July 09, 2012

Popular Sermons and Juvenile Christianity Christianity Today's recent cover story on the "Juvenilization of Christianity" has created a bit of a stir. The premise of the piece is basically that churches have become "youth group for adults," with entertaining services, upbeat worship, and simplistic sermons that all perpetuate our state of prolonged adolescence. In light of the article, I've been thinking about the sermons in so many churches, conferences and even books of popular Christian culture-- in America and in affluent countries around the world (See: Singapore, Australia, etc.) There are basically five sermons. None of them are untrue; some are misguided, others are simplistic. All are a bit, well, juvenile: good messages for adolecents, but not great sermons for mature believers, nor do they help in a believer's maturation. Without the richness of the whole sweep of Scripture or the texture that other theological themes add, these sermons become like white bread: enrich it all you want but it's never going to be meat. The Five Most Popular Sermons are: [WARNING: The following content contains satire. It is not a personal attack on anyone. It uses overstatement to make us laugh, and think, and then laugh some more.] 1. God is Super Huge. This usually features a quasi-scientific tour of the cosmos or some aspect of creation, a la the Discovery Channel, meant to leave you reeling in God's vastness. Mix in a few popular phrases like, "It's not about you!" and "God is SO great," alternating words on which to place the emphasis, and you've got this sermon down. Mind you, nothing is ever said of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in loving communion with each other, forming the basis for our understanding of personhood and love and community. (But alas, the people can only grasp so much, right?) 2. God...
An Invitation from My Pastor and Me... I'm not sure how you feel about conferences. Some of you regularly choose one or two events to be at each year and look forward to it. Others of you may have grown weary of going somewhere to be wow-ed by the latest light-show and coolest rock band and hippest pastor. Decades ago, Eugene Peterson sagely warned that conferences can be a kind of "ecclesiastical pornography": an airbrushed vision of life in ministry, leaving pastors lusting of artificial and inflated versions of "congregation" and "pastor." (I wrote a blog awhile back on how to survive these kinds of conferences!) We're not interested in that. We decided to create the New Life Leadership Conference to provide a space for us to be challenged and inspired not just by speakers and bands...but by each other. The truth is, Pastor Brady and I and our whole team have been on a journey of rediscovery over the past few years...and we want to talk with others who have been on this journey as well! Every leader needs a place to be in conversation with others who are journeying along the way. In our age where the sacred vocation of "pastor" seems to be confused with so many other things-- CEO, Communicator, Activist-- we need a time and a space to be able to explore in community with one another what it means to be "pastor" and to be the "people of God" in our world today. Our hope-- mine and my pastor, Brady Boyd's-- is that the New Life Leadership Conference would be one of those times and spaces in your life. Here's an invitation from him: Dear Pastor, I want to personally invite you and your team to join us September 24-26 for the New Life Leadership Conference on our campus here in...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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