If the first task of leadership is to “define reality,” then preachers in the 21st century must continue to recognize that we serve in a rapidly shifting environment.

In his new book Preaching, Tim Keller points out that “For over one thousand years in Western societies, Christian beliefs have been the ‘deep background’ of almost all listeners to any Christian speaker. Preaching and gospel presentations could build on those concepts and count on getting a hearing with some respect."

Since the mid-twentieth century that has finally begun to change. Large segments of the population – even in the United States – for the first time began to embrace a secular view of life that for decades had been mainly the province of the European intelligentsia.

When Paul preached the gospel to the imperial elites, he called his message ‘truthful and rational,’ yet to the listeners he seemed out of his mind. Today again, what Christians think is true and reasonable now appears to be sheer madness to increasing numbers of the population.

Through centuries of habit most Christian speaking and preaching still assumes that listeners have the fundamental understandings of reality that they had in the past. Even the most outwardly focused, evangelistic churches continue to reach mainly people with traditional mindsets because their communication expects hearers to carry that historical imprint of Christendom. Yet fewer and fewer find the messages comprehensible, much less persuasive.”

As preachers, we will have to recognize that changing reality and rediscover what it is to be a missionary communicating the gospel in a pagan culture. And it’s going to be exciting!



Michael Duduit
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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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