05 January 2011

Reading the Junk E-mail can be interesting

So, I got the following in a junk e-mail -- it's 10 things I can do to transform my congregation (from "Group" - I have no idea how I got on there).

I just thought I would see what, if any reaction or amusement or insight is taken from this (or social commentary). And for some reason I don't think 10 is suggesting adopting the Eastern Orthodox practice, but hey, I could be wrong.

+ + + + +
1. Banish the "stand and greet your neighbor" time in the worship service. I know your intentions are good, but it's forced, fruitless and goofy.
2. Forget everything they taught you about three-point sermons. You're wildly successful if you can get across one point. Just one point. Then sit down.
3. Get out and spend time with real people. Schedule lunches at your members' workplaces and schools. Listen. Get a feel for how real people live.
4. Encourage regular evaluation. Use comment cards. Ask us what we remember from last week's sermon. Then take us seriously, and adjust.
5. Crank down the volume of the band. Allow us to actually hear the voices of the flock.
6. Burn the fill-in-the-blank sermon guides. They're insulting, distracting and ineffective. (Can you imagine Jesus using them? Let's see, "Feed my _______.")
7. Show hospitality. Encourage people to enjoy a cup of coffee-during the service.
8. Let us participate. Entertain our questions-during the service. Let the real people around us tell how God is working in their lives.
9. Relax. Make some real friends. Spend more time with your family. Don't schedule every evening with church meetings.
10. Get rid of the pews. Really.


Myrtle said...

From someone who spent 26-years in the Protestant church before discovering and coming home to the pure doctrine, I find great amusement in this post.

I would like to make one observation: While I would NEVER give up the wondrous liturgy of Divine Service, I will say the best church I ever attended was a bible church down South in which the service had three equal parts: worship (with more hymns than hollow praise songs), teaching (straight biblical stuff and none of that pop Christian literature crap), and Q&A.

Yep, after the first two parts, folks could leave, but were invited and encouraged to stay. The pastor then pulled up a stool in the center aisle and folk could ask questions about the sermon right then and there. I LOVED that. It is hard, sometimes, to be so hungry to understand what I just heard and have no real way of asking questions/getting answers. You confessional Lutheran undershepherds are just too busy.

I'm sure I will get thrown out of the Lutheran church for adding this, but on number 5, you could substitute "organ" for "band." I have come to cherish the organ as a part of Lutheran worship, but I very much savor hearing the voices of my brothers and sisters in Christ sing the truths found in Lutheran hymnody, especially when I struggle with feeling too unworthy and hypocritical to voice the words I long to say.

No. 6 gave me a great big guffaw!

Thanks for sharing...and for faithfully dividing Law and Gospel for the flock our Good Shepherd has placed in your care.

Ted Badje said...

You never know what people are thinking when they put in suggestions, and whether it is serious.

Here are my reactions:

1. You never know if this leads to further conversation. The average age of LCMS is 50+. C'mon people. We need outreach. It is the Great Commission our Lord gave us in Matthew 28.

2. One point? So we are going to hammer away at one point like a
radio talk show host?

3. Agree.

4. Agree, but sometimes sermons are meant to make people uncomfortable, on very rare occasions.

5. Agree. Music should help the mood for worship, but not be a distraction. Do we need soft music during the words
of consecration at Communion? To me, it makes it seem maudlin.

6. Some people make good use of this, and remember the points of the sermon longer.

7. Yes, yes, yes. Encourage people to get out of their comfort zone. Going to church shouldn't mean just meeting the needs of your immediate family.

8. This isn't town hall.

9. Agree. The job is hard, but pastors shouldn't have to stress out all the time.

10. Let's have the old cathedrals with no pews, with the farmers coming in with stink on their shoes, like in Luther's time. That should bring in nostalgia.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


Just as a question - did that Bible Church down south have a separate time for Bible Study? One of the things that my folks here appreciate is that Bible Study is that time for Q&A - in fact, I begin every Bible Study by asking if there are any questions that were raised this past week (I'm not giving a final or a test, I don't have to do X verses that day).

And Ted,

Point 2 could (if one wants to be very charitable) tie into Dr. Fickensher's contention that every sermon have one, very clear Theme.

Myrtle said...

We had Sunday School (in Protestant Churches bible studies refer to study other than on Sundays). The pastor didn't teach it and didn't in all the other churches I went to (I moved a lot). You get a lot of "What do you think this means?" which is why I love Lutheran doctrine and cherish the Book of Concord. None of this feeling and opinion stuff. There *is* meaning. And it is all about Christ crucified, not how well I am managing my own relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Lutheran pastors I've had invited questions, but sometimes those do not seem welcome because of a tacit agenda. Plus, for shy folk, even an invitation for questions can be daunting because it feels like you are under a microscope and are disrupting/delaying the "real" lesson.

