Well, I covered the two main issues I noticed the week I spent with Doug Pagitt, Solomon’s Porch, and Emergent. So now, onto a minor. Now this topic will have to do more with Doug Pagitt who is one of the leading voices of Emergent than Emergent as a whole.
I know several who care more about debating some of this stuff out will want to debate the history of preaching and it’s role in the church. Some may even be tempted to start a campaign about how too many churches worship the pastor over God and this needs called out. This is not what this blog is about. It is some observations that due to the above stated concerns, some may rebel to the far other opposite to where they also offer a negative output.
The observation that week was one of disappointment. Again, I had stayed an extra day to enjoy worship with Solomon’s Porch and was ready for the full experience. Now I have had groups stay at our church for a week and I know how hard it is to fit in the right amount of time to do study for the message of that week. In watching Doug that week, it was evident that he was staying hopping being a gracious host. I asked him if he was going to get time to get prepared for Sunday. He replied that it was all under control and no problem (my words not his…..it was a few years back).
On that Sunday evening, no message was offered. Doug told his church about all of us church leaders from around the country and asked us to stand up. He told everyone in the church to group around those standing and each of us were to share about our ministries at home so the church as a whole would have a better picture of what was going on with the church as a whole.
Now, besides my disappointment to not be ministered to or challenged, I have several other concerns as well.
First, was the church really getting anything out of it? The body was not getting a bigger picture of the whole body of Christ. The four guys around me heard about my church….the seven people over there heard about that church….but there was no real collective understanding. To be honest, it really just seemed like an easy out to not have to deliver a message that week.
The more concerning point was I had gotten to know the four guys around me a little before church and this is not the message they needed. One guys was a normal Solomon’s Porch attendee who just hung out on the side lines who could use more community. Another guy, had been to the church about three weeks in a row and wanted to know more about Jesus. He was as much a “seeker” as I had met. The other two were a little rough around the edges and it was their second visit to the church. The last time had been some time back. They were friends with Luke, who I mentioned before and that relationship drew them back. Luke passed by before church, recognized them, said a quick hello, and then back to work.
As we talked for the “message” part, I had one guy who was interested, one who was polite but really needed to know more about the loving gospel of Jesus Christ, and two who felt they made a mistake by coming and said they probably would not be back. We talked a little about our ministry but I quickly tailored the talk more to the needs of those there.
As I inquired a little bit more, it appeared that normally the sermons were done otherwise. Either, they would study a book of the Bible on Tuesday night as a small group for whoever wanted to come and then Doug would regurgitate the groups thoughts on Sunday. The concept is the community write the sermon and not just one man. This confused me some because there was mentioned a message series on science and what not that seemed to be a pet project of Doug Pagitt which would suggest he was taking the lead in areas he cared about.
After this week, I read Pagitt’s book “Preaching Re-imagined” offering yet another new way of thinking about something within the church. Here’s a thought that kinda wraps it all up….
I had to make up a phrase, “speaching,” to describe what I think has happened in the church. I think that in the church we tend to act as if in the church world things operate by a different set of rules than in the rest of the world and we have these little phrases for them to allow them to operate in a different way. For instance, we don’t have auditoriums, we have sanctuaries, and we don’t have stages we have platforms. In much the same way I think we’ve taken the speech making act and we call it preaching. So if someone said that “my pastor gave a really great speech today” people would feel funny about that and say “it’s not really a speech because it’s in a religious context and encouraged by God.” But it has every appearance of being a speech.
When you are in a religious context, and use all of the religious supporting powers, including the role of the pastor, the use of the Bible, a committed community of people who are going to meet together, and then you stand up and give a speech that was created in isolation, is meant to be offered to the most broad cross-section of people possible and delivered from your sole perspectiveve, it seems to me that you are giving a speech. In that context you control the pace, the conclusion, the presuppositions, you basically control all of it. I can’t seem to separate that type of preaching from making a speech other than the fact that the former has added power to it, or dastardly influence I guess, because it’s in the religious context, which makes it even more difficult for someone to contradict it or have a different opinion. So basically by speaching I mean a speech given in a religious context – that is why I spelled it the way I did, to try and show it as a special kind of speech, but a speech none the less.”
I guess I have a pretty strong disagreement with Doug on this. I don’t know of a time that I have listened to a sermon or have given a message where it was control, solicited a specific response, and manipulated people. Almost every Sunday, it amazes me how people come up after the service and each have a different response. Often people tell me have they were so challenged or comforted on such and such point and that point was not made during the service. It is so evident that the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to speak to the heart of those involved in the way they need in that moment.
It is almost as if he forgets that part the Holy Spirit plays. We are just the tool, not the one in control. As pastors we study, we pray, we submit, and then let God lead as He ministers to the people.
Some in Emergent would probably say this is egotistical for one person to have to be in control and that is again evidence to me that they are not getting it. While God calls different people into different areas, this does not mean everyone is on ego trips. Those with this mentality would have been a real pain in the side for Moses as they marched across the desert (though they would have fit in with attitude of the day).
As Paul advised a young church leader he was mentoring….
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
Pastors have a calling in thier lives. If they understand the seriousness of this role, it will produce a certain amount of holy fear instead of a power trip. There will be a strong need for God to make it work instead of being king of the hill. There will be a confidence in God but not a cockiness.
Do some pastors mess this up and go ego on thier church. Yep! Do people sometimes worship their pastors instead of God. Sadly, yes…..
However, to take such a stance on preaching and leading seems to be over the top the other way. The sad part is, while some talk down about preaching because it’s speaching, they are more than thrilled to come “speaching” at your event for $1,000 a day. I don’t think it’s wrong to be compensated for your work but something seems off balanced there, doesn’t it. It’s like hinting that evangelicals are media whores while you just said you are working with a news team on a story about yourself and your movement. (See blog on Tony Jones below)
I’d say let’s stay consistent but more than that, let’s man up in our callings and preach to those God has entrusted us the Word of God. Just some thoughts.