Preaching To The “Image” Generation -- By: Peter James Flamming

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 03:1 (Fall 1985)
Article: Preaching To The “Image” Generation
Author: Peter James Flamming


Preaching To The “Image” Generation

Peter James Flamming

Pastor, First Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia

Consider ours the image generation. We live with, receive information from, and are motivated by the images constantly swirling around us. The master provider of these images, ever prompting us, ever shaping us, is the television set. But the master provider has a supporting cast of measurable clout: billboards, circulars, and advertisements. In addition, newspapers increasingly use graphic art to communicate what is happening around the world.

Writers who major in popular psychological concepts are telling us we ought to “picture” in our minds what we want to become. Others tell us we ought to have a good “self image.” Motivational speakers implore their listeners to fasten their attention upon the images they see of themselves at the end of their goals. Knowing I was writing this article, my wife handed me an article which begins: “Women who imagine what their bodies are doing as they lift weights gain more strength than body builders who don’t use mental imagery, a study shows.”

The Image Generation Compared

Image Versus Verbal

Most eras since the Reformation might be described as verbal rather than pictorial. The great theological arguments of Luther and Calvin turned on a single phrase or the meaning of a phrase, e.g. Jesus’ declaration from the last supper when he said, “This is my body.” The rational arguments were written and debated. A predictable pattern was followed: once a biblical image has been analyzed, the analysis is thought to carry the truth. Therefore, if my analysis does not agree with your analysis, it is worth a very great argument. That the image should carry a truth all its own is seldom considered.

In contrast, consider the 700 Club with their Johnny Carson stage scene. The image of the celebrity-believer sitting beside the host is the motivating memory of the moment. A witness is given which leads to an expectation of an experience or a miracle. This leads to a call for a decision symbolized by a prayer, a phone call, or an appeal for money. That, on occasion, those appearing seem to disagree on various points of belief is overlooked. The impact of the 700 Club rides upon the image of a person who embodies an overcoming faith and the promise of a similar experience to the one who believes.

Consider the verbal versus picture contrast in the secular world. I read where Bloomingdale’s makes something like $150,000 per page from the catalogues they send out to prospective customers around the country.

Obviously, the cata...

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