Monday, November 30, 2009
Exhortational preaching challenges. Urges. Implores. It is filled with phrases like "you should" and "we ought" and "do this" and "consider that." It implores people to change beliefs and behaviors based on the propositions included in the sermon.
Evocative preaching is different. It seeks to evoke a response in the hearer; to craft the kind of experience that moves the emotions before it speaks to the mind. Fewer imperatives. More rhetorical questions. It's heavy on images, often leaves the "punch line" to the end, and sometimes leaves the implications of the message in the hands of the listener. The experience of the message will empower people to change beliefs and behaviors.
I believe evocative preaching communicates well with 21st Century people -- people who are often skeptical of authority and yet accustomed to receiving their information from screen-based images. I attempt to be more evocative than exhortational in my messages -- though I'm not sure how often I reach the goal.
When done well, evocative preaching can even open the way for exhortational preaching: as the proclaimer and engages emotions, he or she then has the trust, space, and freedom to issue challenges. Even blunt ones.
Tomorrow I'll look at the connection between preaching and counseling . . .
Friday, November 27, 2009
So we finish The Treasure Principle on Sunday.
I'm so pleased that a series that started out being about money has ended up being about God.
A series that took of on generosity has landed at grace.
That focus will continue in the final episode of the series -- Eyes On Eternity.
We pray you'll be able to "take a look."
8:30. 10. 11:30.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
- Continue to submit books for publication?
- Serve on a Grand Jury?
- Play tennis?
- Give speeches?
- Take part in political rallies on the steps of the State Capitol?
For most of us, the answers to those questions will probably be "no."
For my mother, the answers are all "yes."
Born November 25, 1915, she turns 94 today. We're in Austin celebrating with her.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
We're heading to Texas for a few days to spend Thanksgiving with family.
There's something about growing up in Texas that you can't really understand . . . unless you grew up there as well.
An irrational loyalty? Rose-colored memory? Misplaced feelings of geographic & cultural superiority? All of the above? I mean, what other state was once an independent nation?
But here are some of my favorite reflections about growing up in Texas:
1. Big Tex. He stood like a colossus every year at the Texas State Fair. If you look closely, you can see the Cotton Bowl in the background. He served no purpose other than to remind fair-goers that everything really is bigger in Texas. I loved going to the Fair in the morning followed by an SMU football game in the Cotton Bowl in the afternoon.
2. Misperceptions. When I would meet people from other parts of the country, they inevitably thought that since I was Texan I rode horses and hunted. Um, no. Scared of horses and never held or shot a gun in my life.
3. The Southwest Conference (SWC). Back in the day, Texas had its own self-contained world of college football: the Southwest Conference. It was a fascinating blend of public schools -- Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech -- and overachieving private ones -- SMU, TCU, Baylor, and Rice. For some strange reason, they also allowed Arkansas in. Because of our family's loyalty to SMU (where my dad was on the Law School faculty), we especially hated the University of Texas. My bitterness as a seven-year-old when they won the 1969 national championship was palpable. Sadly, those private school/public school rivalries motivated the football program at SMU to unparalleled levels of cheating in the late 70s and early 80s, leading to the "Death Penalty" for that program and the ultimate dissolution of the SWC as a whole. Now the big publics are in the Big 12 and the privates have been in the nether regions of college football conferences ever since. A January, 2010 National Championship game between Texas & TCU would be redemption for a late, great league.
4. Long Drives. It takes forever to get anywhere in Texas. The drive from Dallas to Abilene? Endless. Not much scenery, either. But that was part of the adventure. To pass the time, we played "Count The Cows." And there were a lot.
5. Texas Tennis. My most enduring memories still revolve working my way up the rankings in Texas State tennis. Tournaments in Abilene, Corpus Christi, Houston, and San Antonio were always larger-than-life events. Through all those travels and experiences, I learned geography, patience, perseverance, dealing with adversity, and coping with success. Kind of like the lessons I learn today in ministry.
