We are sliding into the summer time. Perhaps we will find a week or two or three to catch our collective breath and have some fun; as in recreation, as in re-creation. I do wish each of you a summer full of blessing and peace.
This past May, I attended a conference for preachers called The Festival of Homiletics (which is a fancy word for the art of preaching.) The conference leadership decided to focus on the theme, Prophetic Preaching in Changing Times.. As the theme’ suggests, the preaching and teaching we heard was not to make us preachers feel good, or successful, or comforted, or entertained. As I re-read my notes, I see even more clearly that the week’s preachers and teachers laid out some tough challenges to those of us in the pulpit on Sunday morning. Here are just a few points that spoke to me:
- “The Christian Church in America has reached the height of irrelevance and the pinnacle of importance.” Meaning, the mainline churches find themselves disconnected from much of America, especially from our young generations. Yet, the power of the gospel is the hope of the world. How do we connect the power of that gospel with people who know longer speak our language—and really don’t want to. Can the church step out of its own traditions?
- Churches loooooove to preach Jesus. But are reluctant to preach what Jesus preached—which is a VERY revolutionary message.
- Over and over I heard the prophetic challenge, don’t fret so much about how many people are in the pew. Instead, ask yourselves, are the people who do come growing in their discipleship? Does our mission include reaching out to the marginalized...the outsiders?
- From Alyce McKenzie, Pastor and Professor, described what she sees emerging in our cultural context. As a people we are:
- Distracted. Too much going on. We are bombarded by too many messages, too many demands, too much information. How can we help a culture focus?
- Story-suspicious: The overarching story of previous generations; the way we interpret the gospel, the way we apply the gospel to our lives used to make sense to most people in our culture. No longer true. The younger people are developing a different story, a different narrative. Can we listen to their story and maybe even try to connect with it?
- Scene-loving: Images, Instagram, selfies, photos and videos on Facebook, has become the primary mode of communication.
- Wisdom-hungry: No one has the answer for what we as a church and culture need to do next. But really, we don’t need answers, we long for wise people to help us discern out next steps.
A lot to think and pray about. The good news? Change happens, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.