Drafting a Sermon

I want to take a few minutes to share how I draft a sermon.

In her wonderful book on writing Bird by Bird Anne Lamott writes about three kinds of drafts for writing.  The first is the “down draft.”  This is the draft where you just get your thoughts on paper.  It is almost always bad and cannot go to the publisher in that form.  The “up draft” is your edit.  It is when you go through and clean up your “down draft.”  You fix the wording, drop pointless and tangential paragraphs, and make a much more pleasurable document.  The final draft is the “dental draft.”  It is so-named because you look at the draft much like a dentist does a mouth full of teeth.  Each movement in the writing is a tooth.  Are the teeth in line?  Are some teeth in the wrong place?  Is there a missing tooth where something else needs to be added?  Is there a cavity in a certain paragraph where two more sentences are necessary?

I love this image of a dental draft.  I think it is so valuable for writing sermons.  As I look back at my first couple years of preaching while I was in seminary, I know that I preached a lot of down drafts and up drafts.  I did not have the time or skill to get to the final draft.  Dental drafts take time. You have to work at them.  You have to sit with the material.

For sermons, I find that I like to preach in series or at least do my research early in the week.  I need a couple of days of marinading in the material before I can put together the sermon.  I find that I preach to myself all the time– walking around, mowing the lawn, in the shower, driving, on the treadmill…  My wife tells me that she does not have to listen to my sermons on Sundays because she has already heard most of it by then.

Of course, I think the idea of preaching to myself is important not just for writing sermons.  As the pastor and preacher, it is even more important that I am drowned in the gospel.  I need the message of the week to be rocking me down to the marrow.  The sermons are always better when I get into the pulpit and am excited to deliver the message because I think it is going to be important.

There is a lot of discussion about preaching from manuscripts versus preaching from an outline versus preaching from memory.  I find that the marinade method of crafting a sermon often makes it pointless for me to write a complete manuscript.  If is is in me and I have worked out a lot of my specific wording throughout the week then I do not normally need more than some notes or an outline on the page.

Some sermons come together better than others.  I remember I had one sermon that came to me on a Tuesday night at 11pm.  I took 45 minutes and typed a complete manuscript.  I did not look at the manuscript at all the rest of the week and preached it on Sunday almost word for word without more than a couple glances at the page.  I wish that was all my sermons.  Some, however, don’t gel for me until Sunday morning at Panera Bread.  If I am honest, some sermons never totally come together.

I think the other challenge that I faced and many other preachers face today is that they do not see the dental draft process as valuable.  Maybe it is something in the water at seminary, but young pastors often see themselves as dispensers of information.  Now I see myself more as a poet.  I am more like an artist or a storyteller.  This is an interesting way for me to see myself,  because I have never been an artist.  My drawings are about on the same level as when I was 7 year olds.  I play the guitar, but I am in no way a musician. But I am an artist, because I want to craft sermons and say things in a way that makes sense and moves people.  I approach worship planning and leading in much the same way.

The other thing I like about Lamott’s description of a dental draft is the editing process.  Do the movements of this sermon line up?  Are they in the right order?  Is there a weak point in the journey?

Sometimes a tooth needs pulled.  I find that I do not like to remove things that I write or witty things that I think of from my sermons or my writing.  But I have found that the best sermons, are like the best term papers.  It is always better when you have too much material and get to be selective and only put in your best stuff.  As a sermon take shape, I purpose or central idea begins to form.  In the end everything that does not add to that main idea has to be shot in the back yard,  no matter how creative or how loved it was.

