Over the last few weeks in our fledgling missional community we have had a few discussions around language and how we communicate the good news of Jesus. We think that finding the right words or a way (that may not always be words) to do that isn’t always easy. ‘Jesus loves you’ doesn’t go down well and actually what does it even mean to someone who is struggling with depression, isolation, debt or just life in general.
I believe Jesus’ Good News always has to come with actions, offered by us. In recent months we have seen a backlash against the ‘prayers and thoughts’ that are always offered at times of big disaster with people saying ‘we need more that thoughts and prayers’. I get that, for anyone to whom God is an unknown or distant figure they need more than words, we must show them practical ways of helping, we must stand up against things that are unjust and wrong. Of course that’s a biblical thing anyway, just read James to know that faith without works is dead!
There are of course those for whom the sermon is always the best form of communication for the gospel. Now I love a good sermon and there are those brilliant communicators that have preached sermons that have changed countless lives (to be fair I’m pretty sure God had something to do with it too). Most recently there was that Royal Wedding sermon. I listened to it and was wowed by it, it was the best sermon I’d heard in a while. My Facebook and Twitter feeds were full of Christians who were also wowed by it, marvellous! The following week I asked a few people in my community (who weren’t Christians) if they watched the wedding. Lots of people did but only one of them mentioned the sermon, most loved the celeb watching and what Meghan wore. The one time the sermon was mentioned the comment was it was too long….. Christian friends reactions to that comment was, ‘well that was short by comparison to normal sermons’. Mmmmmm that response is hardly going to encourage people to go to church is it!
And yet in churches every week 20 or 30 minute sermons are preached, mostly to the converted. I could concede that maybe it’s helping those who have already found their faith but I’m not wholly convinced that argument, after all how many people can remember a sermon 1 hour after it is preached, or maybe that is just me? I’ve felt myself asking the question do sermons still continue to change lives or should we consider preaching less and taking more action by being out there sharing the gospel in different ways on a Sunday morning. If I’m honest I’m not a regular Sunday morning attender and seek to do church differently so I am bias. I just find by interacting with others and sharing my faith more practically, it teaches me a whole lot more than being sat hearing another sermon, especially the ones that seem stuck on repeat and tell me I’m very sinful and need forgiveness (seriously I know that, please don’t shame me anymore!) Maybe ministers might come up with more great sermons if they could preach less but were able to ‘mull’ longer or even spend more time out in their communities!! Maybe churches should take the church out to the people on a Sunday once or twice a month, not to preach but to share the Good News in other ways, you never know it might bear more fruit, after all Jesus didn’t preach much in synagogues he was out there talking to people and ministering where they were.
With so many churches in decline and Sunday congregations dwindling, new approaches are needed and judging by the response I found in my community to the amazing Royal Wedding sermon, we really do need to work out other ways to communicate the message of Jesus. After all if even the best of the best sermons aren’t having an impact on Joe Public then something’s broken and we really need to fix it.