Thinking Out Loud

June 16, 2014

Preaching to the Choir


preaching-to-choir_from fritzcartoons-dot-com

…the problem is not that some churches are seeker-sensitive, the problem is that MOST churches are seeker-hostile. The problem is not that some churches are emergent, the problem is that MANY churches are stagnant. The problem is not that some churches are led by false teachers, the problem is that SOME churches are so busy bashing other churches that they really don’t teach anything. The problem is not that some churches have grown to become mega-churches, the problem is that TOO MANY churches are dying, and can’t see the reason why.

The above is part of a response I made to a comment on my other blog last week. People keep throwing around terms like seeker-sensitive, but that whole discussion is so 1990. Furthermore, in 2007, the church that popularized the term “seeker sensitive” published the Reveal study which showed, as least as far as data at that time was concerned, that the spiritual needs of seekers had changed. Some critics went so far as to suggest that the entire philosophy had been a mistake which needed to be repented of, but to do so is to both overstate the situation, and rob Willow Creek of its unique history which contributed to its growth and the the growth of other similar churches.

The thing that does need to continue to be addressed however is the opposite of seeker sensitivity, which is best expressed in the not-so-new term, “preaching to the choir.”

We have no idea how often we do this, and we do this at the expense of opportunities to reach a much broader, wider portion of the general population. I believe we do this specifically in two different areas.

In terms of felt needs, we often miss the brokenness that people experience as a starting point. The Four Spiritual Laws begin with the premise that “man is sinful and separated from God,” but the average person is not aware of God, or knowledgeable about what constitutes sin. They only know that they have an addiction problem, or that their employer is laying off staff, or that their marriage is in trouble, or that they are lonely, etc. As many have observed, the church is often answering questions people are not asking.

In terms of vocabulary, we truly don’t have filters for the words we toss around which are so familiar to us, and yet so foreign to the average listener. Terminology must be clear, and where uniquely-Christian theological concepts have no other lexicon, those words must be fully explained.  Plain speech can still be profound.

In terms of primary message, we think that we are sufficiently countering the anti-this and anti-that perceptions the world has about Christian faith, but really, we can’t say “God really loves you” enough times, especially when there are people in the church who don’t truly know the love of God. Yes, there is balance in many things, and the love of God has to be offset with a communication of God’s justice and hatred of wrongdoing. But maybe that’s the thing that’s needed, sermons that begin “on the one hand,” and move to “on the other hand.”

In terms of form, I don’t think the average pastor can pull off Andy Stanley’s 45-minute sermon length. Many start out with a really engaging premise, but are unable to maintain the intensity after the first seven or eight minutes. It truly is all downhill from that point. In a world where you can make an impact in just 140-characters, concision is all important. I often tell people who ask me about writing, “Pretend you are placing a classified advertisement in the local newspaper and you are being charged $1 per word.” That will cause you to excise much unnecessary verbiage.

In terms of context, we really need to take the message to the streets, figuratively if not literally. I heard this many years ago: So much of what we think constitutes out-reach is actually in-drag. We want people on our turf, in our building, attending activities that take place in our expensive facilities. Rather, we ought to look for ways to salt the broader community through involvement and participation in non-church activities, clubs, sports, recreation, arts programs, forums, reading groups, etc. Furthermore, we need to be ones staging events that have a huge potential to attract people from the widest spectrum of our cities and towns. Better yet, we need to go where people already are, places they already gather.

The choir know the story just as they know the lyrics and tunes of the songs they sing. It’s time to spend the greater portion of our energies on people who have not yet come into the family of faith.



October 14, 2013

Confessions of a Sermon Junkie

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:49 am

Sermon podcasts

Eight. Count ’em. Eight sermons yesterday. Am I insane?

  1. The first of two live sermons Sunday morning at a Christian & Missionary Alliance church
  2. The second of two live sermons Sunday morning at an Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada church (with a 15 min. drive in between)
  3. North Point Online ( at 2:00 PM; a weekly routine here, with Ted Cunningham subbing for Andy Stanley. (a really funny communicator)
  4. Bobby Schuller at Shepherd’s Grove, the first “fresh” 60-minute Hour of Power broadcast in many months (triggered by a reader comment today on an old post)4
  5. Bobby Schuller at Shepherd’s Grove, continuing a series on The Sermon on the Mount, expected to run until Lent (though I skipped a bit of the music)5
  6. Bruxy Cavey at the Meeting House in Canada kicking off a series called Modern Family6
  7. Ted Cunningham (see #3) at his home church, Wood Hills in Branson, MO (finally choosing an older one from the summer, Who is Jesus)7
  8. Mike Krause at Southridge Church in the Niagara Falls, Canada area — it was only 18 minutes (due to Baptisms) so the link below is to an older one in the Boot Camp series8

Then I rewatched the TED Talk thing with Malcolm Gladwell about David & Goliath that everybody’s talking about.9


The reader comment:

The cathedral of course is now being renovated to be “…suitable for Catholic worship.” (Tod D. Brown, fmr. Bishop of Orange County, CA). More recently I was told the Hazel Wright Organ is being dismantled for shipment to Padua, Italy for total restoration. Robert A. gave the last sermon at CC and final Protestant benediction. The best news is that the congregation relocated to what was St. Callistus Catholic Church in early July, with the new church name of Shepherd’s Grove and Hour of Power is now in new broadcasts and other media from there: with Bobby Schuller as the volunteer pastor for SG/HOP and the church he started, Tree of Life Community. Vibrant messages based upon The Word, Bobby is welcoming and compassionate, but quite his own compared to father or grandfather. The program can be seen 24/7 at and as in the first service was read, “The old is gone. The new is here.”

