Brian McLaren spoke on Wednesday afternoon at the Festival of Homiletics. I have waited to blog about his presentation both because it was complex, but also because I was trying to figure out how to put his diagram into the blog. It is still pretty fuzzy. It should be in part 2 of this multi-part blog.
McLaren began by bemoaning sermons that he said diminish the power of the Christian story. They either are much ado about nothing or are so self focussed as to insult the gospel. Too many preachers are like that old ad for LifeLine for seniors: “Help! I’m speaking and I can’t shut-up”
The gospel is actually about saving our world, not just saving my soul.
“The tragic thing is to think how many churches this Sunday will be treated to safe, nice, harmless, insignificant, intramural, and trivial-pursuit sermons,” McLaren said. “There are going to be an awful lot of sermons preached in Christian churches … that actually probably help the world become a worse place. They will use the Bible, and God, and Jesus, to increase greed, to increase fear, to increase alienation, resentment, scapegoating, escapist thinking, fatalism, and an approach of abandonment toward the world.”
Specific suggestions for “transformational” Christian proclamation:
1. “Don’t assume it will be easy, Many of our Christians have been converted into consumers of religious goods and services. When you come to them with … a call to be disciples or agents of the transforming
2. Don’t miss the proverbial forest for the trees. Rather than preaching from a few isolated verses, pastors would do well to present the sweeping themes of scripture. The core of the biblical message is the story of God’s involvement in “our messed-up, self-destructive world.”
What you focus on determines what you miss. There was an incredible illustration. He showed a video of people dressed in white and black tossing a ball between themselves. You were told to count how many times the ball was passed from one person to the next ONLY BY THOSE DRESSED IN WHITE. And so we did. When it was done he asked how many had seen the gorilla in the video. WHAT!!??? I swear there was no gorilla. (To excuse myself, neither did 99% of the 1500 people present. Only about 5 raised their hand as having seen the gorilla). He then replayed the video and a huge gorilla walked into the middle of the scene, jumped up and down, waved his arms & walked off. I NEVER SAW IT!!!!! Wow! What you focus on determines what you miss.
3. Emphasize integral reconciliation with God, self, creation, others, enemies. He then went into a discussion of the Top Global problems and how the Gospel addresses them. I will save that (& the accompanying diagram) to part 2.
4. Contextualize the language of “Kingdom”
- Your personal Kingdom
- Cultural, national, economic kingdoms
- The dream of God
- The global love economy of God
- The sacred ecosystem of God
- God’s revolution of hope
He also spoke about framing the narrative. I might save that to a part 3.
5. Realize that preaching isn’t everything
- Liturgy of transformation
- Prayers of transformation
- Testimonies of transformation
- Songs of transformation
6. Work person-global and global-personal (with a bias toward the latter)
7. Realize who is working with, in, and for you (Holy Spirit)