.Jesus' ministry is in full swing. He has been baptized; spent forty days in the wilderness being tempted; he begins to teach, while calling his disciples and then he heals the sick. Eventually he steps on to the stage in the Northern Hill Country of Galilee and begins to preach. He uses the most modern technology available to deliver what has come to be called according to Matthew, "The Sermon on the Mount". That technology is his voice. But in those days, there was not so much in conflict with a good afternoon sermon on a hillside from someone who was quickly becoming known as the one anointed by God.
That style of communicating the Gospel Message stayed relatively the same for the next century and a half. Until, according to M. Rex Miller in his book The Millennium Matrix (San Francisco: Wiley, 2004 print) everything about the church changed because we went from an oral culture to a print culture with the invention of the printing press around 1454. Now sermons could still be delivered orally from a lofty preaching perch but they, along with the Bible itself, could be distributed to the masses in print form. Miller contends we stayed that way in church until the 1950's.
In those early years of the 50's along came an invention known as the television. It is true that radio preceded television by many years, but radio was simply a way to mass produce a voiced message. Television raised the bar. Now the message could not only be heard, but also seen. And as the technology increased, television could also produce a moving scroll at the bottom of the screen so that you could hear one thing, see another and still read yet another. Those who saw this new invention as a way to disperse the gospel in worldwide manner tapped into this medium of preaching. Of course this form of message distribution was expensive and required the "televangelist" to spend more time it seemed in "begging" for money, than preaching the old message.
Fast forward and I do mean fast forward, a mere twenty-five years and suddenly a new medium was emerging known as the internet. Not only could you see and hear, but you could also interact. But the technology did not stop with just a single internet function. Within a few years you could totally engage the subject in conversation with others by using one of several social media which came on the scene such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. Today's newest adult generation known as Millenials (ages 18-29) is all about the ability to interact with a mode of communication
It seemed to me, that given the choice to either sit and listen to a sermon, delivered by one person from one position behind a pulpit or be involved in an interactive presentation that involved a variety of my senses and gave me an opportunity to participate, I would choose the one that invigorated many of my senses. And I suspected others were in the same frame of mind.
My assumptions were confirmed on a family vacation to the Disney Resort in Orlando, Florida. One of their presentations was a state-of-the-art display, that brought you into theater seating and during the show, you heard a variety of sounds, saw images, including 3-D images, felt water mist on you, smelled being in a forest and you even felt animals running under your seats. It held my attention the entire time and I can tell you today, all about the show, because all of my senses had been involved.
As I began to work on my Doctor of Ministry Project, I began to reflect on this notion of using multi-sensory presentations during the sermon time and since I had already employed some of these techniques in my own church setting, I was curious by the research done and book written by Rick Blackwood titled The Power of Multi-sensory Preaching and Teaching (Grand Rapids:Zondervan 2008 print). In this book, Blackwood makes a great case for using multiple senses to raise attention and retention. In fact, he suggests it is biblical. He cites, 1 Timothy 3:2, where we are instructed to be "skillful at teaching", the Greek word, didaktikos. Blackwood concludes that the ability to be a skillful teacher is based on knowing your audience and being able to communicate with them in ways they are most familiar.
Today in the church, we are no longer immersed in a crowd that has nothing else to do but listen to a wonderful message delivered on a hillside. The church in the world today is competitive. And since I am under the belief that we have the greatest message to tell, even though it is a mere two-thousand years old, it is the truth, but it can only be disseminated to a world in a way that they will stop the milieu of other things to do and listen to this message because it grabs them by all of their senses.