I have not read much of Marshal McLuhan but continue to be fascinated when I encounter his thoughts on media. Recently I encountered his idea of 'hot' and 'cool' media. You can read about this in his book or do as we all do and just wikipedia it.
The gist of this is that hot media is media that is high definition (that is it provides a lot of data). A cool media is low definition (provides less data). So a movie is 'hotter' than a comic strip. The movie provides a lot of data and thus requires less participation from the viewer than the viewer of the comic strip, which generally leaves a lot of room for interpretation because you only see a few frames of the story.
Here is the kicker, the cooler the media the more participation is required the hotter the media the less participation is required.
I think this is in part why people generally say the book is better than the movie because there is more participation that is required to interact with the book rather than the movie.
It is clear that sermons are traditionally a hot media. The delivery of a sermon requires little participation from the hearer. Preachers are even constantly on the look out for the best stories or illustrations to "tie it all together" for the congregation to hedge the bets that the congregation will "get what is being said". Leaving less room for interpretation.
These days the hot sermon is under attack by the cool sermon. The dialogue sermon the conversational sermon. The sermon that requires a much greater level of participation from the congregation than a typical lecture. Where participation with the media is more the norm than it had been in the past - for instance we used to just watch television and now we interact with it by voting for our favorite dancer/singer - might it be time for the media of the sermon be innovated?
Is it worth pursing a cooler sermon style as cooler media becomes more ubiquitous in our time? Could part of the church's problem be that we are still using - through tracts, sermons, teachings, billboards and even the way we design our websites - hot media in a world that is seeking out more cool media?
Most preacher types think the best sermons are those that people respond to by making a change in their lives. Might I suggest that the best sermons are those in which people participate with in a way that it changes their lives?
If so then perhaps the best sermons just are not that hot and are much cooler.