 

35 Easter Sermon Ideas

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I love being a preacher.  I love the variety.  But sometimes I feel stuck and pressured on special days like Easter.  How can I make this story interesting and engaging?  I don’t really feel this way because I think my congregation wants to hear something amazing on Easter.  I actually think that they come to hear the same story again every year.  I want new and fresh angles in my Easter preaching so that I stay excited about it–both for my own experience with Easter and so that I can preach with passion.  To that end, I did a lot of reading and thinking about the Easter story and compiled a list of Easter Sermon ideas so that I could use them over the next few years.  I decided to post them for any pastors out there needing some inspiration.  They are rough starts or vague ideas, but maybe they will spark something for the preachers out there.  Here are 35 in no particular order:

  1. Mary Magdalene’s back story is not well spelled out in the Gospels but we know enough to know why she loved Jesus so much.  See Ellsworth Kalas’ book below for a sermon on Mary’s experience at Easter.
  2. One of the Gospels says that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb “early in the morning” and “while it was still dark.”  Why say the same thing twice?  Might the darkness have more to do with a dead savior than the time of day?
  3. John and Peter race to the tomb.  The gospel of John makes a big deal out of the race.  John gets there first but doesn’t go in.  Peter does go in but it is John that believed.  Why all that detail?
  4. Jesus burial cloth was folded.  Why was it folded?  There is some evidence that when you left the table at a meal you would fold your napkin as a sign that you are going to return.
  5. The earthly life of Jesus has a cloth at both end–a burial cloth and swaddling cloth.  What is the connection between those 2 clothes.
  6. The story of redemption start in the garden of Eden and ends in this garden.  It would be interesting to compare these gardens.  It might be interesting to tie in the idea of an old Adam and a new Adam.
  7. Look at Old Testament prediction and foreshadowing of resurrection.
  8. Look at Jesus’ own predictions of His resurrection.
  9. Thomas gets a bad rap.  We call him Doubting Thomas.  We would probably doubt too.  Worst of all, the text says it was a whole week before he got to see Jesus. What would that week have been like?  What do we do with our doubts?
  10. A lot of people today doubt the Resurrection as a historical event.  I think every few years I am going to give  a historical defense of the Resurrection on Easter morning.
  11. Along the lines of #10, I think that the biggest evidence of the Resurrection is the change in the disciples and what they do next.  The live as an Easter People and are the best witnesses to the Resurrection.  What does it mean that we are Easter People too?
  12. Why does Jesus pop up every once in a while to a bunch of people for 40 Days?  What is the significance of 40 days?  There are a lot of references to 40 days and 40 years in the Bible.
  13. I am fascinated by the emotional roller-coaster of Holy Week.  There is the joy of Palm Sunday.  There is the sadness and disappointment of Maundy Thursday.  There is the anger and violence of Good Friday.  Might some of those same voices that cried “Hosanna” on Sunday have cried “Crucify Him” on Friday?  There is the silence of Saturday.  We know almost nothing about that Saturday.  Then there is the shock of Sunday.  Tracking this roller coaster might make the joy of Easter more special.
  14. The Bible makes a big deal about the reality that we have died with Christ and have been risen with Christ.  What does that mean?
  15. Paul describes the Resurrection of Jesus as “first fruits.”  We will be resurrected as well someday.  What does the resurrection of Jesus say about our own Resurrection?
  16. The Gospel makes a big deal that Jesus is physically resurrected. He is not just a Spirit.  People can recognize Jesus, touch Him, eat with him, and walk with him.  At the same time, they cannot always recognize with him, he can appear in locked rooms, and disappear.  Why is it important that his resurrection was physical? Why is it that his resurrected body was different?
  17. Paul said that if there is no resurrection then our faith and preaching are meaningless.  Why is the resurrection so critical to belief?  What if there are people in your congregation trying to be a Christian but do not believe in the resurrection?
  18. What is the effect of the resurrection?  In other words, we make a big deal about why Jesus had to die, but why did he have to resurrect?  Why was his death not enough?