Frankly, it is a miracle and there must have been some reason, known only to God that all of the negative and sadness took place. It is with great sadness, that the family has announced the founding pastor, Dr. Robert H. Schuller to have been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. With treatment, the doctors hope that he may have 2 years, but possibly less to be in this life. I encourage all who loved HOP before, to stay with the family in its new home at Shepherd’s Grove. The statue of Jesus The Shepherd has been moved from CC campus to just outside the front doors of the new location. The lacquered gold Cross seen from the earliest days within CC, has been moved to the new church and hangs above the chancel. Bobby sends out regular messages on social media, to encourage and uplift.

Also yesterday updated this blogs blogroll (at right) to includes several new entries and delete people who haven’t posted in the last 30 days.

And…be sure to check out the link for the Top 200 Ministry Blogs. We’re down slightly, but the Twitter headcount is downright embarrassing. (It’s a wee bit higher since the list was published.)  Twitter followers urgently needed!

Finally, to my Canadian readers, Happy Thanksgiving!  It doesn’t really look like the pictures below, but we can pretend.

fall scene


Fall Colors

March 3, 2012

Webcasts and Streaming and Sermons, On Line!

Normally, I don’t let my blog readers get a peek at my emails, but in preparing this for a friend this week, I thought it would be a good time to share this with everybody.  There’s never been a time in history when so much Christian teaching is available to so many people around the world.  So skip the funny videos today and take in an extra church service.  (If the listings are hard to read hit Ctrl +)

P.S. These are all fairly large churches, because they have the budget to do the video thing with technical excellence.  But little churches can have great sermons online, too.  Feel free to use the comments section to recommend things to others.

Andy Stanley

Considered one of the finest communicators in North America. Live feed from North Point Community Church in north Atlanta on Sunday at 9 and 11 AM, 2 PM, 6PM and 10PM includes worship and baptisms. — streaming live at times as noted above — video server of recent series

Steven Furtick

Another young communicator whose church has really taken off in Charlotte, NC in the past five years. The reference to Sundays at 12:00, 4:00 and 8:00, refers to streaming Sunday services, because Elevation Network goes 24/7. Author of Sun Stand Still.

Bruxy Cavey

Our first of three Canadian entries. The long-haired rock ‘n roll preacher of The Meeting House in Oakville has messages going back to 2000, though some are just audio. The media player is a small on-screen window and takes longer to buffer. Great teaching, though; you want to start at part one of a series that interests you, such as the recent 5-part series Jesus by John. Fastest growing church movement in all of Canada. 

Charles Price

Our second Canadian entry. The British-born pastor of The Peoples Church in Toronto is an excellent Bible teacher, as seen on CTV on Sunday mornings. Deep thoughts, straight-forward teaching, but not afraid to be controversial. — most recent sermon; previous messages available on audio

Jon Thompson

Now we’re three-for-three for Canada.  The very focused pastor of C4, a large church in Toronto’s eastern suburbs; site uses video player.

Kyle Idleman

The host of the H20 video series and author of Not a Fan. Teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Very straight-forward, easy to follow teaching. Video server available anytime. (Indiana campus, different series)   (main campus)

Bill Hybels

The guy whose ‘seeker sensitive’ and contemporary services changed the way we approach church today. Bill doesn’t preach every Sunday anymore, but all their teachers are really high standard. This is a video server, with lots to choose from. “Weekend Services” are more like what Andy does, “Midweek Services” go a bit deeper.

Greg Boyd

A Princeton theological education combined with large doses of Pentecostalism produced an always interesting and sometimes controversial pastor at Woodland Hills Church in Minneapolis.

Pete Wilson

The super-casual Nashville pastor preaches several times at his area campuses but then on Sunday night does this thing in a downtown Music City club called Rocketown where he repeats his sermon from the morning, but then takes live chat questions after. Author of Plan B, and blogger at Without Wax.  —  Sunday night at 6:00 Central, 7:00 Eastern; but often starts a bit late — past sermon series; video player

Craig Groeshel

Pastor of the church in the U.S. with the most satellite locations, in fact the name of the church is the name of the website, — the part of the site linked below uses a video server so you can start anytime. This links to the current series and then you select week one to start.

Rick Warren

Pastor of the 2nd largest church in the U.S. and author of Purpose Driven Church, this church streams its teaching at least ten times every single day!  —   schedule, then you go to the media player. — media player

David Platt

Pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. Author of Radical and originator of Secret Church (which sadly, you can’t see online, but you possibly wouldn’t want to, because each sermon is six hours long.) Video server available anytime. Very laid-back, soft-spoken teaching from a Reformed perspective.

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