Preaching For The Contemporary Service Joseph M. Webb July 1, 2006 Preaching For The Contemporary Service. Abingdon Press, 2006. Paper, 134 pages.Author: Joseph M. Webb With all the emphasis on celebrative music and multi-sensory presentations in many contemporary worship services, some ask the question: should preaching still be a central part of such services? Joseph Webb argues that “there is no substitute for the preacher, the speaker, the one who stands and speaks the gospel in a dynamic, life-enhancing way.” However, Webb insists, the demand for that “dynamic” presentation necessitates a mode of preaching that does not bear the burden of “traditional preaching” which “by reputation” is considered boring. So Webb argues for an approach he calls “improvisational preaching,” drawing on insights from the stage, from jazz, and even from stand-up comedy to profile an approach to preaching that is “not dull, not boring, not stuck someplace in the past.” By improvisation he is not arguing for sermons that lack preparation, but for preaching that reflects a freshness and energy characteristic of improvisational performances. Webb offers a lengthy discussion of the characteristics of such preaching. One critical issue, he asserts, is the need to preach without notes in the contemporary service. He notes, “The bottom line is that improvisational speaking, and preaching, requires that it be done without notes. Despite how well prepared it must be, it must still come across to those who hear it and share it as someone just talking to us. Not preaching to us. Not lecturing to us. Not trying to get us to do this or that. It is someone who just stood in front of us and, with passion, shared his or her heart.” There is much in the book that will be helpful to preachers (or speakers) wishing to enhance their communication skills. He offers useful insights on “the art of the story,” and his section on plotting the sermon – much as a director plots a movie – is worth further study. (In his interview with Preaching magazine that’s available online at www.preaching.com, Rick Warren talks about his own efforts in this regard.) At the same time, Webb’s argument would have been strengthened by offering real-life examples from the experiences of preachers who are modeling effective preaching in contemporary services. And the reader will want to recognize that while a number of pastors doing effective preaching in contemporary services are using techniques that mirror Webb’s analysis, others are using different methodologies with equal success. There is no “golden road” to homiletical glory, even in the contemporary service. Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.