Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Too Many Messages (Organic Part 8)

I remember the day it happened.  It was many years ago in my last church.  It was a moment of absolute clarity mixed with complete frustration.  Just before the Sunday morning service began I realized in utter resignation that I was not going to say anything in my message that was going to make a bit of difference to anyone. 

Why?  Because for the average person in my church, my message was preceded by a Sunday School class, and then followed by a Sunday night sermon, a Wednesday night sermon, as well as varying men’s and women’s Bible studies throughout the week.  We were bombarding our people with at least five distinct messages a week and expecting them to make spiritual commitments based on every one of them!  I realized that day that we were asking the impossible.  I also realized that my Sunday morning sermon was just another homily in the heap.

When we planted PCC fourteen years ago I knew I would never repeat that pattern again.  It was too much work for me to preach three or four times a week, especially to the same people.   Plus, people get dizzy from the varying messages and multiple calls to commitment.  All of it adds up to being very busy with very little impact.

That’s why I prefer to put most of my effort into a single Sunday morning message.  It’s beautiful in its simplicity and effectiveness.  People only need to focus on one message, one-life change, and one appeal to commitment, this week. 

That’s also why I like sermon-based small groups or sermon-based Bible classes as a mid-week option for those who want more –  because a discipleship focus is built right in.  It takes the pastors sermon and digs deeper.  Through conversation and interaction, each thought can be fully developed and fleshed out.  People will take the time to explore every nook and cranny – related themes, related texts, points of application, and issues for prayer – out of one sermon they heard in worship.  One text, one idea, and one theme contend for people’s minds at a given time.  Plus, it’s organic – no big assimilation strategy or campaign effort is involved or needed.  People simply listen to the sermon, take notes, get together, pull out their message guide and start talking.  Even a newcomer to our church can slip right in to the discussion if they have been to the Sunday service.

Of course, there are other options that we offer at PCC in addition to the Sunday serivce that are very effective.  However, we keep them to a minimum to ensure clarity and to avoid fatigue.  Too many messages only confuse people and too many options results in lower participation.

The reality is most that people don’t have the time a lot of extra time.  It’s a two time-slot world we live in (see here). 

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