Preaching is often seen as irrelevant and timeworn to modern twenty-first-century American culture. Some argue that it should be done away with altogether. Even many pastors seem to be unaware of the power their preaching has to shape their churches' culture. If what we mean by "preaching" is just a lecture orally communicating information, I agree that it is grossly ineffective. Preaching is - or should be - much more than that and because of its nature has an outsized influence on church culture. The COVID crisis has shown even more clearly just how significant preaching is for a church's culture.
Politicians and business leaders alike have long been aware of the unique opportunity and power that oral communication offers to shape a given culture for good or ill. Understanding communication principles can help us to see what we should and shouldn't do as preachers. As preachers learn to exegete the Scriptures, recognize the power of words, and communicate with clarity, we can discover the principles that shape church culture with our words.
The specific culture of a congregation is impacted by many variables, much like my family. The fact that my parents were both Italian, very close to the immigrant experience, that we lived on the east coast, etc., it all impacted our family culture. Similarly, if one aspect of a congregation is changed, the entire organization is affected.
Fayette Breaux Veverka explains:
"It is helpful to think of congregations as open systems. Congregations are dynamic organizational wholes shaped by the interaction of their various interrelated parts. Changes in any one part of the system will eventually have an impact on the functioning of the whole. They are "open" in the sense that they can respond to new ideas and information and adapt to changing situations both internally and in relation to their environment." 
Preaching is one of those parts which shape the culture of the whole. It is often experienced by more of the congregation than smaller venues, such as Sunday School classes or home groups. Because of the broader audience, it has the potential to become a primary culture formation tool for the entire church. It is an essential and, I have found, a foundational method for cultural transformation.
In the biblical narrative, the power of the spoken word is everywhere. It begins in the creation story ("And God said . . . Gen. 1:3), continues throughout all its books and chapters, and culminates with the Logos in John's Gospel and the apocalyptic literature of Revelation. As we will see in chapter 3, Jewish Rabbis taught their students both orally and experientially, and this method of communication greatly influenced the writing of the Bible. Rabbinic communication, especially teaching, demonstrates the connection between cultural formation and oral communication in the same way that ancient Jewish communication influenced the biblical culture and the manner of preaching in the local church.
America is increasingly post-Christian. Biblical illiteracy is epidemic. Public morals and ethics move further away from their Judeo-Christian roots every day. Clearly, there is an urgent need for pastors to understand how to shape our churches' cultures so that we can be more culturally impactful. The opportunity still exists.
The COVID crisis has shown us that people from all walks of life still look to the church for hope, whether in person or online. The thirty or so minutes a pastor spends communicating biblical truth is an uncommon treasure. Preaching offers the rare opportunity for a broad cross-section of society to be shaped by a single voice and message. When a pastor learns to shape their church culture through preaching, they have added a pivotal tool to impact not just the church culture but also the community in which it resides for Christ and His Kingdom's purposes.
Want to learn how to communicate biblical truth in a distracted world? Join me in this Maximizing Your Preaching Effectiveness Lab!
4 Fayette Breaux Veverka, "Congregational Education: Shaping the Culture of the Local Church." Religious Education 92, no. 1 (Winter, 1997), 81-82.