During this season of exile from the ordinary activities that define us ‘church’, we’ve scrambled to become adept at camera angles and green screens. For many, much has remained the same, it’s just the trappings that have changed. We’re finding new patterns and traditions. We find ourselves adapting, even as we long to get back to normal.
Is that what we should be longing for?
Is that God’s desire… that we go back to what was?
Decades ago I took the advice of preaching professor Fred Craddock and crafted a small sign for my desk out of an index card. I’ve never made a permanent sign… it’s always been my generally unreadable scrawl on a scrap of paper or a post it note. Every so often it will fall and get lost in the shuffle of my desk, but I’ve never been tempted to make it permanent. There is something about realizing it has gone missing and then recreating it… somehow ritually rededicating myself to its exhortation in doing so.
In two words it provides me a much-needed focus for my own sermon work. It simply reads: So what? Useful for the preacher, but it’s also become a bit of a mantra for the rest of my life as well.
This global pandemic is a grand “so what?” moment for the church (the effects will last far longer than a moment) especially if we ask this question not of ourselves, but of God.
Things will never be the same, nor should they.
What happens next in our churches, communities and in our own lives should be based not on what was normal for us, but rather on discerning where God is calling us now as those who bear witness to the transformative love of Jesus Christ.
Hey there, good friend. Your blog post today reminded me of guidance I received from a pastor in National Capital Presbytery. I was an elder serving on the Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry, working with churches in times of pastoral transition. One PNC had asked for advice on evaluating sermons. My pastor friend shared the advice he gave to associates working with him. When listening to or writing a sermon, consider three elements: What, So What, and Now What. What is the text saying? Why does the message matter? Having heard it, what does God require of us? The balance of the what/so what/now what varies by text and message, but all three should be present in a sermon. Changed the way I listen to sermons!