I’ll be honest I like listening to a good sermon every now and then. I could list a few of my favorites for you; at some point maybe I’ll even provide links to mp3’s of sermon’s that really moved me. There is also a good bit of Biblical support for sermons. Jesus seemed to like to sermonize it up every so often; my personal favorite is the “Sermon on the Mount.” Paul had quite a few lengthy sermons, and the first thing Peter does once he has the Holy Spirit is give a sermon. The word “Preach” shows up in the NIV 123 times (according to Biblegateway). Paul even goes off about the Rights of an Apostle in I Corinthians 9 (which is probably where we get our justification for having a paid pastor). The idea of a weekly meeting for a sermon probably comes from one of my favorite passages Acts 2:42-47.
So by now your probably thinking my goal was to answer the question presented in the title: Why the Sermon? Your maybe even a little bit convinced, or you’ve at least added some Bible verses to support it. So if that’s all you wanted, stop now and read no further.
I still wonder “Why the sermon?” If we are going to follow the Acts passage we should be meeting together daily, and also going to each others homes and eating together; we should be selling our possessions and sharing everything in common. And maybe our pastors should even be doing miraculous signs.
If we are going to hear out Paul’s words to the Corinthians then maybe we should also be advocating for more circuit preachers. Maybe we should stop the calls for money and just be giving it.
And when I look at most of the preaching done in the early church it seems very much the focus was on the necessity of getting the story of Jesus right. It seems the goal wasn’t to have something nifty to say each Sunday, but rather it was to preach the story to those who don’t know it, and to clarify Jesus to those who might have heard a incorrect message concerning him.
Maybe, once we’ve got a pretty good handle on the story and we’ve got a decent idea of what this Christian life is requiring of us (if your still real confused, read Jesus’ words he gives at least one sermon that is quite straight forward), then we should quit the sermons and just starting doing what we are supposed to be doing. What does that look like? I’m not quite sure yet.
A friend of mine and I went to the Nashville Homeless Memorial on Saturday morning. It’s a chance for folks to come together and remember and honor those who have died in the past year.
According to a “Homeless Count” organized by the Department of Social Services on March 24, 2004 there were a minimum of 1,805 homeless individuals. This count only included those who were actually physically seen and counted and did not include camps that were not found or the hundreds who may be staying with acquaintances, friends, or in motels. [TIMC]
There where about 20+ names read and a few stories told. A couple people read some poems, shared some thoughts, and did a little spoken word. It was neat to be a part of the people gathered, there but troubling at the same time.
Are Christians so naive as to not connect HOMELESS and JESUS? I’ve mentioned this before, but it keeps bothering me. At some point down the road we are going to need to make a shift in our way of thinking. WE WORSHIP A MAN WHO WAS HOMELESS! Why do we not the treat the homeless we encounter around us with the same level of dignity?
I want to be careful here though, because I don’t want people going around saying, that because Jesus was a man we should treat men with more dignity or anything crazy like that. I do think though that there is something terribly important to recognize about the fact that Jesus, while preaching the Kingdom, did not have a job, nor a home. What do you think of that?
So this Sunday a number of churches will not be having a service. I’ve read a few articles about it and they’ve given some decent reasons why. Most of them emphasize the importance of honoring family time. Some acknowledge the general low attendance of previous years that Christmas fell on a Sunday, and wanting those who volunteer not to feel obligated to come. I think most of those reasons make a lot of sense. But, it does give opportunity to question what the real purpose of church is.
“Church” as we think of today is an essential component of any Christian persons life, at least we hold it to be so. Anyone, you know who is not going to church on a regular basis you probably consider being in a slump, a struggle with their faith, falling away or something other then a healthy Christian. Skipping church for anything but a very good reason is looked down upon as well. So, why the collective decision to forgo church this Sunday?
What I wonder, and I think is worth considering, is that if this Sunday, because it is a time many people will be with others that they love and care about, is an appropriate enough day to skip church, then are there other days that are just as appropriate? And if there are reasons that are appropriate to skip church, then are we saying that church is not essential to be at EVERY week? So what IS the purpose of church then? If spending time with family on Sunday morning is more important THIS Sunday, why isn’t it more important EVERY Sunday?
I think my intitial hesitation about the whole building thing came when the church building craze started my last year of high school. My church decided we need to add a $2.5 million addition on to our building. I didn’t realize we were outgrowing the original building in the first place, and now they wanted to add on. And in adding on they wanted it to look really nice, which is understandable since the current building looked quite nice. But I thought to myself $2.5 million is a whole lot of money, and it just doesn’t seem necessary.
Little did I know over the next few years practically every church I went to was doing a building campaign. Some of them really needed it, others I wasn’t so sure. We attended one church for a while and then they started a building campaign for a second building and they where putting an indoor waterfall in it. That was it, I was gone.
Then at some point I started thinking… Why the heck do we need a building anyways? I mean we all live somewhere, why don’t we meet in our homes? It seemed to me that’s mostly what the early church did. I mean, it’s true we couldn’t all pack in to hear the really good preachers, but since when is that what it’s all about? Some would say that’s what small groups are for, to meet in smaller communities in our homes and stuff (I’ll address this later).
I’m not saying church buildings don’t have a purpose, I’ve just started questioning if they are really necessary at all. I mean is it feasible to do the things we do in a church building in our homes instead? And what about bigger events? Is it possible to do those in a place other than our own building?
One of my main concerns about the building is that seems to be all we spend our money on, or talk about spending our money on. The main time you hear about making tithing pledges in most churches it seems is usually related to a building campaign. And then the church goes into debt to purchase the new building before they even have all the money.
That was just a rant of sorts, I really should fine tune it a bit, but there it is raw
Just a disclaimer to begin with: My reflections here are in no way a critique of the leadership or members of any church I’ve gone to in the past or currently go to. I don’t want anyone anywhere, pastor, leader, church member, etc. to feel like my reflections are an attack on them or anyone they know. These are just my reflections on church and they’ve been provoked by my reading of the scriptures.
I also just want to say that I have had quite a good experience in the churches I have been in. My parents started going to Crosstowne Community Church when I was little because of the children’s ministry. I guess we had a really good time there and we stayed through middle school. [Let me take a moment to say my parent’s are amazing and sacrificial. When I think about the choices they’ve made in life, so often it is clear the top priority has been what is best for us kids. You couldn’t ask for better parents.] When I got to high school I had gone to an FCA (Fellowship of Christian Atheletes) camp and really been challenged to actually live out my faith. Somewhere my freshman year I started going to High Point Church because of their rocking youth group. It was a place of amazing spiritual growth for me. In fact that is where my faith really began and flourished. After that I left for college and have had a hard time plugging in anywhere for much time. I have enjoyed my brief involvement at 1027 church in Atlanta, The Church in Lombard, and currently at Mosaic and Edgehill UMC in Nashville. And don’t worry, I’m not leaving.
Now that you got that intro, stay tuned for thoughts on Church…