Ordinarily, I am entrusted with the task of preaching once per month but because of summer holidays and staff vacations I find myself in middle of preparing three consecutive sermons. I am enjoying the opportunity, but I am also gaining an appreciation for those whose regular task is weekly preaching! As I sit down this morning to begin preparing for next Sunday, a couple of quotes that came through my inbox last week are bouncing around in my head.
The first is from an article by Brett McCracken over at the Wall Street Journal‘s opinion section called “The Perils of ‘Wannabe Cool’ Christianity.” McCracken rightly wonders about some of the innumerable (and transparently desperate?) attempts to sell Christianity in an increasingly post-Christian cultural climate:
But are these gimmicks really going to bring young people back to church? Is this what people really come to church for? Maybe sex sermons and indie- rock worship music do help in getting people in the door, and maybe even in winning new converts. But what sort of Christianity are they being converted to?
… [I]f we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it’s easy or trendy or popular. It’s because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It’s not because we want more of the same.”
In a similar vein, I received another quote from an article by John Stackhouse called”Clergy Courage” in Church: An Insider’s Look at How We Do It. In a discussion of the nature of the call to Christian discipleship, Stackhouse says this:
Whether such a call seems “relevant” or “realistic” or “contemporary” or “enlightened” finally isn’t the point. We turn to the churches, or to other historic religious traditions, because we want something more than talk-show psychology and soap-opera morality. We want something richer, stronger, and sounder than whatever happens to be current opinion.
Clergy must offer that to us and not shortchange us because they’re afraid we’ll back away, for…clergy have in the end nothing else distinctively worthwhile to do.”
It can be easy to fall into the trap of telling people what they want to hear or failing to present the life of discipleship as the bracing, demanding, and all-encompassing call that it actually is (or ought to be). I am grateful for these challenges to avoid this trap as I work toward Sunday.