Someone recently related to me a conversation they had with the pastor of a church. He extended an invitation to visit and hear his next sermon, which would involve bringing in livestock for a visual effect, just before he “really hit them hard” with his message, sounding as if he were planning more for an attack than a service.
The observation of my acquaintance was this: Instead of attempting to literally bring people in to see a dog and pony show, using various props to draw a crowd, why don’t we just use as our prop, oh, I don’t know, say, the Bible?
I foresee getting a bit of flack in the future over things I may begin sharing, but my heart is heavy and I am compelled to speak truthfully about what I see and hear. It concerns me to see churches competing with each other to “get their numbers up,” when the fact of the matter is, there’s merely a swapping of sheep. Folk leave one congregation when they get disillusioned, weary of being beaten over the head with religiosity, and move on, trying to find a place where they can find what they are looking for, only to repeat the cycle over again, searching for what I refer to as Antioch. You see, we’re told in the Book of Acts that “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” A disciple was described as a follower of Christ. Throughout my youth and much of my adulthood, I considered there were only 12 disciples, but having gone back, re-reading and re-studying, I have learned that before Jesus was crucified He had hundreds (possibly thousands) of disciples, men and women alike, who were believers and/or followers in and of Him. For many years I asked my mentor, my spiritual father, “Where is Antioch in all this?” as I looked around a mega-church to see emotions at a fever pitch, once quite literally sitting through a sermon where the evangelist had brought in a boat, displayed on the platform as, you got it, his prop.
Are we called as we preach to focus on stirring up a person’s emotions, or rather minister to their spiritual journey and physical needs? It’s all in the Bible, some in red letters. I think I’ll continue using that as my prop of choice.