I know...I know...
It has been months since I threw anything through the city gate. Let's just say that life has happened, things got a little crazy, I spent some time wandering in the wilderness, and just let this slide. I enjoy writing, really. In fact, that's what I'm doing all week. I hooked to my camper...grabbed my laptop, printer, journals, and some commentaries...and pulled my mobile office to the lake for some intense researching and writing...mixed in with a little fishing and campfire sitting. (Hey, if you're going to work hard, you have to play hard....Wayne Cordeiro said so.)
I'm working on a series for this summer using 80's pop music as a jumping off point. At Grace Church LaCenter we'll be listening to "The Man in the Mirror," "Working for the Weekend," I Want to Know What Love is," "I'll stand by you," "Time after Time," "Don't Stop Believing," and who knows what else...then we'll tie those themes with some pretty powerful scriptures and use both of them to see how the Word of God can change our own lives. Wesley would be proud. Sure, they're not bar tunes, like many of our favorite old hymns are, but I think he would approve of using 80's pop music as a tool to preach the gospel.
Now, you may be saying...or you may not..."Jamie, that's nice, but hardly seems reason enough to start boring me with these blog posts again." True, and I would agree. But something hit me while I was researching the first text in the series for this summer...
...There are a lot of really bad sermons being preached every week.
Not that the ones stumbling out my mouth are earth changing, but my gosh, some of these are just really bad. You may also be asking, or maybe not, "Why are you reading other sermons if you're supposed to be bringing a word from God every week?" Well, I heard it said that most preachers may milk a lot of cows but we churn our own butter. I start with scripture, then look at some commentaries, then at some theological journals, and finally, I'll read a few sermons on the text to see what other folks are saying about it...and in doing so this week, I think I have discovered yet another reason why the Church is in decline. Some of these sermons just stink.
It's one thing to ask folks to sit still for 20 or 25 minutes and listen to me talk about what we're doing, right, wrong, or not at all on a good day...with appropriate prep work...with good delivery...with meaningful illustrations...society is just not geared that way anymore. But then to ask folks to sit still for 25-30 minutes while they are beaten up by some preacher with a chip on his/her shoulder, screaming, yelling, pounding the podium...I just don't see how that's helpful. "Gee, pastor, great sermon. I feel soooo much better now. (Insert sarcastic tone)"
So, my fellow homileticians, guard your words as you stand before your people. We represent the God who called us. Sure, sometimes correction is needed, and when it is, it should be done with love and grace. Now this is just one man's observation...but by the time our people get to us, many of them have been kicked in the face for 6 days since we saw them last...and the last thing they need is to be yelled at by the one they look to as their spiritual guide.
Softening the gospel? I guess it could be seen that way by those who prefer to scream and yell at their people...or it could be that I have chosen to follow a different style...to love God by loving those God has given me to care for, to lead, to protect, and to mold. When correction is needed, I am not afraid of it...either giving or receiving...but I choose to do that in the privacy of my office and not from the front of the worship space. While the goal of any of the messages I bring is not to just make my folks feel better about themselves, though I could fill up a stadium doing that, I do choose to preach grace, and then offer a challenge to live into that grace filled life by following the examples of the one who called us to follow him.
So, back to work now. I think I'll look at some journal articles and lay off of reading other sermons for a while.