Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Preaching to Sleepy Faces

Sleepiness has increased in our congregation recently. I want to blame the stuffy weather and Daylight Savings Time, but another force may be at work. The downward drag of information and familiarity wreaks havoc from the pulpit. When the pastor's sermons sound like commentaries, his stories replay like syndicate sitcoms, his illustrations shrink down to sporting analogies and Lord of the Rings allusions, and his applications are merely variations of "Read your Bible, pray every day," he might as well sing a lullaby.

Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep little Christian...

Displaying photo.PNG
Hebrews 12 Relay Race
I fight hard against Heavy-Eye Syndrome on Sundays (HESS for short, though in no way connected to my former colleague and current Young Adults Pastor at Polaris Grace Zac Hess) by creative variation in my preaching. In the past month I've integrated live art, relay races, a skit, and a craft time. The change of scenery and integration of the whole body (both the physical human frame and spiritual congregation) aim to arouse and engage the people of my church. Google and I can both give information about the Bible, but Google has yet to solicit prayer requests during one of our services. (Certainly someone in at Google X is working on this.)

The adage of preaching goes like this: We don't preach to inform, we preach to transform. Of course, transformation is not accidental or incidental. Transformation comes at the heels of information, like a well-executed pass of the baton.

Sheldon for Moses Skit
Case and point: In his letter to the Romans, Paul takes great pains to inform his readers about the righteousness of God, sinfulness of man, saving grace of Jesus, and redeeming work of the Spirit before he ever exhorts his readers to "be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (ch. 12:1-2).

Information precedes transformation, but not all information is transformational. Truth that is trusted and applied is transformative. The rest is mental storage--counted sheep and dinner party fun facts. Transformational truth disrupts and constructs. It puts myths and lies on the chopping block and lets the axe fall (disruption). It opens doors and sets us free (construction). It calls people to action (application).

The preacher must not confined himself to a lectern and alliterated outline when telling the truth. He may wander past the pulpit and place his hand on a sleepy shoulder. He may pace the room, take a seat, flicker the lights, ad lib, erupt in song, or quit early (rarely an option). To guard the sermon from becoming passive and passe, the preacher must incite participation. He must excite souls.

Sadly, my recent snapshot of the room shows more HESS than Excess of Excitement on Sundays (EES). My captive audience seems comatose. It might be the weather. It might be long work weeks and short weekends. It might be heavy burdens and oppressive sin.

Or it might be the preacher. I default to information-overload. My baton transfer needs work.

No comments: