Thinking Out Loud

October 27, 2013

Church Life: Pleasing Everyone is Hard to Do

I’ve never actually been in a church where the color of the carpet was an issue, but the topic stands in for a host of other topics when people are discussing superficial things they don’t like about a particular place of worship.

Still, there are some superficials which impact how effective ministry can be. For example, why is sometimes the pastor seems to really connect with people during the sermon, and other weeks when people are less responsive. It may have to do with things you don’t think about.


  • If the sound is turned up too high, people feel like they are being shouted at. It’s the live equivalent of me typing a sentence in CAPITAL LETTERS, back when people actually interacted in groups. Of course, there are some Pentecostal and Charismatic churches where the preacher’s words are amplified at rock concert volumes, but I think we have natural defenses that want to shut off any message bombarding us at high decibels.
  • If the sound is turned down too low, I believe that even if you’re hearing every single word, you’re using some mental processing capacity to strain to catch those phrases and sentences,  at the expense of being able to use that capacity to process the actual content of the words, and their applicability to your situation.

What you want is to find the sweet spot in the middle, and find a way to keep it consistent week-to-week.


  • If the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system is turned up too high, people feel sticky in the summer and sleepy in the winter. If the temperature makes you feel comfy and cozy like you’re lying under a couple of blankets, you will indeed nod off.
  • If the thermostat is turned down too low, people are squirming or perhaps even needing to use the restrooms. Preservation instinct takes over, and the message processing capacity diminishes.

What you want is to find the sweet spot in the middle. Sometimes, if you’re not sure, you need to take 15 seconds to survey the audience on this one.


  • The modern church spends a fortune on stage lighting, which includes something called “backlighting” which helps give definition to people on the platform. However, depending on where you are sitting, these lights can be shining directly into the audience seating. After the first five minutes it gets annoying and after as little as fifteen minutes you have a headache.
  • On the other hand, some churches are so dark it’s creepy. (We covered this topic in the list link a few days ago here.) Combine the absence of light with a high temperature and you have a perfect recipe for slumber once the sermon starts.

What you want is to find the sweet spot in the middle. One church I know turns up the lights for the sermon so people can follow along in their Bibles and make notes. Trouble is, in other auditorium contexts, when the lights come up it means the show is over!

So what superficials have affected worship in your past experience?

May 4, 2013

Expository versus Topical Preaching

Filed under: Church, Humor — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:21 am

I know this is contentious with some people. Hope this helps clarify things.!

Expository versus Topical

From Todd Rhoades who sourced it at Sacred Sandwich.

April 28, 2013

When the Meanings of Words Change

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:11 am


RadicalEnglish is a constantly-changing language. The World English Dictionary defines pejoration as “semantic change whereby a word acquires unfavorable connotations.”

I was reminded of this on Friday when a friend pointed out the title of a popular book by David Platt, Radical. The tragedy in Boston two weeks ago was a reminder of the radical elements in our world. We speak of students being radicalized.  The word has taken on nuances of meaning that weren’t present in the past.

The call of Jesus is a call to live a radical life, and nobody puts that idea across better than David Platt, which accounts for the book’s bestseller status. And we hate to have to surrender a perfect adjective to the effects of mass media and popular culture.  But it is incumbent on communicators to choose their terminology carefully; to make their message and intention crystal clear.

Do you think this is over-reaction, or do you think my friend was being highly alert in spotting a linguistic shift that has negative repercussions if we are misunderstood?

March 13, 2012

Thoughts on Church Life (2) – Giftedness

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:50 am

We were out shopping in a place we don’t normally visit at a time we’re usually at home.

The woman in the store thought we looked familiar.

“Don’t I know you from the Baptist Church on _________ Street?”

Establishing that there was no such church on that street, we tried to get a fix on the correct denomination, and then using the names of people who had pastored that church, determine what years she attended there. We connected with the name of one particular minister.

“He was a great orator;” she said.

I had no response to that particular comment, but inside I was thinking, ‘Really? A good orator? That’s all you walked away with, after years of sitting under his ministry?’

She then informed us where she was currently attending; a church where, I will grant you, skills at oratory probably rank fairly high.

Still, I was broken inside. The man she referenced was a spiritual leader. He was a visionary.

Yes, he brought the scriptures to life on Sunday mornings, but he was so much more than the sum of his preaching, at least in my life anyway. He was a good friend.

I felt a rather passionate response welling up, about how the work of preaching is more than just stringing rich vocabulary together eloquently, but then decided just to smile.

Guess I’m not a good orator.

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