Thinking Out Loud

January 28, 2019

Random Answers to “We’re Leaving ‘Cause We’re Not Getting Fed”

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:18 am

Here are some responses to “We’re not being fed”:

You are comparing your pastor to messages you hear on Christian television or podcasts

I don’t understand why people who are enjoying great teaching podcasts don’t simply continue enjoying them as a supplement to their weekend church diet. You can go to [insert name of preacher]’s church if you want, but it’s going to be a long commute. Some people have a unique communications gift and others have a particular perspective on the scriptures, but you’re not going to find that within an hour commute from where you live. Your local church has other things to offer. Stay involved, but keep enjoying the podcasts also. Your pastor’s sermon is a very small part of everything that’s going on at that place of worship.

You’ve been exposed to other language that sounded somewhat deeper

Every denomination has a certain vocabulary when heard for the first time sounds richer, deeper, more meaningful. There’s terminology used in Charismatic/Pentecostal churches that you simply don’t hear elsewhere, but that’s equally true of Episcopalian/Anglican churches. Perhaps you’re ready for a new adventure, but don’t make a major change just because another pastor’s lexical set sounds more spiritual.

Your pastor won’t take a stand on a doctrinal issue you consider vital

Personally, I attend a denomination which practices something called “middle ground theology” when it comes to potentially contentious issues. When it comes to gender issues (i.e. women in ministry), spiritual gifts (cessationist vs. continuationist), eschatology (pre- vs. post-), or political issues (oh, my goodness) some pastors would prefer to preach core doctrines and not wade into debates which could be divisive. Realistically, you can save all those other discussions for the lobby after the service. (And you possibly do.)

You’re not really serving at the church

Statistically, the restless are not committed to an area of service. It does change your view of the church. On the other hand, not serving makes it really easy to leave. Also, saying you’re “not being fed” is the ultimate expression of a passive attitude toward church involvement. In other words, it might reflect a misunderstanding of what it is we’re supposed to be doing at weekend worship services.

You’re ready to abandon ship

Underlying the “not being fed” comment is often a greater level of spiritual unrest. There’s a “statement behind the statement” that’s not being voiced. Something has created that restlessness and you’re wanting to bail out not because of pull factors from some other expression of Christianity, but some push factors leading you toward the exits.  All the exits. This attitude will not propel you to another church, but rather to what some call Bedside Baptist, the church where you don’t have to get dressed or start the car. Rather than follow this path, perhaps there are ways you can deconstruct and then rebuild from within the church you’re now attending. Perhaps there are others who feel the same. Possibly there are people there who have been through what you’re experiencing but decided to stay regardless.

Back in 2015, I made a list of Seven Things Meeting Together Offers (that’s not the title, but it should have been) that you should read. (We’ve run the same content here on two previous occasions.) Your local church is so much more than just the sermon…

…Having said all that…

Hunger is not a bad thing

If you really feel that you’re not being fed it is indeed possible that your pastor isn’t including enough protein, carbs, healthy fats, etc. in his weekly sermon menu. It may indeed be time to move on. If so, try to do it peaceably and try to maintain friendships.

 

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January 21, 2019

Eyeing the Competition

While 99% of the people in Pastor Reynold’s congregation met with him at the church or in a coffee shop, Olivia was good friends with his wife which gave her somewhat unfettered access to the pastor at his home.

Dropping in one day while Mrs. Reynolds was out, they stood at the front door and talked for five minutes, and as usual, Olivia was going on and on about the latest podcast she’d heard from some U.S. preacher. “You should check him out sometime; it was absolutely awesome!”

It wasn’t just her; there were a bunch of twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings in the church who seemed to trade teaching links the way his generation traded baseball cards. It was as though everyone is looking for the next big thing.

Finally he decided to state the obvious, “So did you like my sermon this week?”

“It was okay.” She seemed to be reluctantly volunteering that assessment.

“Would it be better if I got some skinny jeans?” he asked her, but she just laughed.

So he tried it another way, “Would it be different if I had a podcast?”

“You do have a sermon podcast; the tech team posts your message every Monday.”

“Oh right…” at which point he had to admit to himself that he’d forgotten that; in fact, he’d never even been to the page where the sermons were posted.

Olivia got a text back from Mrs. Reynolds saying she wouldn’t be home for an hour, so Olivia texted back that they’d meet the next day instead.

Pastor Reynolds went back to his computer and tried to find an email he’d received several weeks ago from Jordan, Olivia’s husband. Jordan had recommended that the pastor watch and listen to a particular speaker but the email had sat ignored.

