good-looking you  are)

Internet era – Interact era – gave way to coffee shop – no single authority, the conversation is important

All 3 areas are on still in existence – see the complexity of it

This can’t tell you how to preach – There are still things that are common and distinct to every era.

What I can say is that it is harder to preach now today than any other time.  The world needs good preaching.

2 Practices to help us become better students of preaching (or to awaken the art)

1. The art of surprise.

When an audience doesn’t have capacity to stay attentive, you need to use surprise.

  • The Exegetical surprise – some integrate the text, instead of  counseling the text.
    • Use ATLA journals,
  • Rhetorical surprise – the way we get to the end.  You lead people into the desert, they get thirsty, you want to give them water.
    • Need to create dissonance.
  • Lingustic Surprise – so you could relearn words, recharge them
    • You can take ancient ideas and make them sound new
    • Poetry is helpful with this because in reengages the mind.

For instance:

A case: water into wine

Rhetorical surprise – it’s an odd miracle

Exegetical surprise – Jn. 2:6 – nearby stood six stone water jars.

Linguistic surprise – how ìlimberî is your sol to withstand this kind of destruction?

Shane said the word ìlimberî just sort of rose to the top for him and he was able to use it.

2. The art of letting go – give the sermon and walk away from it.  Don’t wait for the affirmation or the complaint – let it go.  It will make you more effective in the long run.

My role is to fearless and endlessly offer these words

– you don’t need encouragement to breathe

– we haven’t been freed from the outcomes

– in the process, through you won’t realize it, you become a better and more powerful preacher.

Someone asked a question about twitter.  Shane said it was the most often asked questions he gets right now.  He wasn’t hating on it but was explaining that one of the problems with twitter is that it prevents simplicity on this side of complexity. The technology does the work, the user just has to supply the 140 characters.  It is the opposite of poetry, which is simple on the other side of complexity.  What we should do is only let our poets tweet.  He joked that one tweet would come out every 4 months or so.

Every medium has 4 basic effects

These are McCluhan’s laws of media

Reverses – every media reverse on itself

Extends – every media extends (some is bc of technological advance, some from society needing more)

Retrieves – every media retrieves itself – no new media.  The internet is the modernized telegraph.

Obsoletes – every medium obsoletes an another (digital mp3 obsoletes physical tape/cd)

// I’m still processing through this.  I’ve heard a Shane a few times now and have read the Hidden Power of Electronic Culture. (Flickering Pixels is on the infamous “To Read” shelf).  His material was very helpful to me, I encourage you to add his books to your Amazon wish list.  To cut to the chase, I appreciate so much of what Shane has to say, especially the idea of how we as communicators need to understand our medium. That said, I also find myself pushing back on some of his thoughts.  I’d like to save that for a future post(s) as I try to work that out so as not to sound trite.

Lastly, to you more experienced bloggers out there. I tried to work on the look and formatting of this post but it always published differently from how I drafted.  I even started over.  I wanted to organize some of the notes to relate more with the picture next to it but I was obviously unsuccessful.  Any thoughts on how to do this easily?  Feel free to comment or email. Thanks.


  1. Ted Kooser and a poet friend did something similar to snail mail Twitter a while back: writing postcards to one another each with a new line of poetry—it was a real-time, communal mode of writing, albeit at a much slower, analog pace.

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