One early problem of communication in the American pulpit was the immigrant preacher who spoke some version of Yankee-Dutch to an audience who knew the English language better than he. This problem is largely a thing of the past. But a new problem of pulpit communication has taken its place. Men of the pulpit are now forced to compete with those highly refined and effective forms of modern communication which today are commonplace.
David Susskind’s program “Open End” was dropped from a television station recently when he described the station’s evening programming as a “heap of garbage.” While some people at times might be tempted to use such overly strong language, no one is complaining that television is short on technological expertness. No cost is spared and every technical resource is employed to catch the eye and ear and mind of viewers. From a technical point of view television is great. This is so true that many people find the disparity between technical excellence and the ofttime inconsequential content painful; others are annoyed with themselves because they watch against their wills and better judgment, and sometimes even enjoy the commercials because they are so skillfully done. And here lies the problem of communication for the modern pulpit. Today’s preacher of sermons must compete with the expert technical quality of television, movies, radio, newspapers. The man of the pew is conditioned—no doubt largely unconsciously, but nonetheless powerfully—by this constant exposure to the best in modern communications. He finds it increasingly difficult to be interested in the average sermon. How rarely he listens to the preacher in spite of himself; on the contrary, and this is especially true of teen-agers, listening ...1
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