  19. We have journeyed through Lent to this point and it began with Ash Wednesday.  What does Easter have to do with the ashes and dust of Ash Wednesday?
  20. Paul talked about so many witnesses that he had talked to 1 Corinthians 15.  Imagine talking to one of them and hearing the story first hand.  How might the discussion go?  Do we witness with that kind of emotion?
  21. When someone dies we say that they are with us “in spirit.”  We mean that they are with us in our thoughts and our actions as we think about them and live out their influence.  The disciples claimed to have Jesus’ Spirit with them.  He even breathes it on them right after the Resurrection, but it is not until Pentecost that Spirit moves in such a mighty way.
  22. Revelation 21 talk about a new heaven and a new earth and makes a big deal that death will be no more.  Easter morning has been called “The Death of Death.”  How does Easter change death?  Why do we still die?
  23. I like to preach images and metaphors. One of the interesting images in the story is the Stone.  What is the significance of the stone?  I once heard Timothy Keller say in a sermon that the stone was rolled away not to let Jesus out but to let us in.  What do you think he meant by that?
  24. In the Gospel of John the Resurrection of Jesus is foreshadowed in the raising of Lazarus.  Compare and contrast these stories.  What is the same?  What is different?
  25. The angels are often skipped in Easter preaching.  We don’t like to deal with issues of angels and demons from the pulpit.  Yet there they are in the story.  What is their role?  What do they say and do?
  26. The Bible makes a big deal about Jesus being raised on the Third Day.  In our understanding of time it is not really 3 days.  It is only Friday night through Sunday morning making it not even 48 hours.  Jews in those days counted time differently, but there are also a number of other references to “the 3rd day” in the Old Testament.  Jesus even talks about tearing down the temple and rebuilding it in 3 days. There is plenty there to play with in a sermon.
  27. One of the big themes in the resurrection accounts is Recognize.  Sometimes the disciples recognize Jesus.  Other times Jesus has to open their minds.
  28. One of the ways that Jesus gets the people to recognize him is by breaking bread.  There is definitely a connection between communion the Resurrection stories.  This also makes Easter Sunday a great communion Sunday though most churches I have been around do not do it then.
  29. Mark has a short ending and a long ending.  What are the strengths of both endings in connection with Easter morning?
  30. There is an interesting story in the Gospels about the guards at the tomb.  The run away, report to the authorities, and then take a bribe to say that the body was stolen.  Not a really uplifting story. Why does the Bible include this?
  31. The story of the road to Emmaus is rich with preaching ideas.  Who are these people?  Why are they walking?  What Old Testament passages does Jesus show them?  I have also read a description of this story as the model for a traditional (particularly reformed) worship service.  Have you ever thought of it that way?
  32. Emmaus also shows the importance of hospitality.  Had they never invited this stranger on the road to a meal they may never have known it was Jesus.  How often do we miss Jesus opportunities in our lives because we have lost hospitality?
  33. Why are the first witnesses to the Resurrection women.  In those days, women were not well respected.  They could not be witnesses in court.  Surely this was not made up this way.  It helps prove the accuracy of the Gospel accounts.  But might it also say something about equality of the genders and the reality that Jesus’ resurrection is for everybody?
  34. Another homiletically pregnant passage is Peter being reinstated.  He dives off the boat to see Jesus after apparently putting clothes on.  Jesus challenges Peter’s love and asks him to care for his sheep.  In the Greek there is some interesting something going on there.  I have always wondered if Peter had told everybody about his denials or if he had been silently and grumpily carrying that failure.  What do we do with our own failures to follow Jesus?  Do we really love Jesus?  How are we doing with the lambs in our world?
  35. Jesus has a strange encounter with Peter and John.  The sum of it is that Peter will die for his faith but John will not.  Why is that in the passage?  Is there some kind of rivalry between the two?  Perhaps the race to the tomb also shows this.  What does it mean that John was the disciple that Jesus loved?  What does it mean that we are loved?

