It happens every year about this time. The National Enquirer and all the other tabloids round up all the “psychics” in town to make predictions about the coming year. The headlines are pretty much the same: “Elizabeth Taylor to Wed for 23rd Time!” “President Clinton Actually Child of Aliens!” “Michael Jackson Will Admit He Had Facial Surgery!” — stuff like that.
A whole different group of prognosticators will be on the political talk shows and offer their own projections of the year ahead: “Bush Will Win Big!” “Bradley Will Upset Gore!” “Giuliani and Clinton Will Have Spitting Contest!”
With the poor track record of such pundits, it seems difficult enough to predict events just twelve months away. So I’m going to skip the short-term stuff and make predictions for a century away. While that may seem a bit ambitious, there is a very good reason to take the 100 year mark as a standard: none of today’s readers is likely to be around to find out if I was right or wrong. Therefore, I can bask in the aura of undiminished prognostication for the next fifty years or so, confident that my grandchildren will eventually learn of my predictive prowess.
(Of course, all these predictions assume that the Left Behind book series has not actually become reality over the next one hundred years.)
Here, then, are some predictions for the year 2100:
1. Preaching will continue to be a central part of the worship of the church.
Can you imagine standing on the brink of the twentieth century and trying to make predictions about the next hundred years? In a time when the “horseless carriage” was in its early stages, who could have imagined television, airlines, space travel, personal computers, genetic research, and so much more that has appeared over the past century. Yet there is one thing that took place in the first century, was around at the turn of the first millennium, and is still thriving today: preaching.
When God ordained that His Word would be proclaimed by the “foolishness of preaching,” a legacy was established which has stretched through two millennia and will continue until the Lord’s return. Preaching has had its difficult eras and its periods of remarkable influence. Yet no matter what is happening in the surrounding culture, preaching has had and will continue to have a profound influence on the lives of God’s people.
Certainly preaching will undergo changes, much as it has through the ages. Yet I feel confident that a century from now, if the Lord tarries, preachers will stand before congregations and proclaim the truths of God’s Word under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
2. Preaching will feel the impact of technological change
Even while I believe that preaching will survive and thrive through the coming century, I also recognize that it will be influenced by changes taking place in society, particularly in the area of technology.
I remember the day, just three years ago, when I spoke to a pastor’s group composed of ministers from rural congregations in West Tennessee. Afterward, on the way to lunch, I sat in the van and listened to two rural pastors discussing web sites they were using! I knew then that something remarkable was taking place among preachers, as the personal computer finally carved out a significant place in the preacher’s study, no matter the size of the church.
Technology can be a wonderful tool and a dangerous master. Those who think that technology will somehow replace or revolutionize the preaching act are, I think, quite mistaken. The Internet is not going to replace the worship service, though it may offer a valuable supplement for some.
On the other hand, technology can provide the “research assistant” which previously was beyond the reach of most preachers. Just as electronic amplification was a new development which has been absorbed into the life of most churches, so computers are finding their place in the studies of more and more pastors.
What is yet to be determined is what the next technological innovation will be. After all, a decade ago most of us thought of spiders when the term “web” was used. The pace of change today is rapid, and it is impossible to know what new tools technology will provide to enhance our ability to communicate. As long as we keep the focus on our mission and purpose, the tools can only help.
3. Seminary education will focus more on practical ministry issues.
Most traditional seminaries do a good job of providing a classical theological education, including biblical studies, theology, philosophy, and church history. At the same time, training in practical theology, including homiletics, leaves much to be desired Time and again I visit with graduates of quality seminaries who readily acknowledge they were never taught how to construct a meaningful biblical sermon.
With the decline of denominational loyalty and support already underway, seminaries are going to find the need to be increasingly “market sensitive” over the coming years. And I believe that will require them to respond to the demand of the churches to train pastors “who can preach.” Much as law schools and medical schools — which provide special professional training — are required to pay higher faculty salaries than the traditional arts and sciences disciplines, so seminaries may find it necessary to increase salaries in order to attract gifted communicators from the local church to the classroom. That may offend many scholars, but it will be a godsend to the churches they serve if it helps their graduates become more effective preachers.
Preaching in the coming century promises to be exciting, fulfilling, challenging, frustrating, and worth all that it takes — much as it has for the twenty centuries past. If God has called you to preach, then you have a strategic role to play in the life of the church as we enter a new century together.
At the start of a new year, it seems an appropriate time to look back with appreciation for those who have helped make Preaching magazine possible during the previous year.
Since our move to Jackson, TN, in June 1996, Dr. Mark Johnson served as managing editor of the magazine and has played the primary, day-to-day role in producing the magazine and working with our contributors. This summer, Mark returned to the pastorate (and to his home area) with a call to become pastor of Greenbelt Baptist Church in Greenbelt, MD, just outside Washington. His writing has continued to appear in the magazine (though in a more limited way) in the months since, but we will surely miss his daily efforts on behalf of our readers.
While functioning without a managing editor this summer, I learned just how important the job is, so was delighted with the addition of Jonathan Kever to that role this fall. Jonathan is a bright young minister who has just completed his degree in Christian Studies at Union University. (He graduated as the top biblical studies student in a program that enrolls more than 300 church-related studies majors.) He will serve with Preaching about 25 hours a week while continuing his theological training. You will enjoy his work in the coming months.
Another key member of the Preaching team is Lanette Ross, our office manager and circulation director. She serves our readers in a variety of ways, from answering subscriber calls (and e-mails) to entering new orders and renewals in the computer, to keeping track of our books. Lanette loves the Lord and has a great ministry to ministers through her work at Preaching. Pray for her in the next few weeks as we go through a complete conversion of our computer software for managing subscriber information. (Yes, the old system was not Y2K compliant!)
Wayne Jenks is our Webmaster, a job he performs from Louisville, KY, where he is a student at Southern Baptist Seminary. Wayne began working for us some four years ago when we were based in Louisville, and has continued doing a fine job of managing our web site (and Preaching On-Line) from long distance. (Of course, geographic distances don’t make much difference in cyberspace!)
Jeannette May and Florence Torsell help make the magazine possible through their work as our national advertising representatives. The advertisers who appear in Preaching make this publication possible, and Jeannette and Florence (based in suburban Chicago) help make those ads possible. So if you have the opportunity, tell an advertiser you saw their ad in Preaching — then buy something!
My work as editor would be impossible without the talent and dedication represented by the people I’ve mentioned. Add to that list the incredible team of Contributing Editors and writers who help make Preaching the quality resource that it is. Without them, there would be no magazine. (Well, there might be one but it would be a whole lot shorter!)
Finally, let me thank you for reading and supporting this ministry venture. Our goal for 15 years has been to strengthen and encourage those who proclaim God’s Word. Whether through Preaching magazine, the National Conference on Preaching, or now the web site and on-line publication (Preaching On-Line), that mission guides and drives everything we do. If you benefit from our work, then it has been worthwhile.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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