Thursday, May 31, 2007

A week with a bunch of preachers is more fun that in sounds

Last week, as I mentioned in a previous post, I was in Nashville for the Festival of Homiletics, a conference on preaching attended by over 1600 ministers. While there I had the privilege of hearing some wonderful speakers and experience some great worship. The speakers who both preached and lectured included folks like Barbara Brown Taylor, Tom Long, Walter Brueggeman, Brian McLaren and William Willimon to name a few.

On Tuesday of that week, they had a special emphasis upon prophetic preaching in today's society. The speakers emphasized politics and social issues and they included Jim Wallis from Sojourners, Joseph Lowery who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr. and others. Here's an article about that day's events if you are interested.

One of the speakers that offered me some great things to chew on was Brian McLaren of Cedar Ridge Community Church outside Washington, D.C. He's a well known author and theologian. I've read one book by him prior to hearing him speak that I liked a whole lot called The Secret Message of Jesus. I liked what he had to say enough that I shared some of it with the Administrative Board last night. Here's a taste:

"The tragic thing is to think how many churches this Sunday will be treated to safe, nice, harmless, insignificant, intramural, and trivial-pursuit sermons," McLaren said. "There are going to be an awful lot of sermons preached in Christian churches … that actually probably help the world become a worse place. They will use the Bible, and God, and Jesus, to increase greed, to increase fear, to increase alienation, resentment, scapegoating, escapist thinking, fatalism, and an approach of abandonment toward the world."

"Don't assume it will be easy," he said. "Many of our Christians have been converted into consumers of religious goods and services. When you come to them with … a call to be disciples or agents of the transforming kingdom of God, they won't say, ‘At last! Thank you.’”

You can read more of what McLaren had to say and others in this article.

I'll continue to share reflections from last week as they come to me. At the moment, I'm thinking over McLaren's words about preaching "harmless" sermons and considering how my sermons might provoke more thought, reflection and action in response to our dynamic God. Also, I'm reflecting upon his words about so many churches catering to folks who have "converted into consumers of religious goods and services."

I came to First Christian, because I sensed from the congregation that they did not want to be a mega-church or to do whatever it takes to draw a crowd. Instead, I sensed a community of folks who want to practice an authentic form of Christianity that is honest and vulnerable and that welcomes questions, diversity and new ideas along with including all people. By going that route, we make a choice to be a church that is smaller in numbers, less wealthy and less impressive by cultural standards, but we also choose a path, that in my opinion, makes real disciples of Jesus Christ rather than just more consumers of products that no one really needs.

Grace and Peace,


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