Sunday, May 22, 2011

3D Preaching

I just got home from seeing a Real 3D © movie.  It was a very different experience from the early days of 3D when you wore the silly blue and red paper glasses that dug into the top of your ears as you watched.  These new ones are more like sunglasses and according to the website are quite “fashionable.”   I remember seeing old 3D movies when fish or rocks seemed to fly at you in a weird way, but this was actually an experience of feeling “in the middle of the action.”  This 3D experience was not about something flying out at me as an observer – it was about bringing me into the movie to feel part of it.  The glasses helped make that happen.  The Real 3D © website says that “each eye sees a slightly different image and the brain combines them to form a single image.  The different points of view allow the brain to judge depth and distance.”  (

When I teach students to preach, I encourage them to begin their process by looking at the biblical text from a number of perspectives- to look at it in the original language or read it from a number of different translations.   To analyze the preaching text (exegeting) requires that the preacher look into the context of the text as much as possible – to look at the authorship, writing dates and place, details about the audience the text was written to, the cultural realities of the day, the type of writing style the text represents, among other things.  But there is another perspective that many preachers forget to address.  Preachers must also exegete their own lives and those of their congregations/communities of faith.  It is important to know who you are and what is going on in your own life to understand how and why texts speak to you.  But even more important is to exegete the people to whom and with whom you are in ministry.  It is vital to know them – to know what is going on in their lives, what is important to them, what issues are plaguing their nights, what makes them tick, what makes them feel joy and happiness, what challenges their faith, and what keeps them going.  You cannot preach effectively to people if you don’t take the time to figure out who they are.  You might be able to pull it off for a little while or as a guest preacher here and there – but long term ministry means putting in the time to meet the people where they are and learn their stories.

Maybe all preachers should be issued a pair of 3D glasses when they start preaching – glasses that help them to see the text, the people, themselves, and the world from more than one perspective.  It is difficult for us as humans to see things from more than one perspective but it is important for preachers to do just that.  It is important for them to seek out these varying perspectives and to bring those who listen to them “into the middle of the action.”  Doing that requires preachers to tell stories that are relevant and relatable. Doing that requires us to know our faith community.  Doing that means putting on 3D glasses in our prep – putting in the effort and work required to see things from different perspectives, preaching from the side of the road, and dismantling the assumptions we have about the text and the world.  I just attended my first graduation at the seminary where I now teach – and I did not see any 3D glasses handed out, but I hope and pray they learned it from me and from others as they were preparing for ministry. 

As you preach, or teach, or just live your life in the world – wear your 3D glasses and look at the world from a new perspective.  Your brain will take those images and form a single image – that hopefully has more depth and distance.   And, hey – they’re fashionable, too!!

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