Monday, November 23, 2009
- Opening Worship Set -- music moves from high energy celebration to more moderate reflection
- Creative element -- solo, video, drama, or all of the above
- Response time -- congregational singing or another solo, sometimes combined with an altar call
And frankly, that is the general pattern we follow most Sundays at Good Shepherd.
Except yesterday we reversed all that.
We started mellow. So mellow that there was no one on stage leading worship. Instead, we had words projected on the screen while Chris Macedo led us in singing from the sound booth in the rear of the Worship Center. It was a lot of fun to watch people looking around the room, wondering where that voice was coming from.
After the mellow start, we weaved in some teaching, prayer, response, more teaching, and then slightly more energetic singing.
It all built to a raucous celebration at the end when Chris -- now on stage and surrounded by full band (with horns) and choir -- said to the church: "let's blow the roof off this place."
And we did. To the tunes of "Lord, You Are Good" and "Say So."
It was a lot of fun . . . primarily because it was so unexpected.
Who knows what arc we'll follow next time?
Friday, November 20, 2009
Week Three of the Treasure Principle will be interactive, unpredictable, and celebratory.
I really like what we have planned.
I pray these are the kinds of plans that God will then take over and do more with them than we even expect.
So don't anticipate business as usual.
Be ready for the interaction, the unpredictability, and, best of all, the celebration.
8:30. 10. 11:30.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I see it on both the right and the left.
I see it in myself.
It is a spirituality that serves as a mask for anger.
That's right. Some people use their spirituality as a thin veneer that barely hides their bubbling anger.
It's why some people cloak anti-homosexual feelings in religious language.
It's why others lash out against friends or family who won't get saved.
It's why we label claim politicians we don't like must not share our religious values. (You'd be shocked at the one who is the object of my anger in this regard.)
It's why preachers question the motives of other preachers who lead ministries of greater size and impact than they.
It's why we fall out with other people in our same church, usually with loud complaints about their hypocrisy.
No complaints of our own, of course.
Spirituality as a veneer for anger.
It's prevalent and it's dangerous.
Is it in you?
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Sing [these hymns] exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.
Someone on our staff read that and said, "He's a bit pretentious, isn't he?" Actually, I've cleaned up the observation a bit to make it blog-suitable.
Anyway, David Crowder had much the same response upon reading Wesley's instructions. Because John Wesley told him he couldn't alter one of his hymns, Crowder did. And not just any hymn; he revised what is in many ways the Wesleyan hymn, O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing.
Here's Crowder teaching the song and then explaining his rationale for modernizing parts of it. The interview picks up at about 2:00 in, and is worth the wait for the fun it pokes at Methodist pretension:
So whether it is hymnody or ministry, be careful of taking yourself too seriously.
And of forbidding people from doing things they otherwise might not have considered doing.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
See, for the last several years, that particular left turn has been unprotected. And because of the incline of South Tryon Street, the lack of protection meant an abundance of danger -- you couldn't see oncoming traffic well at all.
So the intersection has been the scene of several serious accidents, one of which I witnessed first hand.
It was all so bad that I found a couple of alternative routes to work.
Now that's all over. The DOT has heard our cries and delivered us from danger.
To see that solid green arrow promising me protection and security . . . well, it feels pretty good.
It is so much like the rest of life: maximum freedom occurs under the protection of the law.
See, attempting that left turn under a blinking yellow light or no light at all leads to uncertainty and to danger.
In the same way, proceeding into an area of life about which God has said either "caution" or "no" is fraught with peril. Or outright disaster.
Yet when you stay within biblically ordained boundaries in the critical areas of life -- money, sex, revenge, gossip -- there you will find freedom and safety.
Much like the words of Psalm 91:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
A left turn can remind you of the Scripture? Absolutely.
Where are you seeing indications of his shelter and shadow today?