So, I liked was that was part of the schedule--asking questions was the whole purpose! And I liked the immediacy. For me, with cognitive problems stemming from MS, it is hard to understand at times and near impossible to remember well enough to ask the following Sunday. I take notes in Divine Service (though I have been too chicken to do so in my new parish since no one else does), but often I cannot understand them well enough to ask a question later!

Maybe if bible study came after Divine Service? While I am never ready for the service to be over, longing for more Living Word, more teaching, and more hymnody, I can appreciate that most folks are ready to go home and eat. I read about folk complaining services are too long and pastors talking about keeping their sermons short enough and I am plain flummoxed. Those 90-minute services at that bible church went by in a heartbeat! Is not the Living Word the most compelling thing on the planet?

I will say that most people stayed and more read the bible consistantly in that church than any other bible-toting Protestant church I attended. They also came more prepared for both Sunday School and bible studies.

The first Lutheran parish I was at ate lunch together every Lord's Day. That was cool, but it wasn't really a time to ask questions. There was an Ask-the-Pastor time, but he was mostly tired then (or more likely my questions fatigued him). You undershepherds all labor so mightily and barely have energy/time for your families as it is.

So, being able to ask questions right away, but having it as a part of the schedule so I wasn't a bother or a burden was...heavenly. I also always appreciated hearing the questions others had and learned from them. I come from a non-Christian family so learning at church is all I have.

But, while I do wish rather strongly there was a regular mechanism by which I could have my questions answered, I would never go back to such errant teaching that put such a cruel burden on Christians, making their faith their own work and distorting the Gospel so as to make it near unrecognizable. No comfort of for Christ's sake, no Sacraments (merely acts of worship/testimony), no absolution, no God coming to you, no rich hymnody, no liturgy filled with the Living Word, barely any Living Word at all...the list goes on.

Still, ask anyone who knows me. I have questions (too many, I know) and there is no real way to get them answered without being a bother, a burden, or a disruption.

I used to be far more greedy and selfish about that with too many emails and such, not realizing what a sacrifice of time my hunger was, even for my adoptive father. Now, I mostly just despair a bit, line my bible and Book of Concord with sticky notes, plow through Luther's Works, turn to Walther when I am frustrated, and try to not be churlish about it (I fail there a lot). After all, I do have access to rightly divided Law and Gospel each Lord's Day and via several Lutheran blogs/church websites. It is not the undershepherd's fault I have too much errant teaching still filling my brain making just about the whole of the New Testament sound like Law.

Seeing this list just made me long for the impossible once more.

Myrtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Myrtle said...

Had trouble with a double post of my comment there!

BerlinPoet said...

This is very funny, but I kind of agree with 1, 5, and 6.

I am not sure a Q&A (point 8)session DURING the service is a good idea. Also, I feel we hear enough about how God is working in "real people's lives" and not enough about God. I don't think point 8 should be adopted.

Phillip said...

I wholeheartedly agree with the point about turning down the music so one can hear the flock. And, yes, that means the organ in most LCMS churches.

Somewhere along the way, many of our organsits got the idea that by playing over the congregation they were somehow "leading" them. One leads instead by melodic phrasing, rhtyhmic vitality, harmonic logic, and textural clarity. And one strengthens a congregation's singing by accompanying them whenever possible - and even stepping back and letting them lead when they know the way.

If an organist can't hear the people's voice, he is really not able to evoke the Lord's song. It is at best "parallel play", and at worst a distraction.

As ideal as the pipe organ is for leading groups of people in song, it would be better to have a small choir of voices, a flute, a bass instrument, with simple harmony provided by keyboard or even guitar for leading the people in the Lord's song rather than the overamplified confusion we hear from many organists.

Carl Vehse said...

Re: No. 6

Hmmmmm.... I was wondering why the fill-in-the-blank sermon guides in our service folder were dropped a few weeks ago.

Martin Diers said...

So - coming from an entirely Common Service background, just how common is this "stand and greet your neighbor", or "give one another the peace of Christ" or whatever-you-call-it-where-you-are thing these days? I mean, I've seen it in Missouri plenty of times, but never in a church using the Common Service.

Robbie F. said...

No pews?! We're all hardasses here, we don't need no stinkin' La-Z-Boys!