I’ve been writing about the question of “keeping the cookies on the lower shelf” in Sunday morning sermons. Here are some ways you (as pastor) or your church can raise the level of discussion, and build discipleship of the mind, without leaving any listeners behind:
- Ask, “Who would have a problem with this biblical message, and what might their problem be?” State that problem, then give a good answer. (Timothy Keller’s sermons are masterful examples. You can learn from him — without being as intellectual in your message as he often is.)
- Include a “For further thought” question list in the bulletin. Make the questions meaty. Encourage Sunday school classes to work through the questions. Even an after-church restaurant group could grab one of the questions for part of their conversation.
- Teach something everyone can understand but few already know. Show a map of Jesus’ walking travels, tell something about how fishermen worked in the Sea of Galilee. Explain why Paul felt such a need to be take such a strong tone with the Galatians and the Corinthians.
- Use Lydia McGrew’s Hidden in Plain View to spice up your teaching. You’ll be blown away when you discover how amazingly interesting it is, how new it is to almost everyone — and how easy it is to teach.
- Teach paradoxes. For example: How could John the Baptist be such an incredible model of humility, and still tell people he was the fulfillment of the great Isaiah 40 prophecy? Was that humble, too? (I’ll never forget the lesson I learned when I asked that question.)
- Consider teaching more challenging sermons once in a while. You know you can’t meet everyone’s needs in a sermon; you’ve been meeting the needs of those who want a less challenging message all this time; now you can meet some other people’s needs for these occasional mornings.
- Prepare two sermons. If a church can have a traditional and a contemporary service, why can’t it have an introductory sermon and a more advanced one, in two different services?
- Think outside the sermon box — and outside yourself, too. Open up other opportunities for people to learn from (and teach) one another in greater depth. But don’t leave them out in the cold! Talk it up during your sermon once in a while.
- Take the big risk! (I’ve said this “has the potential to get a pastor fired for following Jesus’ example.”) Do what Jesus did, and leave some big questions unanswered at the end of your sermon. Then (as Jesus also did, see Matthew 13), offer a follow-up session for the really interested disciples to come find out more.
Those are my first 9 ideas. Got any others?
You’ve noticed these are all directed toward pastors. Lay person, if you think your pastor needs to hear this, he very well might. Feel free to share it — but do it with love and patience, as someone who’s on his side, remembering that he’s got his hands full already. (Pastor, if someone comes blasting you with this, let me know. I’ll post their names publicly on a wall of shame here! 🙂 )
Image Credit(s): Tom Gilson.