Monday, November 16, 2009
She did not have to go through First Step, our membership exploration class. She didn't even have to come up on the stage to join in front of the congregation.
She is in her late 80s, lives in an assisted-living facility, and comes to church with her niece. Maneuvering her walker up to the stage would have been difficult.
Yet in spite of all that, she very much wanted to join Good Shepherd.
So we were flexible with the "rules" of membership. In the middle of the service, I made my way back to where she was sitting, asked her the questions for membership, and voila! She professed faith in Christ and faithfulness to this congregation.
Aren't rules in place so that you can tinker with them when circumstances dictate?
The best thing about our new member? Whenever I ask her what she likes about the church, she says without a moment's hesitation: "the band."
The band?! Our rock praise band whose style appeals to a decidedly younger audience?! The same band who'd be a lot better at Bachman Turner Overdrive than Bach?!
Yeah, that band.
If entering your 80s involves that kind of embrace for God's "new thing," we've all got something to look forward to.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Inspired by an unlikely source, it speaks to the motivation of the Macedonian Christians in 2 Corinthians 8.
I cannot wait for this message.
Ever since I came to understand the nature of Christian hedonism and how it relates to The Treasure Principle, I have had something I have been over-the-top eager to share with the people of Good Shepherd.
So I'm in countdown mode.
8:30. 10. 11:30.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
We have two cats, Thunder and Lily. The look sort of like these two at the left. One is a tabby cat and the other a tortoiseshell. They live in our garage.
I heard on the radio yesterday that in a majority of households, dads are the most reluctant to bring pets into the family.
Yet despite that reluctance, dads are the ones who end up taking care of the very pets they didn't want in the first place.
That's the story of my cat life.
Why I Hate My Cats
- Because I am allergic to cats. That's why they live in our garage.
- Because Thunder meows without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17) as soon as he hears my wife Julie enter the house. Without ceasing. Until she holds him or feeds him or both.
- Because they sometimes miss the litter box.
- Because they are excellent hunters. And they bring their trophies into the garage. In multiple pieces.
- Because cat food stinks. And who feeds them in the morning? The one person in the family who is allergic to them.
- Because they have never said "thank you" for anything. Ever.
Why I Love My Cats
- Because they are excellent hunters. We will never have mice or rats in the house. Said rodents are always in the garage instead. Dead.
- Because most days they cuddle up like the two cats in the picture.
- Because when I sit out on the back porch and read, Lily comes and sits by my feet expecting me to pet her. She seems unaware of or unconcerned about my allergies.
- Because Thunder knows better than to ask for me to pet him.
- Because I never have to walk around my neighborhood with them on a leash while carrying a plastic bag to "curb them."
- Because they spend most of their time away from the house, in the woods, yet never feel the necessity to "tell me about their day" when they return home.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
In this line of thinking, the busier a church is, the more it is doing for God. So the goal becomes to fill up the calendar and clutter up the bulletin with as many events, projects, and emphases as you can. Because surely all that stuff will lead to more impact.
Actually, it just leads to exhaustion. As I speak with church leaders and read church material, it becomes more and more clear to me that there is an inverse relationship between activity and effectiveness.
So in church land in the 21st Century, the more you do, the less effective you are.
I know it's true because I've lived this truth.
So as we become more diligent at Good Shepherd, we make every effort to become less busy yet have greater impact. It's why we pour so much energy into First Serve and Pathfinder. Those ministries are how we approach servanthood and group life. Not ten ministries for each area. One. For each.
If we get it right, it's less activity and more effectiveness.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Because I'd spent Saturday morning painting one of the homes at the Hoskins Park Ministry in northwest Charlotte.
You should check Hoskins Park out. They do deep work with a smallish group of previously homeless men.
Their goal is not to house hundreds of men each night. It is instead to rebuild the lives of dozens of them, one man at a time & one day at a time.
I believe they are on to something, and I'm glad they are one of Good Shepherd's partners for First Serve.
