This series by Randall Pelton is helpful in understanding the way listeners are hearing your sermon.
According to Linda Mercadante’s book, Belief Without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual but not Religious (Oxford, 2014), some of our congregants might be thinking: “I’m just going through the motions. My heart is not in this.” It made me wonder if I ever address them during the sermon.
The spiritual, but not religious (SBNR), population is growing and I wanted to know what they were thinking about church and Christianity (in that order). The reason is because our parishioners breathe this same air in every day and inevitably bring some SBNR thoughts to church.
This phenomenon of going through the motions is not new to SBNR folks. Churchgoers have always had to fight this at times. But, evidently, a number of people who classify themselves as SBNR attend church while their faith gets weaker, not stronger.
Mercandante writes: “Those whose beliefs are weakening often hang on for a time as ‘ritualists,’ that is, going through the motions rather than being deeply committed” (p. 9).
So, this made me wonder how many of my listeners are experiencing a weakening of their faith. How many are ritualistic with no heart in their worship? How many are just going through the motions without feeling a deep love for God and neighbor?
And then I wondered if I ever address this crowd at all during Sunday sermons. Do you address them? Do you ever say something like: “Some of you know your faith is not strong right now. You know you’re just going through the motions. Remember that our Heavenly Father loves you dearly. So much so that He gave His only Son for you…” (Here I’m resisting the urge to add more guilt on them by telling them how to fix their problem through their own actions.) They’re there. We need to let them know we know they’re there.
May God give us wisdom to preach to this kind of listener so He receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).