When you consider how many hours of preparation the average preacher spends each week on their sermon, it makes the statistics of how little those listening remember quite disconcerting. Although some preachers are exploring ways to enhance their talk with interaction and a multi-sensory approach, there are still many who just stand up there and talk. Rick Bundschuh in Moving Messages: Ideas That Will Revolutionize the Sunday Experience has given preachers a tool to explore a better way of delivering messages that will be meaningful and moving.
Bundschuh lays out his argument for saying good-bye to the traditional lecture/sermon in chapter one, as he talks about the “guilty secret shared by many” of not being able to remember a sermon just a short time after hearing it. While realizing that his book may cause some to be angry or outraged, he describes the typical Sunday morning sermon as “an antique, malfunctioning mode of communication.” He then makes the case for experiential learning in worship, which is simply “learning something by engaging in more than a passive role,” which “actually changes behavior, thinking, and attitudes.”
Using Jesus’ teaching as an example, Bundschuh suggests a variety of ways to make preaching more effective. He also looks at how ideas are absorbed best when as many senses as possible are involved in the process. He then examines practical ways to put these suggestions into place during the worship service, such as making changes to the physical space where the congregation meets to encourage “greater community and connectivity” and considering how the service resonates with men, as well as women.
Other innovations suggested by Bundschuh include team teaching/preaching, inviting members of the church to contribute experiences, hiring a storyteller, breaking up the message into smaller segments, having a panel discussion, and having short video interviews with people. He also talks about using peer-to-peer interaction in the service through real-time polling and open-ended discussion questions for people to answer in small groups. Using objects involves people visually and also can involve their sense of touch. There is also information about using music, movies, and other media to inform, move, and inspire the congregation. Finally, Bundschuh suggests giving people tools, such as a provocative question, to invite conversation after the worship hour.
The final section is about how to introduce experiential worship in your church with the caveat that “the first thing is to recognize that you can’t please everyone…and that’s okay.” Bundschuh suggest wading in slowly by using a good story, photos and illustrations, video testimonies, simple polling, and objects. Special events, such as a Christmas Eve or Easter service, can be opportunities to try out some creative ways of giving the message. After discussing how to handle skeptics, Bundschuh then presents an example of turning the ideas discussed in the book into an actual message that will be delivered during a Sunday service. Preachers and worship leaders looking to help their congregation have life-changing experiences in worship should give the book a read and then use the ideas in their own service.