Books I recommend for Easter Sermon preparation: Jesus: A Theography by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, Easter from the Backside by J. Ellsworth Kalas, The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, The Case for Easter by Lee Strobel, The Challenge of Jesus by NT Wright, The Reason for God by Timothy Keller, and Doctrine by Mark Driscoll and Gary Breshears.

5 THINGS CHRISTIANS WILL NEED TO MOVE INTO THE FUTURE

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The world is changing.  The church is going to have to change as well.  Of course, the church has always been changing just as the world has continually changed, but the changes of the last few decades have increased in both rate and volume.  In a previous post I commented on what I think these changes may mean for the church.  Here are four things I think Christians will need for navigating the future.

1. Depth of faith and knowledge
The faith walk of many Christians today is shallow.  People are Christians in name only.  They do not have a detailed knowledge of faith.  The statistics are staggering on how many Christians cannot answer simple questions about the Trinity, church history, or even what the four Gospels are.  Christians are going to need to relearn their faith in order to bring it forward into the future.

2. Participation in spiritual practices
Just like Christians have lost the knowledge of the faith, they have also lost how to experience their faith.  We need to rediscover the joys of prayer and Bible study.  We have to learn again how to engage in worship.  We need to recover some of the lost disciplines  like lectio divina, sabbath, silence and solitude, and tithing (or at least regular sacrificial giving). We will also need to live out the external disciplines like service and care for the poor.  A faith that is not active will be rejected in the future church.  That kind of faith is being rejected now.

3. Authentic spiritual community
There was a time when the church was the center of people’s social lives.  This is no longer the case.  So often people see each other only on Sunday mornings.  The new normal is for people to make it to church only once or twice a month, so some church members may only see each other every month or two.  I do not think the church will ever again the center of social life, but I do believe that the coming changes in the church will require Christians to function as a deep spiritual community.  Our church must move into the future together as one body.  This also means that lines and distinctions of denominations and theological family trees are going to become less important.

4. Minds open to fresh expressions of church
The church of the future is going to look very different than its modern form.  Ministries are going to spring up that would not fit in a typical programmatic model.  Ministries may have less prayer and teaching and may be more community oriented.  They may be more fun oriented and less study oriented.  They may not even happen in the walls of the church.  As these new forms of church spring up, Christians will need to have open minds.

5. A focus on Christ
Modern church has wrestled over models of ministry.  Some have argued for attractional ministry where we try to bring people in.  Others have presented a missional model, where the church is sent out into the world.  I would argue for a lift-up-ssional church.  Jesus once said that if He was lifted up then he would draw all people to Himself.  The church of the future will need to focus on lifting Jesus up–to make him primary and central to our lives.  As we lift Christ up, then Christ will draw people to Himself.  This will be attractional.  Our lives will attract others to Christ.  It will also be missional.  We will be driven to lift up Christ in all areas of our lives.  I propose that the only future for the church will be a lift-up-ssional church.

The Church belongs to Christ.  It cannot die.  Christ will take care of it.  But it will change, and new forms of church will present new challenges for Christians.  We need to get ready.

Noah is not a Christian Movie

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I made a big mistake as I was deciding to go see the movie Noah.  As far as I can tell, most Christians are making the same mistake.  The mistake is that when I went to go see a movie about Noah I assumed that it was a story out of the Bible.   I assumed, as many did, that the writers sat down with the Bible and expanded and adapted the story to make it into a movie.  Many Christians are in an uproar about the creative liberties that the writers and the director took in making this move.  After all, this movie looks nothing like the Bible story.

Here is what you need to understand: the Bible was not the only source material for this movie.  In fact, I do not think that the Bible was even the primary source material for this movie.  We Christians assumed that it was.  We are still living as if Christendom is the norm.  We are still living as if the world thinks the Bible is important.  It doesn’t.

Luckily for me, I read THIS ARTICLE by Dr. Brian Mattson right before the movie started.  In it, he explains that director Darren Aronofsky is an atheist and a humanist.  He does not believe in God and believe that human beings made God up.   The article argues that Aronofsky used other versions of the Noah mythology in writing the moving.  Most Christians would probably be surprised that there are other Noah stories, but there are.  Many Bible stories have been written from different value systems and world views over the years.

To be clear, not everyone agrees with Mattson’s views.  It was particularly critiqued in THIS ARTICLE by Peter Chattaway.  He claims that Mattson’s conclusion were off base.  Interestingly, in his critique he also shares that director Darren Aronofsky admitted to using these other source materials for the movie.  In THIS ARTICLE, writer and filmmaker Brian Godawa disagrees with Chattaway’s arguments and agrees with Mattson.  Mattson has also done some follow up pieces.  I find Mattson’s views very compelling.  Links to this entire discussion can be found below.

