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Did Jesus Use Clickbait?

If you’re an avid fisherman, you may think this is about the latest trend in fishing lures. I am behind the times, so someone who is more literate in tech talk than I am had to explain it to me.

Before the days of the internet, preachers tried to create ways to get people’s attention with their sermons. We used catchy titles like “Seven Ducks in a Muddy River” (the story of Naaman dipping seven times in the Jordan River). Books on sermon preparation taught us that the opening line of the sermon is so critical that if you don’t capture the audience’s attention in the first twenty seconds, you’ll struggle to get it for the rest of the sermon. This put pressure on preachers to think of a way to grab their attention at the beginning—a shocking statement, an interesting question, or a play on words.

There is nothing wrong with trying to get people’s attention to hear the words of eternal life. But we can take this too far.

Everybody is putting information on the internet—articles, audios, and videos. Competition for viewers is fierce. Looking on the internet can be like driving down the interstate and seeing dozens of signs in just a few minutes. Which one catches our eye?

I was also taught over forty years ago that the average attention span of someone listening to a sermon is about seven seconds. Now in this age of lightening-fast screens I wonder if it’s even three.

The trend today is a captivating title, a provocative question, or something that sounds cool—clickbait to lure viewers to watch something they wouldn’t watch if the title had been more straightforward.

Coupled with this is the fear of stating what the article or video is really about because it might offend people. Bring them in the back door. I entitled a chapter in a book “When Miracles Ceased and Why.” A brother said that would turn people off who were Pentecostals and suggested that I reword it. I left it as it was.

The “WWJD” fad was popular years ago (“What Would Jesus Do?”). To those who are overly concerned with “hook” titles today, I ask: How did Jesus begin His sermons? “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3). “Behold, a sower went out to sow” (Matt. 13:3). “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho” (Luke 10:30). Jesus used a simple approach. He sometimes shocked people with rebukes and puzzled them with parables, but that was not usually the first line of His lessons.

If a person’s heart is right, he will look for an article or video with content, not a catchy title that is followed by a shallow or even unbiblical lesson.

Kerry

West End church of Christ, May 19, 2024

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