April 1, 2020

Preaching to an Empty Room – A Silver Lining

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The Coronavirus crisis has caused the disruption of sporting events throughout the country.  To limit the spread of the disease, sports leagues have discussed holding games with no fans in the seats.  As you might expect that possibility is not popular among many of the players.  They prefer to play in front of a crowd. 

In some ways, this is true of pastors as well right now. The absence of the Sunday morning congregation takes away an element of the preaching experience.  Most people view preaching as a monologue.  And it is.  The pastor speaks.  The people listen.  But there are also some elements of dialogue between the pastor and the congregation.  The congregation constantly gives non-verbal feedback to the pastor.  The pastor feeds off the energy of friendly faces. 

In these days of social distancing, pastors are preaching without the benefit of a congregation.  Preaching has become an online activity.  Pastors are preaching to a camera in an otherwise empty room.  That is a major difference.  Preaching styles change.  Gestures which were once energetic and sweeping are now more confined.  Volume and intensity of voice is more restrained.  The setting, lighting, and sound system are different.  And there is no audience to energize the preacher.  All of these can cause stress for pastors.

There is, however, a silver lining in those challenges.  This crisis is forcing change and growth.  Over time pastors develop their own preaching style.  In one sense that creates a groove for the preacher, a comfortable way of presenting the truth of God’s Word.  But a groove can also become a rut.  Being forced out of a rut (or groove) stretches the pastor to change styles and try new things.  That leads to growth. 

So, pastor, while this is a time you will miss being in front of your congregation, it is also a time for you to enhance your preaching skills as you preach to a camera. 

  • Step out of your familiar comfort zone with joy and excitement. 
  • Try new things. 
  • Don’t give in to fear and frustration. 

People desperately need the truth and comfort of God’s Word.  So, preach it!  And remember, you still have God’s Word and the Holy Spirit on your side as you take on the challenge of preaching to an empty room.  God bless you.

Dr. Dan Borg

PIR Regional Director and Pastor