Here are some elements from the movie that are found in these other source materials:
-God is called “Creator,” never God, and is a vague and distant figure.
-Adam and Eve are shiny and spiritual beings before the fall and more physical beings after the fall.
-The snake skin is a symbol of blessing as if the serpent is a blessing to human beings.
-Much of the movie happens in a Zorah mine.  Zorah is an important text in Kabbalah that has several of the details listed here.
-The watchers are modeled after an idea of lesser beings that are divine but trapped in physical form.
-The names of three watchers (Semyaza, Magog, and Rameel) are demons in Kabbalah and in 1 Enoch.
-The family histories of Cain and Seth are based on some of these other writings.
-The saving of Noah’s family is Noah’s choice instead of God’s grace.
-Noah’s higher level of knowledge and understanding ends up being the covenant that is given in Noah’s words and confirmed by “the Creator” with the rainbow instead of being God’s initiated covenant.
-The rainbow is a circle instead of a bow in the sky.  This is Kabbalah symbolism instead of Christian one.

These stories all come out of a philosophical and religious family tree that includes several different subsets.  This can get technical and tedious and is, frankly, a bit over my head.  Still, it is helpful to understand it, even in my very large brushstrokes.

The big understanding is that there is a spectrum or scale on which all things fall.  To one extreme is the good and to the other extreme is the bad.  Generally, the more spiritual something is the more “good” it is and the more physical something is the more “bad” it is.  The goal then is to live at a more spiritual level.  This is often found by getting higher or secret knowledge and by denying the physical world in favor of the spiritual world.

These beliefs have popped up throughout history with a great deal of variance and nuance.  Around the time of Jesus, this general worldview was held in the Middle East by a faith called Zoroastrianism.  In the Greco-Roman world this worldview was a philosophy called Gnosticism and is still most often referred to by this term.  Jewish mystics that held this view these general ideas would later be put under the category of Kabbalah.  Gnostic thought has been growing in the West in recent years with the growing popularity of the Gnostic Gospels.  These are book written primarily after the New Testament authors which portray Jesus in light of this belief system. Most notable among these is probably the Gospel of Thomas.

It is especially to Kabbalah that the movie Noah owes its inspiration.  The movie is full of (I wanted to say “flooded with”) these images and beliefs, but two examples suffice.  The “Watchers” are cursed to have physical form and, when they are forgiven by “the Creator” they can return to their physical form.  Also, Adam and Eve are more spiritual beings before the fall and become more physical as a result of the fall.

Having taught Bible studies and talked to many church people, I believe that these Gnostic beliefs are gaining popularity in the church today.  How many Christians would agree to some kind of belief that the flesh is bad and the spirit is good?  They say, “Someday I am going to leave this shell behind and the real me will be with the Lord.”  Many Christians have reviewed this movie favorably and said that the movie, even with a lot of creative license, has captured the basic elements of the Bible story of Noah.

The reality, however, is that this belief system and worldview is not Biblical.  In fact, it is an anit-Biblical.  Much of Paul’s writing is directly against this idea in the Roman world.  Examples abound, but I will stick here only with the book of First Corinthians.  The church at Corinth has gotten an influx of Gnostic ideas since Paul began the church.  Paul writes to combat these ideas as being unChristian.  For Paul, there is not secret knowledge.  Paul did not come with loft speech or wisdom; he simply preached Christ crucified (2:1-2).  Paul then using gnostic language to say that the only higher or secret knowledge is Jesus revealed in the Spirit (2:6-12).   Gnosticism also destroys ethics, because for Paul what happens in your and to your body matters deeply to God.  Apparently the Corinthians were trying to argue that it does not matter what a person does with their body.  Paul disagrees (6:12-20).  Paul also battles the Gnosticism plaguing the church at Corinth because it undermines the bodily resurrection, without which our preaching and faith is in vain (15:14).  Our bodies, too, will be resurrected (15:20), though their form will be a mystery (15:35-49).

