CVC Head Pastor Harold Alomia gives his two cents
“Why is it that I can sit down and watch a TV show uninterrupted for 30+ minutes, but I can't sit and listen to a sermon for more than 10 before pulling out my phone?”
This post, by junior biomedical science major CJ Middlebrooks, appeared on my Facebook feed recently and quickly racked up multiple likes and comments. This post reflects a shared truth for so many―young high schoolers, college students and parents alike. It seems that our attention span has either destructively decreased or sermons are dangerously boring. Maybe it’s both; maybe it’s neither. Searching for an accurate and credible answer, I interviewed the lead pastor at College View Church, Harold Alomia, for his thoughts on the problem.
“Why do we have a hard time paying attention to a sermon?” I asked.
“Because you’re on your phone too much,” Alomia replied with a strong chuckle, before continuing. “Because we will listen to TED talks or watch movies for two hours, but that’s a good question.”
He recognized studies revealing a trend in shortening attention spans but challenged them, as we’re able to binge watch TV shows and movies for hours. Affirming that our attention spans have been modified because of social media and other technologies, he said a lot of it has to do with “what is being said and how it is being said and the relevance of the message and how we can bring the words alive from Scripture.” Just like your average Joe, Alomia isn’t completely immune from dozing off or finding himself scrolling through his Instagram feed during a sermon.
However, the finger has to be pointed in both directions. Sometimes we need to force ourselves to pay attention and be intentional by putting our distractions away. Other times, not so much. Alomia confesses that there are instances where he has tried to pay attention, but the message doesn’t compel him to. But other times he feels the messages are absolutely worth his attention. He gave the example of his experience at “the One project,” an annual conversation around Jesus that held this year in San Diego, California, in February. It was here that he found himself without distraction. Why? Because the messages were compelling, challenging and engaging.
Toward the end of our conversation I noticed three key components that Alomia emphasized for difficult and lack of interest for “sermon-ears”: Lack of preacher preparation, the absence of audience intentionality and lack of presence by the Holy Spirit.
Lack of preacher preparation occurs when he / she is unprepared, doesn’t speak about audience-relevant topics and when their style is boring and uncharismatic, causing disinterest in their audience.
Absence of audience intentionality occurs when they come with a mindset not of learning and engaging, and when they become distracted easily by their phones or other devices.
Lack of presence by the Holy Spirit can occur whenever both preacher and audience chooses to disengage from It. “You have to put it in the Lord’s hands,” begins Alomia. “You know where the Lord takes care and takes control of the delivery.”
While laughing, Alomia stated that there are simply some who aren’t good at delivering a message but others who are masters at it. However, he declared that God can use anyone―no matter the skill―to spread His Word.
There you have it. It can be difficult to pay attention to a sermon because of the preacher’s preparation, the audiences intentionality, and/or the absent invitation of the Holy Spirit.
Let that change the way you church. Be purposeful about receiving a blessing; put away your handheld distractions and engage in what is being communicated. And preachers, please don’t give mediocre sermons.
Abner is a sophomore studying theology.
Images Copyright Rosie Alomia Photography.