Monday, April 30, 2007


Our attention span as a culture is reaching new lows. Our tv screens have continuous scrolling of news events, logos, and clever animated inserts. A recent confirmand critiqued my preaching as OK, but needing some "commercial breaks" so she could stay focussed. A L.A. music producer is trying to market music clips of no more than 3 minutes, declaring that in 3 minutes he can edit the essence of the number: classical, jazz, rock, alternative to keep the audience from drifting.
Now today Sony corporation is introducing "Minisode Network". These are 3 minute distillations of the essence of a 30 minute show geared for My-Space and cell-phones. The premier show will be none-other-than Charlies' Angel, the original version with Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Jaclyn Smith. A recorded voice, some gun shots, a chase, the catch, all in 3 minutes.
What's shocking is that it's not really shocking. We all knew that the shows like that we watched (including A-Team) had about 3 minutes of content to 26 minutes of fluff (or swim suits).
The question is: is this necessarily bad? Does it not reflect the core of our formulaic culture? Is not Sony really declaring that the king has no clothes in the TV culture? We think 24, Survivor, Lost, Sopranos are new media-literary creativity. But coldn't they too be distilled down to their own 3 minute essence?
The complex use of language and plot has been long traded in for flash and dash. Special effects and computer graphics dominate over character development and pursuit of truth. Now, how about worship? Could a Sunday morning worship time be editted and distilled into 3 minutes? A call, a shot, a chase, a catch? Could this innauguarate a sermon genre specially tooled for My-Space? And, seriously, is that necessarily wrong? How long does it take to read one of Jesus' parables?


At 10:42 AM , Anonymous billy said...

Great post Donn! Great question about compressed church. I think there is hope for the the 3 min. sermon. I've tried something on my blog called the "car cast" - a two min podcast recorded by my cell phone while driving. Other aspects of worship (community, fellowship, the Lord's table and others) don't really do "myspace" as well but I think the 3 min sermon is worth a shot. The real question for you to ask yourself now is "how do I look in a bathing suit?"

At 12:09 PM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Don't even go there!

At 12:25 AM , Blogger Beth B said...

Compressed ideas.
Compressed artwork.
Compressed food.
Compressed church. Compressed marriage.
Commpressed childhood.
Compressed friendships. Compressed life.


Perennial philosophy.
Timeless artwork.
Slow food.
Sacrifice, sacrament,and celebration.
"Til death do us part."
Innocence and wonder.
Life-long friends.
Abundant, eternal life.

What a no-brainer! To be a Christian is to be counter-cultural. Dare I say to be Christian is to be PRE-modern?

What is the point of all this speed and busy-ness, that tempts us to cram more and more into our lives? The medievals called it acedia, or sloth: "indifference to spiritual good; boredom with God."

"The person who never relaxes is not a saint but a fidget,"writes Peter Kreeft in Back to Virtue. "Ironically, it is often just such a fidget who is guilty of sloth," because he is so busy frantically distracting himself in an effort to hide the hollowness that he holds inside.

What do you get when you finally succeed in compressing heaven and earth into its smallest point? "I." But what does she lack who has God Who has all things?

No, it doesn't take much time at all to read Jesus' parables; but it takes a life-time to understand and live them out. The question is, are we willing to make the sacrifice? Something about a long obedience in same direction...

At 8:08 AM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Thanks Beth, I love the contrasts. Could there be value in distinguishing the difference between "chronos" and "kairos" in all this?

At 2:22 PM , Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Maybe this is an idea whose time has come. I wish we could instill some discipline into us, though, because reading Scripture itself from cover to cover takes time. But when you consider that people in the past haven't been known to do that much of that, then I guess if we could get people to do it regularly a little at a time, we'd end up ahead.

But back to "sermons". I do believe in the idea that if we can get one point across then we're better off than just preaching a fine expository message. I think more often ends up being less.

But good reflection here and quite interesting!


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