Thursday, May 31, 2012

Where Does Renewal Come From

Tomorrow's Wall Street Journal Houses of Worship article is already up and is right in my wheelhouse. Titled The Hunt For The Good Sermon, writer John Wilson asks if preaching is really in bad shape. His conclusion is yes but that is nothing to be worried about.

Preaching—and worship—is in need of renewal because it is always in need of renewal. No pastor, congregation or denomination will ever get it right once and for all.

Really? Is "preaching" and "worship" really in need of renewal?

For hundreds of years, in America or elsewhere, the relative ineffectiveness of the sermon has bedeviled the church. We need more sermons, better sermons, longer sermons. We spend millions and millions of dollars and thousands of hours on training men to give sermons, writing books about giving sermons, going to conferences to listen to sermons about giving sermons. The assumption has always been that what we need are better sermons but rarely is the question asked: is the real problem the system of sermon-centered church gatherings? Is an entire "church" of people observing one person talking week after week a system designed to create healthy disciples who in turn make disciples or is it rather designed, intentionally or inadvertently, to create flaccid and weak milk fed Christians that are dependent on clergy who in turn are dependent on them for paychecks and affirmation, a perverse symbiotic relationship that weakens both parties.

The church is desperately in need of renewal, of real reformation, of restoration but that needs to happen by equipping and releasing Christians, not by million dollar grants "to cultivate excellence in preaching". What if the one thing that we spend so much time, effort, hand-wringing and money on is actually the thing that is holding us all back and has been for centuries?

It is a sobering thought but it is one that more and more people are starting to express to the chagrin of many. We aren't there yet but that day is coming I pray when the church starts moves past performance and gets back to the primitive days of participation.

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