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Peter Mead on TJ Hooker and Preaching

6 November 2007

Peter Mead is almost always inspiring and challenging to me. He has the following two posts some differences between preaching in our world as opposed to preaching in the world of TJ Hooker. (early 80’s) I don’t remember ever seeing TJ Hooker, but any show that has William Shatner in it can’t be all bad.

I believe Peter makes some excellent observations: To wit… (some more of my comments below)

“Compare and contrast. Sounds like an exam question. I’ve been comparing and contrasting two TV shows. I’m away from home so I’ve watched a couple of TV shows to unwind at night. One is a classic police show from the early 80’s. The other a quality mini-series from last year. One is compelling viewing, the other is hilarious. Apart from great clothes, old cars that roll in every chase, shallow plots and pathetic one-liners, what else has changed in 25 years of TV production?”

“The introduction. A quarter of a century ago people would gladly sit through three minutes of canned music, watching several action shots and freeze frames of central characters with yellow lettering across the screen, “Starring – William Shatner.” I can just imagine people making themselves comfortable and saying to themselves, “I’ll watch it if he’s in it!” After the opening credits there are then a few more minutes of tedious scene setting, relaxed police officers enjoying a few empty jokes. Finally things start when a crime takes place (unrealistic, utterly ridiculous, but at least it is some action).”

“Today the opening credits last 45 seconds and don’t come until 8 minutes into the show. The very first frame of the broadcast is action, tension, intrigue, interest. Producers know that unless you grab people in the first seconds, you’ll lose them to one of the several hundred other options under their right thumb.

“We are not preaching 25 years ago. People don’t make themselves comfortable and say to themselves, “a sermon about Moses, great! I’ll listen to it if he’s in it!” Life is faster, people are ready to move on quicker (not physically, but in their minds). What can you do in the first three or four sentences to arrest their interest and lock their focus?”

“I hope your clothes have changed in 25 years, and if the Lord has blessed you at all then hopefully your car has changed too. Let’s not go retro on the intro.

“So just one more “lesson.” A quarter of a century ago, the episode I was watching followed a clear plot line. A situation thrown into tension by a problem, with the tension then increasing until the moment of resolution, followed by several minutes of denouement – tying together loose ends and returning the viewers to a state of relaxed contentment. Those last few minutes were intriguing to me. The program almost landed twice, but still dragged on. After the satisfying capture of the felons, there were two more scenes. One in which the arresting officer made a tricky play on words in reference to the length of jail term one would receive. Then another showing the officers joking together as they headed out of the door. Corny? Yes. Necessary? No.”

“Compare that with equivalent police or military dramas today. Often the show ends just before you expect it to end, not three minutes after it should have ended. Often the show ends with some tension remaining, a thought-provoking scene, or a cliff-hanger. These two approaches illustrate a preaching lesson that homiletics writers also affirm:”

“When you come to the end of your message, don’t add three minutes of nothing and a corny freeze frame moment that leaves listeners comfortably returned to a state of relaxed levity. Instead carefully craft your conclusion to both resolve the message, yet also to leave an unresolved state of heart and mind, a slight disequilibrium that gives some momentum into the application or further consideration of the message. Oh, and try to do all that and finish a couple of sentences earlier than they expect.”

You can find the complete original posts at:

http://biblicalpreaching.wordpress.com/2007/10/28/preaching-lessons-from-tj-hooker/

and

http://biblicalpreaching.wordpress.com/2007/10/29/preaching-lessons-from-tj-hooker-%e2%80%93-part-2/

cph: I think that often I do try to wrap things up too neatly. Maybe I am guilty of wantng people walk away with a feeling of completeness or satisfaction rather than that “unresolved state of heart and mind, a slight disequilibrium that gives some momentum into the application or further consideration of the message.”

I am not sure that I have as big an issue with prolonged introductions. I bore pretty easily and usually (or at least often) try to just jump in, get their attention and go from there. That is illustrated a little bit by my sermon last Sunday. It was on Psalm 30. But the sermon was at least half done before I read the text. And we were a good ten minutes into the sermon before I ended the story of the background narrative behind Ps. 30. (David’s sin of taking a census of his fighting men and his follow-up purchase of the threshing floor of Aruanah on which to build an alter and eventually on which to build the temple.). There was a bit of suspense (I hope) about the identity of the leader I was describing.

In reading Peter’s post, I think of “The Practice” and “Boston Legal” (two related TV shows I used to watch until Boston Legal became unbearably anti-Christian.). As he said there was always a longer beginning (which often held tie-ins from previous shows: “Previously on ‘Boston Legal…'”) and then they just jump into the action or intrigue. It is always at a key moment either of tension or humor that they jump to the credits. They don’t (as some shows do) roll the credits over the action & dialogue. In fact their credits are unbearably long.

While the ending of Boston Legal is often as Peter describes, they DO always end with William Shatner and David Spader smoking cigars and drinking scotch on Shatner’s office balcony and reflecting on something from the episode. It is always a highlight.

Maybe (my worship pastor) Will and I should end each worship service with us sitting on stage smoking cigars and drinking scotch?

Or maybe not.

Conclusions, Culture, Introductions

One Comments to “Peter Mead on TJ Hooker and Preaching”

  1. Cal,
    This is Oregon, perhaps you and Wil should drink a glass of Pinot Noir and nibble on organic carrots.
    I did notice you skipped a section of the outline but I don’t usually follow the outline…I’ve never quite ubderstood the “rule” about leaving blanks on the outline anyway.
    Incidentally, I appreciate your thoughts prior to the offering time. I’ve always felt the offering was almost as solemn an occasion as the communion. During communion I have a time to reflect on the Lord’s sacrifice and recieve/reflect on His gift to me while the offering allows me to to reflect on an opportunity to give back in a small way. Wouldn’t the service be enhanced if we were encouraged to “commune” with God as much about our offering as we do during the communion.
    My thoughts for today.
    I appreciate you and Loretta. God bless you both.
    Bruce Varney

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