“Where did he say that guy was from?” the pastor asked himself. “Bismark? Boise? Bakersfield?” He found the email, clicked the link and started listening. He’d set the expectation bar quite low and wasn’t prepared for what he saw and heard.

After about four minutes, out loud to no one besides the cat, he said, “Oh my goodness… this ain’t the kind of preaching I was raised on.”

It was actually two hours before Mrs. Reynolds came home, and by then Pastor Reynolds had heard three sermons by three different next generation preachers, and had scrawled two pages of handwritten notes…


…Every healthy church has people of different ages who are being influenced by speakers and teachers online from their generation.  Someone who loves Charles Stanley is unlikely to develop an affection for John Mark Comer and vice versa. A fan of David Jeremiah is unlikely to convert to a steady diet of Judah Smith. A daily listener to Chuck Swindoll is unlikely to abandon him for Levi Lusko.

The point of today’s story however is that pastors would do well to invest some time listening to those teachers who are influencing the people in their congregation. People like Olivia can’t get to John Mark’s or Judah’s or Levi’s church. If they live more than an hour from a major city, they might not even be able to get to one like it. Pastor, they worship at your church and they’re part of your congregation.

But they have these other influences, just as certainly as the older people take in In Touch, Turning Point and Insight for Living. Furthermore, the older members of the church often listen to these radio and television preachers on a daily basis, whereas they only come to church once a week. Media preaching has a greater impact on many churchgoers than what takes place at weekend services.

Shouldn’t pastors take some time every once in awhile to check out what it is people are hearing? In the story, Pastor Reynolds announces to an empty house not that the message is ‘Heresy!’ but rather that the communication style is exceptionally different; greatly engaging. The pacing is different; there’s less shouting; the messages are longer but the times seems to fly by. He makes notes.

I think the practice of listening to the group of rising pastors and authors should be part of a pastor’s occasional routine. I know people in vocational ministry are busy and groan under the weight of all the books people in the church tell them they should read, and podcasts they should watch or listen to, but if someone in your congregation is overflowing with excitement about a spiritual influence in their lives, wouldn’t one would want to know what it is?


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December 16, 2017

Crossword Puzzles and Sermons

I’m told that doing crosswords keeps the mind sharp. That’s certainly a valid goal. I try to do a couple of smaller ones (where I know I can finish) each week, but will also help my wife as she wrestles through the  New York Times level of difficulty.

When we first married, I would criticize her for this indulgence, as I saw them as a bit of a time-waster. “You’re not actually learning anything;” was the thrust of my argument. And it’s true. Unless you doing research to get the answers, or something reveals itself by interpolation with the letters you’ve already written, there is not much in the way of new information.

You’re using your brain to be sure. It beats watching a 2-hour marathon of The Simpsons. You’re bringing to mind things you’ve heard before and then buried deep in the recesses of your memory waiting for this particular moment to unearth them. In those terms, it’s a nice refresher. But again, it’s only when you’ve completed all the across letters in a down clue that you might say, ‘Okay, apparently the seven-letter word meaning _______ is _______.’ Or, ‘So that’s the author who wrote _______.’

Sermons are like this in many churches.

We are often reviewing and being re-presented with information with which we are already quite familiar. Maybe it’s being said in a fresh way and we can then take that particular tact when explaining something to a friend. Perhaps it’s something that needs reinforcing because we do live at the intersection of this world and the world to come and there is a constant inner war raging between our human nature and the nature that was made for higher things.

Generally, this is a good thing. The Eucharist itself is the best example of this. It doesn’t change much from week to week. But we eat, we drink, we remember, we leave differently than we entered. The hymns or worship choruses are not necessarily new; we have sung them on other occasions.

However, there is something to be said for a sermon which imparts new information. One that informs us of things we simply did not know before. Where we say, ‘I’ve never heard that explained;’ or ‘I never knew the context of that particular story;’ or my favorite, ‘How did I grow up in church and never hear that taught?’

Second best are those who help you fill in the blanks. Like the crossword puzzle where you’ve filled in all the letters but didn’t know the word before, the speaker leads you to the moment of, ‘Okay…so if all these things are true then from that we realize that…’  I would rank sermons that contain deduction a close runner up to those providing fresh information.

Personally I gravitate to teachers giving me more background (context, word study, related passages) than I had when I arrived. It doesn’t matter if the sermon is exegetical (expository) or topical, as long as there is some depth and something I can learn that helps me better understand the ways and mind of God, and then apply this to everyday life.

