Right now, as social gatherings risk spreading COVID-19, preachers across the world are quickly having to learn how to deliver church services and sermons online. Are you a preacher in Africa? Do you worry that your flock would rather listen to preachers who are already famous from their TV shows or books? Have no fear – God has called you for this very moment. He knows what He is doing. Here are some tips from the Africa Study Bible on how to embrace the digital era without losing your way.
Time to Embrace Online
The coming of the digital era has brought us help in conveying the gospel message to our hearers – including giving us the opportunity to reach people who may not be part of a church. As this technology becomes more available in Africa, we must exploit it for the good of our hearers rather than pretend it is not there – or even be opposed to it. Yet, even as we exploit digital communication, the primary content of our messages as preachers of the Word of God should not change. We are communicators of the unsearchable riches of Christ – even when we are online.
We must exploit technology for the good of our hearers rather than pretend it is not there – or even be opposed to it!
1) Remember, you Know your Flock
The fact that wonderful sermons can be received from other parts of the world does not mean we do not need African preachers any more. Local preachers have the advantage of knowing the circumstances of their hearers. They can tailor the application of their messages to what their audiences need. For instance, our local preachers are more likely to address issues of corruption, tribalism, and spiritual warfare rather than topics the Western world may be struggling with such as gender and sexuality debates. Local preachers can also reference illustrations and examples familiar to our hearers that help make biblical concepts clear and easy to understand.
2) Personal Trumps Professional
There is dynamism in live, personal communication that enables preachers to adjust the message while interacting with their hearers (e.g. Acts 14:9). This is lost when the preachers are not in direct contact with those who are listening to them. Even if direct contact is not possible during virtual sermon delivery, the relationship between preachers and their congregants adds a uniquely personal, pastoral tone. The preacher and the listener can continue to discuss the content and follow up on application long after the sermon is over.
during virtual sermon delivery the relationship between preachers and their congregants adds a uniquely personal, pastoral tone
3) Embrace your African Flare
As African preachers, we have a unique contribution to make to the church both here in Africa and as our messages are seen and heard around the world. Our oral tradition and storytelling tend to capture the imagination of our listeners more than the teaching of our non-African friends. We must not lose this when we preach online. Remember, Jesus did the same in his rich parables and illustrations. Indeed, most of the Bible contains stories. We also tend to be more invigorated and warm in our communication. Thus we touch the emotions of our hearers more than others who seem to concentrate on simply passing along information.
Our oral tradition and storytelling tend to capture the imagination of our listeners more than the teaching of our non-African friends.
4) Preach the Word
While we should maintain a blend of styles in our preaching, some aspects of biblical preaching must be universal. For instance, we must always include some expository preaching—that is, the explanation and application of a passage of Scripture—and not just focus on topical preaching on a theme from many parts of the Bible. Each preacher must “be a good worker” who “correctly explains the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) The result is that those who listen to us – even online – can have a growing understanding of the Bible. They should see how what we are teaching is truly what God has said to them through his Word.
Our task must be to give the whole Bible to the whole person
We must also teach from those parts of the Bible that handle issues that may make us uncomfortable. Remember, our task must be to give the whole Bible to the whole person. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16).
5) Focus on The Good News
Our preaching must also be doctrinally sound. The central theme of our preaching must be about God and the salvation that he has brought us through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the Good News God has given us to share with the world. It is the only message that truly saves and sanctifies its hearers. The Bible says, “Faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ” (Romans 10:17).
6) This is Not Light Entertainment
Finally, let us beware of superficiality in preaching. Preaching, even in this online era, must never be reduced to entertainment. Paul’s warns Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 about people desiring teachers who will teach them myths that pander to their passions. This is relevant in every age and on every continent. Africa is no exception.
Preaching, even in this online era, must never be reduced to entertainment
The souls of men and women and their understanding of how to apply the gospel to their lives are at stake. The future of an entire continent hangs on the moral fibre of God’s people. And this largely depends on the quality of our preaching today. We should ensure that what we are preaching is filled with the gospel, accurate in biblical understanding, and sound in doctrine. If we do so, we will enrich people’s lives, prepare them for “a rich and satisfying life” on earth (John 10:10), and an eternal home in heaven.
Going Online: Points to Remember
- Technology presents both opportunities and challenges. Pastors must learn how to harness this gift for the Gospel.
- Support your local church even when you listen to preachers from around the world online. A pastor who knows your name will be most effective in guiding your spiritual growth.
- Pastors must not pursue money, power, and acclaim. Instead, God has charged them to feed his sheep with humility and preaching the truth. Even when it is difficult to hear.