Don’t Blame the Wrong Thing

In his book, Explosive Preaching, Ron Boyd-MacMillan delineates two factions in a debate over the place of preaching.  On the one hand, there are those he calls the pro-sermon faction who need to wake up to the fact that their logic is often overdone.  That is to say, in their mind “preaching = sermonizing” and this does not ultimately help their side of the debate.  He marshals the evidence from Scripture to suggest that preaching in the Bible was not the common “sermonizing” of recent history.  (I would add the comment that in his survey of preaching in the Bible he fails to note the book, or perhaps better, sermon to the Hebrews.)

On the other side there is the faction he calls the anti-monolog brigade.  To this crowd he points out that “monolog = boring” is also flawed logic.  Let me quote him (p161):

Don’t go blaming monolog.  Blame boring monolog instead!  Returning home from this conference [where the avoidance of any “talking head” monolog had resulted in meaningless activity without understanding] I wrote in my journal, “I think the greatest problem facing preaching today is the fear of the monolog.”  There’s a lunatic fringe in the anti-monolog brigade that want to banish the sermon completely.  Fat chance.  The monolog will always be with us.  In large groups and even small, it is a communicational necessity.  But the effect of this scaremongering is a bunch of preachers who keep their monolog to an embarrassed minimum and fill up the minutes with film clips, skits, and roving mike questions.  The problem is this – if they are poor at the monolog, they are probably poor at other forms of communication too!  In this conference I mentinoed, one preacher introduced a series of completely banal and boring skits, but you don’t hear anyone calling for an end to drama!  He also used PowerPoint images that were completely off the point, and he had a person wandering around the audience with a roving mike s that anyone who felt led could interrupt the speaker if something wasn’t clear, but it was so staged we were squirming.  One question was, “Would you say more about the theology of the book in relation to the historical period?”  Well, amazingly, it so happened that this was his next segment of material, with PowerPoints ready to go.  A miracle?  Come on.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but I do know that monologs are not the problem.  Boring monologs are to blame!

What Is Love? Part Trois

No reason for the French numbering of this series, just a sprinkling of creativity!  So far we’ve considered the GS, the SE, and the FC people in a congregation.  There’s one category left, according to the pastor cited in Boyd-MacMillan’s book, Explosive Preaching:

AH = Apathetic Horde. This is usually the majority of the congregation.  They know God, but they are struggling to get close to Him.  They are struggling to swim against the tide.  What is love from us?  Well, it is tempting to harangue them, to guilt-trip them, to pile on the pressure.  According to the book, it is also tempting to offer ourselves as their guide who thereby takes away their freedom and responsibility.  The advice on how to love them? “Stay winsome, and resist the impulse to be coercive.”

Okay, in my opinion the majority category deserves the best advice.  I feel this is a bit weak, although accurate as far as it goes.  The book goes on to talk about developing compassion and overcoming compassion fatigue.  How do we love the apathetic horde in the church?  Surely the aim of resisting coercion is critical, but so is the concept of winsomeness.  We need to be winsome, gracious, attractively compelling in our spirituality.  We need to preach to the heart and not just to the mind and will.  We need to preach so that people are given many opportunities to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”  We need to be faithful to the heart-message of the Bible, and not twist every text into a guilt-pressure-cooker to vent your own angst in your half-hour where people at least pretend to listen.

Loving the AH is so important, but not easy.  It costs us to love.  When we love we risk getting hurt, being rejected, seeing failure, etc.  But love we must.  We are compelled by the love of One who gave everything for us, “when we were still sinners.”  That love has spread to us and now yearns to spread through us to others . . . others who may not respond in the right way, or respond at all, for that matter.  Ministry is not about performing certain duties.  It is about serving God by loving people, it is about life-on-life investment – whether we are preaching, counselling, listening, or whatever.

(GS) + SE + FC + AH = the church where we serve … what is love to each?

What Is Love? Part Deux

Ok, so thankfully not everyone in a church is a government spy or a sworn enemy (although it may feel like that in some churches!)  There are two other categories, according to an Eastern European Pastor quoted in Explosive Preaching, p141:

FC = Fan Club. It can be just as dangerous to accept the ego-stroking adulation of this small but vocal group.  What is love to FC members?  Love is “having the courage to challenge them on what they may not want to hear, and to jeopardize your fan-club status.”  According to the Eastern European Pastor cited in the book, the gospel will offend everyone in the church at some point, but many pastors are too concerned with maintaining the worship coming their way.  Strong stuff.  In reality this may mean querying a “darling distinctive” of your denomination, all the while seeking to maintain fidelity to the gospel message (and not just the popular bits).

I was going to give the other category too, but this is worth pondering.  Who is in your “FC?”  Have you compromised your fidelity to the message at all in order to keep them in the FC?  What situation may be brewing right now that will give you the choice of self-seeking, or gospel-serving in light of these people?  Pray for yourself in this, pray for a pastor/leader you know as well.

What Is Love?

In Explosive Preaching, the author refers to a system he learned from an Eastern European pastor.  It is a simple categorization system used with a list of church members that helps him know how to love different people in his congregation.  Here it is in simple form, for more, see p140ff:

GS = Government Spy. Not a category most of us have to deal with, but if you do, ask yourself carefully, “what is love for a GS?”

SE = Sworn Enemy. A self-confessed leader of the “oust the pastor brigade.”  What is love for this category?  According to the pastor, “You have to love them enough to remember the reasons why they have such an excess of negativity, and reach out to them with winsomeness, not vindictiveness.”  Oh, and he added that if they win, your goal is to bring more glory to God in your going than in our staying.

The reality of such “well-intentioned dragons” is very real for many reading this post.  So I’ll leave it there for now.  If you have SE’s in your church, take some time to ponder your love for them and pray for the grace you need to reflect God’s character in such difficulties.  If you have no SE’s in your church, or you’re not a leader (i.e. target), then take a moment to pray for a pastor you know (he probably has some SE’s)!