As I continue to read from the authors/thinkers in the emerging church movement, I am challenged to rethink, reexamine, and re-learn what it means to be in ministry to a culture that is content with being at odds with (or at least unconcerned with) what God has to say about their lives.
One of the areas I am doing some research in is preaching. I have mentioned Doug Pagitt's work in Preaching Re-Imagined before but I offer up another quote for discussion. In his chapter on "centralized control" he makes the argument that preachers need to be willing to acknowledge that crafting sermons by themselves in their studies without influence from the church at large (the audience for said sermon) leads to one-way dialogue and rather generic, catch-all sermons that have little chance of impacting the members of the community in a personal way. He says this:
"Why would we call people to a personal connection with God and yet be content to give them generic, universal experiences with the message of faith?" (p 124)
His question, for me, strikes at the heart of the goal of preaching. If we are content to preach messages that touch on "issues" that "people" may be facing in their lives, are we really doing all we can to reach the "people" in our congregations? Or are we just doing what we need to to get by?
I ask this question because I have preached a generic sermon with a "universal...message of faith" in my church without blinking an eye. I did it because I was asked to preach and I did it because that was the model of preaching I was taught. However, there seems to be a great amount of credence to the practice of involving the members of the congregation in the creation of sermons. I mean, how better to speak directly into the lives, hearts, and minds of our people than to know what is going on in their life and giving them a chance to bounce ideas off of you?
I guess I am of the opinion that if my sermons are not deeply rooted in the character of the congregation they are presented to, then I am only a passing wind or a brief noise in a hearer's ear.
What do you think? Am I crazy? off-kilter? what?