This thesis begins with the argument that television is a dominant influence on modern
society. Television is, for example, a primary source of information and a dominant medium
of entertainment. The most profound changes television has brought to modern culture,
however, are more fundamental. The television age has engendered a new language and
patterns of communication.
The dilemma is how to communicate the gospel authentically from the Christian pulpit
in a society where television dominates the patterns of communication. This thesis argues that
preaching, in order to be heard today, must adopt the new language and communicative
structures used by television. Old forms of deductive, conceptual preaching no longer
encounter and involve an audience. The communicative tools of imagination, dialogue and
experience must become central to an understanding of the preaching task. In addition, an
awareness of the visual communications of body and face makes new demands of presentation.
As well as changes in technique, fundamental reflection on the theology of
communication and nature of preaching can take place in light of the media context.
Television challenges more than simply the structures of preaching, and it offers more than
a threat. Models for communication practice that reflect both the theological understanding
of Christian communication and the desire to be effective are examined. There is, for
example, clear grounds for preferring Incarnational and Trinitarian models over older
straight-line or monological models for Christian communication.
By means of case study, interview and sermon content analysis an investigation was
made into the role (perceived and actual, as far as it can be determined) of television in the
lives of a small group of preachers and students. The opinions and attitudes members of the
two groups have toward television were explored. In addition, for the preachers and preachers
in training, the potential that television has for informing preaching practice in any way
(content, structure or genre) was examined.
The second element in the empirical research explored the understanding and
experience of preaching. Investigating the priorities for preaching and the common structures
employed in that practice, there was an attempt to discover the areas of this communicative
act that are receptive to new influences. In addition, the presence of certain responses to the
change in cultural communication patterns was explored.
Finally the thesis raises the issue of training for preaching. The case study with the
New College students concerning the teaching of preaching is the primary tool for this section.
With the history from the Edinburgh preachers as a background, this final section explores the
possibilities for teaching preaching in the training of ministers today.
The writer of this thesis professes a faith in the efficacy of preaching. The Christian
message can still be communicated through preaching, but most effectively through preaching
that is heard in a television age. The person of Christ can encounter human beings through
image; and a living faith may be seen through experiential preaching.