I have been given the honor to preach before a group of predominantly African-American pastors in May. While it is humbling to speak before any colleagues, many of these men and women lead some of the most influential churches in the area. What does one say to such leaders?
The phrase that has been in my thoughts since I heard that I had been chosen is “Do you have a word from God?” In part, it comes from an article I read recently about why “millennials” are leaving the church. Many times we are told by church growth experts that the key to reaching the younger generation is to move away from the structure and liturgy of previous generations and focus on hip new styles of worship with praise bands and casual services and lattes.
This article, written by a member of the target generation, contradicts that strategy. She says the answer is not an edgier praise band and better lattes. Those things are style, not substance. What she asks for is something worth getting up for; something you can’t get online or on TV. What she wants is to hear a message from God. What she wants is to meet Jesus in the worship. What she wants is the power of God’s spirit to enable her to overcome the struggles of life.
I think we sometimes forget that. We get caught up in how to increase attendance and financial support. But what brings people of all ages back to church is not a better show but a better way to live. People who struggle to find meaning for their lives and reasons to keep going don’t care as much about your order of worship as they do with finding a relationship with the creator of the universe. Sometimes our sermons don’t focus on these realities. Sometimes our sermons are funny and entertaining and educational, but they don’t give hope to the hopeless, strength to the weary, or meaning to the mundane.
I know I have not always been faithful in this area. I sometimes focus more on what the text means than of what it means to someone’s struggle to survive. And I suspect others have also done the same.
So what I want to remind my fellow pastors is not to waste the one chance they may have to bring a word from God to those who come to hear that. And what I need to remind myself with this blog is that some people may read this for the same reason. Whenever I have not brought that word, I am sorry. But I believe in a God that loves us and wants us to overcome the obstacles in our paths. And I want to help you to hear that message.
Deuteronomy 18:18 “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.”