Posts Tagged ‘Preaching’

The Road Less Traveled

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 by James Flynn

The incarnation of God as man in Jesus Christ has captivated me for the last twenty-five years. Some truths from Scripture seem to overtake you and never leave you alone again. I stand amazed at the willingness of God to clothe His only Son with human flesh in order to bring salvation to the world. I am in awe that God’s plan involved a young, unmarried woman by the name of Mary from a little town on a hill in a country no bigger than the state of New Jersey. I marvel that God was unwilling to send just words but that He sent the Word Himself—a person.

So, how does this and how should this notion affect our preaching?

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Dem Bones

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 by James Flynn

Is it just me, or can you identify with the long nights that can occur before you preach? In spite of our best efforts to prepare throughout the week for Sunday’s message, there may be those weeks when we still find ourselves up on Saturday, wringing our hands, sweating, and pleading with God. Preaching is one of the most remarkable undertakings any man or woman aspires to in life. Preaching has the power to transform a valley of dry bones into a mighty army. Over the last three decades, I have been privileged to preach in local churches, classrooms, and seminars around the world. I have yet to experience a ministry that is more exhilarating, challenging, or fruitful than preaching. Preaching can change lives, alter destinies, and renew minds. It can bring hope to the hopeless, encouragement to the broken, and light to people who live in darkness. Preaching has the potential to change this generation and to send a legacy into the next. But the call to preach comes with a great personal price tag.

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Say, What?

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010 by James Flynn

Does the picture at the right remind you of some of Sunday mornings during sermon time? One of the primary tasks every preacher needs to master is helping people listen.  Most people are not natural-born listeners.  People that are good listeners are actually the exception—you notice them right away.  We all hear, but rare is the person who actually has “ears to hear,” as the Scriptures call the person who listens with their full attention and understanding.  Remember—only 25% of the people in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13) actually heard the word, and it was preached by Jesus Himself!  If that was true for Jesus, what are the chances of someone actually hearing me?  What can I do to help people listen? Read the rest of this entry »

Man Dies During Sunday Sermon

Sunday, May 9th, 2010 by Stephen Hightower

I was almost born in church…literally. My mother went into labor during the Sunday night service (yes, when I was born most churches still had those). This had the makings of a really cool story of how God called me to pastoral ministry, but my parents managed to make it to the hospital (after the service). As a pastor’s kid, I was in church pretty much whenever the doors were open. When I became a pastor, the same held true. For all my time in church, though, I didn’t imagine dying in church…until a few weeks ago.
 
About ten minutes into the pastor’s message, I began to shake – and it definitely was not a Pentecostal experience! My skin went cold, but I was sweating. My heart was racing and I began to hyperventilate. I have to interject here that I like to consider myself an intellectual, so I was trying to think through things carefully before reacting. In this case, I forced myself not to make a scene (thankfully I was sitting in the back row), and to think about what was happening. I came to the conclusion I was having a panic attack, and that some deep-breathing and desperate clutching of the pew would soon relieve my symptoms. Sure enough, within a few minutes, I was breathing normally and my mind was rehearsing the event, trying to figure out what triggered it. Here’s what I came up with… Read the rest of this entry »

We’re So Sorry, Uncle Albert

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010 by James Flynn

Albert Einstein once said: “There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle.”  He was one of the greatest intellectuals of the twentieth century, but acknowledged that “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.”  Preachers need to take a lesson from Dr. Einstein.  All that brain power, yet he was fascinated like a little child with the world around him and its mystery.  Uncle Albert’s secret to success?  He learned to marry reason with creativity and imagination to think outside the box about the world around him.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the same could always be said about the church and its preachers?

Is it just me, or do you get a sense that folks in Renewal circles still view imagination and creativity with suspicion, especially when it comes to preaching?  How is it that sermons based on God’s powerful word can come off so dry and dull? I would submit that the problem is not with God’s word, it’s with the messenger of the word.  Have you ever gone to a great steakhouse and had them mess the steak up?  It could be Kobe Beef right from Japan, but if you boil it in water and add no spices, you just ruined the steak.  The steak was fine, but the preparation ruined it.  I think this happens all the time with preachers and their sermons.