July 26, 2015

Too Many Characters to Tweet

Some random thoughts:

My wife noted the other night that if she were black and lived in the United States, she would simply take public transit everywhere. It’s increasingly difficult for a person of African-American descent to survive a routine traffic stop.

Also, in the Sandra Bland case, did anyone notice on the video that she was pulled over for failing to signal a lane change in an area that was completely devoid of traffic? Even if it’s the custom to divert cars to a side street for the ticketing process, there’s no denying that in the dashcam video, the traffic pattern is unusually light. I’m not sure I would signal a lane change under those circumstances.

Why isn’t enforcement taking place in high traffic areas where the need is more acute and driver errors are more consequential? I’d venture to guess that irrespective of everything that followed, this was entrapment not enforcement.


Internet pornography is an express train that will take you from the “That’s disgusting!” station to the “I’d be willing to try that” terminal in record time. From there you change to trains that can take you in a variety of directions to unexpected destinations.

Yes, there is exploitation; and yes, there is the problem of addiction; and yes, some people do act out on what they see; However, the greatest impact is the potential for long-term viewing to undermine values and alter worldview.


North Point Community Church (Andy Stanley) has added extra broadcast times to its Sunday full-service live stream which contains music, announcements, baptisms and the sermons (which later are available by themselves on demand). The program now airs live services on Sunday at 9:00 and 11:00, and then rebroadcasts at 2:00, 4:00, 6:00, 8:00, 10:00 and midnight, EST. (The Wednesday rebroadcast has been dropped.) 


Recently the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ran an news item about “Free Range Parenting.” (They might have called the piece “Free Range Kids” but that’s copyrighted by the woman they interviews.) As I watched the kids in the story navigating the New York subway system, I recalled my own days heading off to downtown Toronto on mass transit at a young age.

From my perspective, the problem in the story is not that some parents feel their kids can handle the same level of independence that we did at the same age, but rather, the busybody neighbors who feel it’s their duty to report said parents to the authorities.

We’re living in a tattletale culture. If Big Brother isn’t watching you, the neighbors are.


Finally, three new books to tell you about from Random House subsidiary Waterbrook Press.

Kent Brantly was the medical missionary who contracted Ebola in Liberia and needed to evacuated to the US, where he received an untried anti-Ebola drug. He and his wife have written Called for Life, just released in hardcover. Liz Curtis is back with a study into the Biblical figure known as The Queen of Sheba. It’s Good to be Queen is a paperback original. Finally, Nick Vujicic’s Stand Strong: You Can Overcome Bullying converts from hardcover to paperback.

New Waterbrook Releases

 

August 19, 2014

Video Moments Worth Sharing

Love Well - Jamie GeorgeThis weekend I watched a number of things that I thought were worth sharing. The first is embedded below for your convenience, the others are linked. This video is from the Canadian daily Christian talk show, 100 Huntley Street and features author and “spiritual navigator” Jamie George discussing his new book Love Well (David C. Cook Publishing). I’m about 95 pages in right now and am impressed with his transparency and candor.

The first of the Willow links was John Ortberg’s annual visit there. He was on staff at Willow Creek for many years, and on this summer’s visit, was sharing some of the content from his book Soul Keeping which we’ve reviewed here. The message runs 42 minutes; click this link and then choose audio or video.

The second Willow link is the man himself, Bill Hybels doing what Bill Hybels does best and preaching like no one else. The message which led into a Baptism service runs 37 minutes; click this link and then choose audio or video.

I do have one more for you as well, this is Bruxy Cavey teaching through basic Bible doctrines as part of a systematic theology course for beginners.  You’ll see all the messages at the link, but the one I especially wanted to recommend today is the one from Week 9 – Eschatology. Click this link, and then choose audio or video.

Some of these may be reiterated on the link list tomorrow as well.

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 (NorthPoint.tv) 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

4http://www.hourofpower.org/videos/detail.php?contentid=8042&programID=2278
5http://www.hourofpower.org/videos/detail.php?contentid=8058&programID=2279
6http://www.themeetinghouse.com/teaching/archives/2013/modern-family/week-1-focus-on-the-family-5542
7http://woodhills.org/resources/podcasts/
8http://www.southridge.cc/message/12087_developing-disciplines
9http://www.ted.com/talks/malcolm_gladwell_the_unheard_story_of_david_and_goliath.html

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: http://www.shepherdsgrove.org/ 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 http://www.hourofpower.org 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. https://www.facebook.com/robertschuller

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-scene

Fall Colors

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