Speaking of First Serve . . . we set another record on November 6-7: over 300 people got out of their seats and into the city to give a positive witness for Christ. Nothing makes me feel better as a pastor than to see all those people gathered together on a Saturday morning, encouraging one another in worship and then fanning out into the city to serve.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Take a special look at the student in the UCLA T-Shirt -- that's my son Riley.
What I appreciate most about our efforts to open up that space: many people gave to the project who don't have teenagers.
Sacrificial giving to a ministry from which they receive no direct benefit.
That's the heart of The Treasure Principle.
Friday, November 6, 2009
But each time, it seems, God comes through and takes our meager preparation and does something bigger than we expected with it.
So even though I'm going to miss The Fight Of Your Life (and preaching from a boxing ring!), as we move into the Treasure Principle I am confident God will magnify himself through our efforts.
It's a series about priorities, perspective, money, and eternity. It's based on Randy Alcorn's book of the same name, though while I was preparing the messages God kept sending me in unexpected directions.
So I pray he'll do something unexpected in your life and mine through what we do.
It starts with a message called "The Treasure Principle." Kind of like the title song on an album.
8:30. 10. 11:30.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
In no particular order, here they are:
- The Framework Theory Of Genesis One. Reading the first chapter of the bible with an eye to its structure and its art, you realize that the realms are created in Days 1-3 of creation and then those realms are populated in Days 4-6. Once you read the Creation Story this way, you'll never see it the same again. Not only did I not learn this in seminary, I didn't learn it until I'd been in full-time ministry for 15 years . . . when my friend James-Michael Smith joined our team at Good Shepherd.
- The fact that the Babylonian Exile is in many ways the central event of the Old Testament. It's described in 2 Samuel 24-25 and then lamented by prophets and poets throughout the rest of the Hebrew Scripture. In fact, much of the OT is put together to answer two questions: 1) How did we land in exile? and 2) How do we make sure it never happens again? Thanks to the original Disciple Bible Study for that one.
- How to design a modern praise and worship service. Of course, considering that my seminary years were 1987-1990, very few people had even heard of "contemporary" worship.
- That my primarily responsibility is not to please people. It is to lead a community. Seminary does an excellent job of training congregational chaplains; not such a good job of raising up genuine leaders.
- How to say "no" to good ideas for the sake of better ones with a sharper focus.
- How to do a performance evaluation.
- How to lead a capital campaign.
And those things I didn't learn in seminary? I'm still trying to learn most of them.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Of all the statistics and anecdotes regarding the differences between those raised in chronic poverty and those raised in middle class comfort, this one has haunted me the most:
When adults can't articulate what they feel, they DO.
How are you passing on vocabulary to the young ones in your life?
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Most of what follows is first-hand, with a smattering of reliable second-hand quotes as well.
- A pastor to his youth pastor: "You shouldn't do so many altar calls in youth group. It might make kids doubt their confirmation."
- A District Superintendent to his flock of pastors: "Has anyone ever heard of this Gordon-Connell (sic) Seminary? Is it legit?"
- A DS to a pastor in the 4th year of a first appointment: "It's time to start thinking about moving up the ladder. You don't want to stay where you are too long."
- A pastor to a PPR Committee in a church considering multi-site worship: "Where I come from we call that a two-point charge. And I'm not being paid enough to pastor a two-point charge."
- A parishioner during praise & worship: "This clapping's not Methodist!"
- A parishioner to a long-tenured pastor: "I think preachers ought to move every three and half years. That's as long as Jesus stayed on earth, after all. Then his humanity started to show and God had to call him to heaven."
- A Methodist seminarian regarding a youth group: "If the kids start talking about getting saved, I'm going to have a real problem with that."
- A pastor to fellow pastors as part of a continuing ed event: "I like Jesus. But he's not my Savior."
Fred Craddock has written expansively on overhearing the Gospel.
Sadly, there are times within Methodism when you overhear something altogether different.