Thursday, April 06, 2017

Small Sips Likes Cotton Candy

More than coffee needed. Kimberli Lira has written a powerful post on the church's preoccupation with coffee bars:

When church leaders sit around and discuss how they can reach people, I don't think they have the widow in mind. I don't think they have the cancer patient in mind. I don't think they have the children who are growing up without a parent in mind. I am not paying attention to the church décor when I walk through the doors. I don't want to smell fresh brewed coffee in the lobby. I don't want to see a trendy pastor on the platform. I don't care about the graphics or the props on the platform. I am hurting in a way that is almost indescribable. My days  are spent working full time. My nights are spent homeschooling and taking care of two young children. I don't have shared duties with a spouse anymore everything is on my plate. And when I go to church I desperately want to hear the Word of God.

The entire thing needs a read, especially churches that neglect pastoral care in favor of trendiness, hip décor, and flashy worship. It's not to say that these are mutually exclusive, but that as much time as we may be tempted to spend on awesoming up our buildings and presentations, there are hurting people who need more.

Because they all basically say the same thing, anyway? Karl Vaters shares why he's stopped reading all those "10 Reasons Your Church Isn't Growing" blog posts:

I’m far more likely to read a post titled ‘10 Helpful Hints for Church Growth’ than ‘10 More Ways You’re Failing as a Pastor.’ (No, that’s not a real title. But it is how those negative titles feel.)

We need a moratorium on ‘Why Your Church Isn’t Growing’ lists for one simple reason: they don’t work. Slapping the hands of your readers for not caring is like yelling at the people who did show up to church because you’re mad at the people who didn’t show up.

Don’t slap our hands, put tools in them. Tools that will work for us now, while we’re small. Tools that promote health and growth. Tools that encourage, inspire and resource us. Tools we can use.

Negativity gets a lot of clicks, so it doesn't surprise me that most of these posts he's talking about (and I've certainly read plenty myself) go negative. Plus they tend to list the same things: worship isn't lively, people aren't welcoming, your space isn't well-tended, you're too internally focused, etc. Read two or three of these and you're pretty well set.

The "helpful hints" idea is a good one, although many of those such lists would end up being the same, too. I'd rather read posts that drill down on specific issues: an in-depth post about hospitality, a longer post about the importance of maintaining your physical space, ideas on how to liven up the worship experience without compromising what you think worship should be.

For further thoughts on this topic, here's my recent post 7 Reasons Your Church is Doing Everything Wrong.

An emotional appeal. Charles Stone pushes back against the accusations toward pastors perceived as giving "cotton candy sermons," i.e., sermons that are more emotional than scholarly:

Consider TV commercials. Most commercials don’t list the benefits of their products. They tell a story or evoke emotion or move the heart. Dodge Ram’s God Made a Farmer commercial with Paul Harvey beautifully illustrates how emotion moves the heart. I tear up every time I watch the commercial, yet it does not lack depth.

In the past I’ve wanted to avoid being pegged a cotton candy preacher. But I now realize that for any meat and potatoes sermon to stick, we must incorporate some cotton candy techniques, those that we may think don’t contribute much to a message’s depth.

This entire post is wonderful in its analysis of the balance of emotion and intellect needed in preaching. The last part of the post has some helpful hints for incorporating techniques that will aid in conveying the message more effectively to the congregation.

I've long said that sermons can't be theology lectures. That's not their form or function. Sure, they should have depth and convey a theological point, but if they're weighed down by long quotes and extensive exegesis while the preacher ignores the finer points of the medium needed to get people to listen, all the "meat and potatoes" you load it up with won't matter.

A question I've been asking lately. Krista O'Reilly-Davi-Digui asks whether living a mediocre life is acceptable:

What if I all I want is a small, slow, simple life? What if I am most happy in the space of in between. Where calm lives. What if I am mediocre and choose to be at peace with that?

The world is such a noisy place. Loud, haranguing voices lecturing me to hustle, to improve, build, strive, yearn, acquire, compete, and grasp for more. For bigger and better. Sacrifice sleep for productivity. Strive for excellence. Go big or go home. Have a huge impact in the world. Make your life count.

But what if I just don’t have it in me. What if all the striving for excellence leaves me sad, worn out, depleted. Drained of joy. Am I simply not enough?

Since last May when I attended a weeklong retreat on clergy wellness, I've been anticipating letting go of some responsibilities to see what it would feel like to just be a husband, father, and pastor. For the most part this has gone smoothly and it's been amazing to spend time reading, brewing my own beer, writing, driving my family around, exercising, and just being present.

That's not to say I haven't had my moments where I'm tempted to sign up for a long involved continuing education program or rush through preparing another book proposal. I mean, I do still have bigger goals, but I've been trying to weigh them more carefully and ask how much is too much in the face of what's most important. To many that would seem medicore. And I'm trying to fight that for myself, too.

Because it's there.

Misc. Why Logan needed to kill the modern superhero movie. Sarah Bessey on the importance of belonging to a church community. Theresa Blythe on the most common block to spiritual direction.