The Biblical understanding is that God made you as a body and a spirit.  Both were broken in the fall and therefore both must be fixed by the saving work of Jesus.  If your body does not matter, then the saving work of Jesus is diminished.  It would be as if Jesus is powerful enough to save your spirit but not your body.  Jesus’ bodily resurrection shows that He makes perfect not only our spirits but our bodies too.

I admit, there were some neat things about the movie Noah.  It was neat to see the animals on the ark.  It was intriguing to consider what this might have been like for Noah and his family.  It also showed the reality of the event for all the other people who were not saved.  The movie showed (and you heard) the people drowning, which never seems to make the children’s songs.  (Imagine- “♪♪The rains came down and the bodies floated up…♪♪”)  That was difficult to watch but is part of the story.  The “Watcher” characters were not Biblical but were pretty cool.

After all this, however, as a pastor, I cannot recommend Noah.  I understand the logic of many who are recommending this movie on the basis that we want to support Biblical movies so Hollywood will make more in the future.  However, this is not a Biblical movie.  It is not a Christian movie.  The worldview is, in fact, an anti-Christian one.  It is sad that so many Christians seem blind to this reality.

See it if you want to.  I do not regret seeing it.  Noah was an ok movie with good effects and some good acting.  Just don’t get mad when it does not line up with the Bible.  It was not meant to.  And please, oh please, don’t go around telling other people that it is a Christian movie.

Russell Crowe as Noah

Dr. Brian Mattson’s Article on
http://drbrianmattson.com/journal/2014/3/31/sympathy-for-the-devil
http://drbrianmattson.com/journal/2014/4/1/i-respond-to-a-few-critics
http://drbrianmattson.com/journal/2014/4/1/just-once-more

Peter T. Chattaway’s response to Brian Mattson where he says that Noah is not gnostic but also affirms that he interviewed director Darren Aronofsky and Aronofsky confessed to using gnostic sources.
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/filmchat/2014/04/no-noah-is-not-gnostic-say-that-ten-times-fast.html

Brian Godawa writes two posts about this issue from the perspective of a Christian writer and filmmaker.  He affirms Mattson’s views while disagreeing with Chattaway.
http://godawa.com/movieblog/subversion-god-noah/
http://godawa.com/movieblog/subversion-serpent-aronofskys-noah/

 

4 UNANSWERED QUESTIONS FOR THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH

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Here are 4 questions that I think are still unanswered for the church of tomorrow:

What or who has authority in the Church?
In premodern Christianity, the authority for the faith rested largely on the authority figures.  The question was, “What did the church leaders and councils say?”  Thanks to Martin Luther, modern Christianity moved the authority to scripture.  The question was, “What does the Bible say?”  Post-modern and post-christendom Christianity does not want to locate the authority in the scriptures, so the questions, what will the authority of the future church be?

What will the language of our faith be for postmodernity?
Every age of the Christian faith has developed its own language for the faith.  Early Christians would not have talked about “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”  The medieval church did not use language of getting “saved” the way we do.  I think there will be church conflict in the future over the language of our faith.  How can we express our faith in a way that is true to the faith of old but also speaks to current listeners?

How will we be stewards of technology?
Technology is changing our world.  We are so much more connected than we have ever been while being simultaneously more isolated.  There is research now trying to explore how technology is actually changing how our brains work.  There are still a lot of questions about how technology will fit into the church.  It certainly has the potential to add to the work of the church, but it also has the ability to distract the church the same way it can distract people.

What will be the high point of worship?
Premodern worship was focused on the eucharist.  Modern worship shifted its focus to the sermon.  What will the highpoint of worship in the cuter church be?  Will it be again the sacrament?  Will it be a discussion time following the sermon?  This question is still up in the air.

 

Many will have strong opinions on these issues.  I see conflict over these questions on the horizons.  The church has never been a very quick reacting or forward thinking organism.  We should not, however, panic.  These cannot mark the end of Christianity.  It may change and shift, but it remains the bride of Christ.  He will take care of it.

