Monday, February 8, 2016

What Are Our Listeners Thinking?!: Confronting the Thoughts That Are Slowly Making Their Way Into the Church

This is the first in a series by Randall Pelton, a preaching professor.

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Linda Mercadante’s book,
I had two goals in mind:
  1. I wanted to begin to understand what this growing population is thinking about Christianity and the Church. Not often, but sometimes relatively unchurched or been-out-of-church-for-years visitors attend. I wanted to learn what they’re thinking.
  2. I especially wanted to understand the kinds of thought patterns that our parishioners are unknowingly drifting towards. The kind of stuff that’s in the air we breathe by virtue of living in this world.
Knowing this helps me when I’m preparing and preaching sermons. I can ask how certain Scripture interacts with such thinking. I can explore how the Gospel creates a renewed mind. It’s a way for pastors to cut worldliness off at the pass. (Sorry if the spacing gets lost below.)
Let me begin with Mercadante’s citing of Harvey Cox:
“Cox asserts that religion is leaving behind the ‘Age of Belief,’ which is characterized as inordinate focus on ‘right belief,’ and entering, instead, the ‘Age of Faith’ where dogma is ignored, religious difference is minimized, and spirituality replaces religion” (p. 8).
We’ve got our work cut out for us!
Little by little our listeners will drift away from being learners of Jesus Christ. Unless, of course, we challenge those with ears to hear to think carefully about Christian doctrine/dogma and how it directs the Christian life. This involves preaching biblical sermons that are incontrovertibly true. This involves creating sermon segments that dive deep into doctrine.
Before Sunday, see if your sermon contains the incontestable truths of God. See if “right belief” is the foundation for righteous living. See if Christianity is expressed in such a way that automatically maximizes religious differences (“there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name…” Acts 4:12). Let’s do so for God’s “glory in the church and in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 3:21).
Preach a good sermon, will ya?!

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