Episode 029: Doing Ministry in a Secular Age

When Jesus told his followers to make disciples in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all the ends of the earth, he meant that the gospel should be brought to people where they are and in their contexts. So how do we as pastors and leaders bring the gospel to our neighbors in today’s secular age? We talk about it in this week’s essential conversation.

Episode 029 – SHOW NOTES – Doing Ministry in a Secular Age

 

One of my favorite metaphors is to think of the world as like an arena with a retractable roof, where the roof closes and no one really cares… everyone is so consumed with their own life that whether or not there is a God is kind of irrelevant…

 

The new situation makes you learn to say [the gospel] afresh… we’re having to learn how to tell the Story to people who are living in a new situation, but have the same hungers…

 

It’s almost like we’re in an Acts 17 moment… in the collapse of the marriage between Christianity and the culture, there’s a fresh opportunity to stand in the marketplace of ideas and tell people, “God raised Jesus from the dead—what do you think about that?”

 

Today’s climate is such that all belief is contested, and so in one sense we’ve gone to a pre-Christian culture, and in another sense we’ve “evolved” past it… people want the Jesus values without the Jesus claim…

 

We have to get better as pastors and leaders to say to people, “You’re going to serve somebody; you’re going to choose a cross somewhere…and only Jesus says ‘my yoke is easy and my burden is light…’”

 

The ministry of hospitality is one of the best gifts the church gives to the world… in a secular age, we need to be ones who open our doors and hearts and we host people and let the kingdom unfold so that people say, “This is where I need to be…”

 

Beauty is a great way of thinking about how the church can be at its best here… a Rembrandt painting doesn’t need to explain itself to you… it has a way of communicating itself to you and drawing you into it… the church needs to think about its own life that way… let people see!

 

QUESTIONS FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM

  • How aware are you and your team about the rising tide of secularism in terms of your ministry process (planning, messaging, programming)? Does it figure at all in your ministry? Why or why not?
  • How would you describe your strategy for equipping your flock to live faithfully and hospitably within our secular age?
  • What can you do to help your congregation see the opportunities of living in this moment?

 

RESOURCES

James. K. A. Smith has written a dense but really helpful summary the new “secular” moment we’re living in called How (Not) To Be Secular. Check it out.

Episode 028: Singing Our Hope

What happens when we worship? How do we select songs for congregational worship that instill hope? In this conversation, Dr. Glenn Packiam talks about what he learned as he researched the expression and experience of hope in our worship.

SHOW NOTES – Episode 028 – Singing our Hope

 

The thing that was most surprising to me in my research was how little the songs dealt with the future… we don’t sing about the future (or the past) all that much… it concerned me that songs about hope had no future orientation…

 

It might be that the spirit of the age is one of the reasons why we don’t sing about the future all that much… it’s a luxury to sing about the present tense when the present is pretty good…

 

There’s a challenge here for pastors and worship leaders to help people see their felt needs in terms of the great need of our lives, which is the hope of Christ…

 

The Holy Spirit is the experience of God’s presence, and many would say that the Spirit is God’s future presence in the now… which is why people who experience the Holy Spirit feel hopeful [regardless of the song lyrics]…

 

Only on paper can you distinguish between hope and comfort… when people say “I feel hope,” what they’re saying is “I have a sense of God’s presence with me”… theologically we’re saying, “The Holy Spirit, who is the deposit of the future—you’re having a taste of him now…”

 

The good songs are not just songs that are true this month… I think we address the realities of our day better by singing about something that transcends our day… it’s great to sing about our present pain, but there’s something about the church coming together to sing about something quite a bit better, higher, and stronger…

 

One of the things we’ve challenged worship leaders and writers with is not just thinking of theology as the fence but as the doorway…

 

I hope that what worship leaders and songwriters hear is that what they’re doing is incredibly powerful and the Holy Spirit breathes on it, so let’s allow him to make our craft the very best it can be… when he breathes on that, how much more could it do?

 

 

QUESTIONS FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM

  • Look at your worship set lists from the last 8 weeks. How many of the songs speak of the future hope of Christ? What do you think that says?
  • What are you doing to create space for people to experience the presence of the Spirit in your worship services?
  • What can you do to help your congregants fix the concerns of their lives in the future hope of Christ?

Episode 027: The Bible and the Church Pt 2

In this conversation, we pick up where we left off talking about the Bible. What is it, and how should it inform our lives and ministries?

Episode 027 – SHOW NOTES – The Bible and the Church Part 2

One of the mistakes we’ve made over the last several decades is that we’ve tried so hard to show how the Bible “relates” to people’s lives that we’ve eliminated what is unique, sacred, and divine about it…

 

If the Bible is just generalized life advice, we’ve actually domesticated the Scripture out of use… part of the job is to recover the uniqueness of Scripture…

 

We need to model for people that engagement with Scripture can take many different forms… it is a disservice to people to communicate to people a picture of engagement with Scripture in which it is uniformly ecstatic… sometimes it is, and sometimes it is not… we need to trust that God is in it…

 

As preachers, we need to realize that our sermon might be more Scripture than that person will hear all week long… if there’s any place where we can read lots of Scripture, it ought to be in church…

 

Two things that have been really transformative for our congregation (downtown) was (1) having Scripture readings in the service, which congregants lead… and (2) using the Immerse Bible plan… it is an arrangement of the Scriptures without chapters and verses which helps you become steeped in a section of Scripture… people had never read the Bible in big chunks before…

 

We preach through books of the Bible [at New Life] because there are lots of sticky pages in our Bibles that we never get to, and it’s easy for the preacher to just preach their greatest hits

 

What I’ve learned over the years is the value for the preacher of having “assigned readings”… that’s scary for charismatic preachers… but I’ve found that when you hold an assigned text against the life of the congregation, you will discover connections that you never would have seen otherwise…

 

QUESTIONS FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM

  • What are you doing to help you people fall in love with Scripture? What more could you do?
  • Do your sermons model a rich engagement with Scripture? Or is Scripture a “pre-text” for your sermon? How can you start moving in a healthier direction?
  • What is your philosophy of your church’s preaching calendar? Does it help people fall in love with Scripture? Why or why not?

 

RESOURCES

The Immerse Bible

Fee and Stuart – How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth (a simple guide for layperson or preacher to understanding the different genres of Scripture)