8 SHIFTS FOR THE CHURCH OF TOMORROW

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Here are eight shifts in orientation that I think are going to be necessary for the Church of tomorrow:

 

Shift in Emphasis– Less size oriented and more quality oriented

The church has measured itself a lot by nickels and noses–money in the plate and people in the pews.  The markers of the church are going to have to change.  We cannot church our churches by size.  In a post-Christendom world, there are not going to be a lot of large church programs.  The new measurement must be quality–churches doing less things and small things that are done well with high personal impact.

Shift in OrganizationLess membership oriented more belonging oriented

Churches (and denominations) have prided themselves on their members.  The problem today is that I am now a member of 3 grocery stories, 2 rewards clubs, and Netflix.  Membership does not mean anything anymore and more people are choosing not to join our churches.  I think we need to abandon the term “member” and instead look for belonging.  People want to belong–to connect and to feel connected.

Shift in SpaceLess building oriented more community oriented

We all say in that the church is not the building but it is the people.  Our language betrays us, however, when we meet someone at the church but we don’t say we met the church at the grocery store.  Our churches remain too driven by the building.  Newer churches are being planted with no facilities or with very simple facilities.  More meetings are happening in the community.

Shift in Work Less program oriented more people oriented

We love our programs in the church.  We collect them like Coke memorabilia.  We brag about them like grandchildren.   But the world is no longer program oriented.  The church of tomorrow will care more about individuals.  Are they growing in their faith?  Is this person connected into our community?  Budgets will be more about developing people’s gifts and passions then about developing program.

Shift in PeopleLess pastor oriented more body oriented

The pastor has tended to be the center of the church.  Life revolved around them.  Things happened through them.  People invited their friends to church to hear their “great pastor.”  This is changing and is going to continue to change.  Pastors are going to have to be more part time and bi-vocational.  The role of the pastor is going to be more teaching and equipping the people.  The real center of the church will not be the pastor but the body and how the parts fit together.

Shift in BibleLess verse oriented more story oriented

The modern church sliced up the Bible and used it primarily as a collection of one liners.  We can quote a verse about this topic or a verse about that idea.  But the Bible is primarily written in story form.  Even the teaching flows out of a narrative.  Jesus teaches crowds in specific places.  Paul writes to churches with particular problems.  The future church will become much more likely to quote stories rather than quote verses.  “The Bible tells me so” is no longer an acceptable justification for a position.  We must get better at why the Bible says so.  We must learn to see ourselves in the stories.

Shift in FaithLess belief oriented more practice oriented

The church of modernism has been focused on belief–believing the right things and agree to the right set of beliefs.  The faith is moving more toward practices.  We are moving from what you know to what you do.  This includes the application of the gospel to behavior and every day life.  It also includes a connection with the spiritual practices of church history.

Shift in Worship Less style and performance oriented and more authenticity and participation oriented

Worship services today can be categorized by style.  People go to the one that fits them best.  They leave churches because they are “not being fed” or don’t like the new worship leader–as if church’s purpose was to feed or entertain them.  Worship has to change.  It has to be an authentic encounter with God.  It has to be an experience that people participate in rather than a performance that they take in.

To hear my sermon on the church of the future, click HERE.

LIVING WITH PAIN, LEARNING TO REST

I have been wrestling with shingles for a couple weeks now.  It has been quite annoying.  I am in a lot of pain if unmedicated and itchy and groggy.  I feel like I have been a zombie for couple weeks–sleeping a lot with small windows of relative productivity.

It can be quite draining to live with constant pain.  Mine is not as bad as other cases of shingles, but it still hurts a lot.  I work with people who have chronic pain a lot in my church, but I am now much more sympathetic to their plight.

What I really need to do is stop and rest.  This is going to be a long process. But I don’t want to.  I want to keep working.  I want to be productive.  I want to be moving on something.  I hate standing still.

Why is rest so hard to do?  Why is true Sabbath so foreign to us?  Why do I want to go, go, go?  Does our culture obsess with work and see rest as laziness?  Yes.  Is there something about myself that I don’t want consider?  Probably.  Do I base my self-worth in my productivity and importance?  Too much.  Perhaps it is just bad habits.  Or personality quirks.

Whatever the reason the plain truth that I am being forced to learn is that I need to rest.  I can’t do anything else.