Perhaps our problem with preparation is rooted in a sincere desire for God to have His way in our sermons, and for our humanity to not get in the way of the power of His word.  You have probably heard this prayer prayed by many a sincere preacher before he or she started to preach:  “Lord, all of you, and none of me – let my words be your word.”  Sorry, God can’t answer that one.  If He really intended it to be “all of Him” and “none of me,” He would have sent an angel or a holy tape recorder to preach.  Instead, he sent you and me – imperfect as we are – to mingle our humanity with his word.  To some, that may sound like a bad idea, because His word is so pure and holy.  To me, it sounds a lot like incarnation.  God has always intended to mix his word with our humanity to clothe His word with flesh so people could experience Him – hear, see, behold, and handle (1 John 1:1,2).  That is what gives the word texture and depth when it is preached – words that are three dimensional in the rather flat world we live in. It’s the difference between a boiled steak and a perfectly spiced charbroiled masterpiece that melts in your mouth.  Which one appeals to you?

The church has a very rich tradition of creativity in its buildings, windows, and art.  The very windows of early churches were alive with stained glass artwork depicting the story of the gospels in picture form for those who could not read.  To marry creativity, imagination, and the preaching of God’s word is to act a lot more like God, not less like Him.  This is where “Uncle Al” can teach us a thing or two.

I would have been content with just one kind of flower, yet botanists estimate there are more than 10,000 species, not to name all the varieties, shapes, and colors.  I could do with very few spiders, yet scientists estimate there are at least 37,000 different kinds.  If that is not creative, I don’t know what is.  When God creates, He is absolutely extravagant.  God creates with His word.  Preacher, when you speak, are your words extravagant and dripping with creativity and imagination?  Have you married reason with creativity and imagination?  Should the people who listen to you expect anything less from someone hoping to speak for God?

Prosperity Gospel-Preachers and Hip Hop Artists: Is There a Common Impact on Urban Communities?

Thursday, April 8th, 2010 by Antipas Harris

As a musician and theologian, lover of all styles of music and proponent of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I have been thinking a lot about the impact of music and sermons on urban communities. There seems to be an ideological comparison between the popularized message of “Kingdom Success” by materialistic (or prosperity) measures that many of today’s top-ranking celebrity preachers teach and the message of materialism (or prosperity) advanced by most of today’s top-ranking Hip Hop artists (i.e., Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, P-Diddy, Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne). There is no wonder that urban communities are falling apart! The rappers and the preachers are not helping like they should. Albeit a provocative comment, rappers will admit that they are about the “cake,” or “that green stuff.” However, many of the preachers would deny that their message is of similar ideological categories as the Hip Hop artists.

Yet, I argue that a message about “Kingdom Success” that is in any way associated with glitz, glamor, and lavish living is a subscription to an erroneous Christianized version of the same message of materialism perpetuated among Hip Hop artists. Pastors that subscribe to a highly materialistic (or the prosperity) gospel are often blinded by the money-oriented lens through which they see the world. They sanctify that lens as they tend to theologize their conclusions through strange scriptural proof-texting. An increased number of contemporary pastors seem to judge their message differently than the Hip Hop artists based on the medium through which the message is presented rather than the message itself. Using the Bible and preaching materialism rather than rapping it with profanity does not make the message better. In fact, it convolutes the message that Jesus intends. Careful analysis of the messages of both rap songs about money and sermons about prosperity seem to render similar conclusions that success is defined by lavish living and material assets—both venues that promote this practical conclusion promote unhealthy individualism and erroneous measures for holistic success by a barometer of materialistic measures. One wonders if the message of materialism highly propagated through the aforementioned mediums have assisted in people’s poor financial choices.

It should be appalling that the gospel of prosperity emphasizes material gain over holistic transformation and promotes self-interests that trumps community building. The Bible is full of passages and teachings that emphasize the need for holistic transformation rather than material prosperity as litmus test for “right standing with God” or “Kingdom Success.” Also, the Bible promotes a Christianity of community and community building with several metaphors, images and concepts that promote community rather than self-interest (i.e. “the Body of Christ,” “the Household of God,” and “they had all things in common,” “the Church”). When are we going to get back to an authentic Biblical understanding of Church? Of will we ever? If so, what would it look like? How would it change our communities?