Learning fast

There was no choice. I had to learn fast how to record my sermons.

First, I had to buy the wireless mic, and the adapter cable for the phone. Then I had to recorded my Sunday sermons with my wife’s help and the media team leader’s advice via whatsapp video calls.

My Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is proving to be an asset. Its video is top quality for 5 minutes and 10 minutes for the best settings. But even the third best setting is sufficient to give more than 45 minutes of good quality video for the Sunday online service via YouTube.

It felt stressful to do this. Lots of unknown areas. Lots of experimenting and going back and forth with Zephaniah. Stressful also to talk in front of a phone camera and an empty hall. Had to rehearse the script. Had to remember the main points and ideas. It all adds to the stress.

It was strangely satisfying to see myself on screen. I used to hate to watch videos of myself preaching. Interestingly, it was not as painful this time round watching myself on TV preach to myself in the living room. I am becoming comfortable with the way I appear on video, and I feel immense satisfaction that it was recorded using a Note 9, and desk tripod, and wireless mic.

Of course the media team did a lot of editing. That is something I hope to learn in the near future.

The pandemic has forced this on me and my staff. They too are learning to record their own sermons and sending them to the editing team.

The members are beneficiaries. Shorter, sharper, clearer sermons, and therefore services, every Sunday.

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Preaching like cooking for family

A good balance for everyone at the dinner table
A good balance for everyone at the dinner table

The sermon is preferred differently by people of different temperaments. The sanguine (the “I” in the DISC) will like messages with moving stories embellished with dialogue, and content with relational elements. The phlegmatic (S) needs sermons that reassure, comfort and encourage them constantly. The melancholy(C) prefers to dive deep into analysis, interpretative details and arguments about the Biblical text. The choleric (D) will want to be challenged by a sermon calling them to do things that produces results and make a difference, and have sure-fire practical steps of action.

This alone presents a challenge to the preacher. Can he add elements to target each of these unique temperament preferences in most sermons if not every sermon? Such a sermon would then have to have a moving story or relational element added if the text is not a narrative. It would have to be positive, comforting and encouraging. Based on a text that is not ignored, the sermon has to arise and be systematically built up from a careful interpretation of scriptures that include nuances and alternative interpretations. It would also have to point to a lack, gap or need in the hearers so big they would be motivated to want to do something about it. It would have some practical steps of plugging the gap at the end. This is a tall order and when you consider the many other roles and responsibilities of a small church pastor it appears almost impossible to do this consistently over a long period of time.

Feeding the church is like feeding a family. Every child has different preferred, or favourite and despised dishes. It can be so opposite and impossible. One prefers rice, another rather eat noodles most of the time. One hates fish because of the bones inside, others love whole fish and find the Dory too bland. Most love curry but one has the runs when she eats spicy. So like any smart mother, the pastor has to plan a balanced menu of sermons of different kinds: topical series that are easily digestible by most; sermons for special occasions like Easter or missions Sundays or anniversaries; deep book studies of Old and New Testament; and standalone sermons that addresses some challenge that the church or society is facing. And major on what the apostle Paul majored, “We preach Christ and Him crucified” – the finished work. Furthermore, church members, like family, have to learn to understand and embrace this variety of approaches out of love and respect for other family members. Church is family and this is what family does.

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Worship services that facilitates the Spirit’s transforming power

photo credit: YKThe presentations I had to do went well today and now I can pause to write before I continue working on my Sunday sermon and the post-campus assignment.

One of the interesting readings of this module is a  Christian Education Journal article (3.vol4, No.2) titled “Teaching Bible for Transformation” by Jackie L. Smallbones from Northwestern College.

Transformation inextricably linked to purpose of Bible

Smallbones’ big idea is that to teach in such a way that people’s lives are transformed we need to take seriously the primary purpose of the Bible. The Bible primary purpose is to reveal God, and only secondarily to show us how to live. The way the Bible is used popularly today,  both from the pulpit and in the small groups, the secondary purpose has supplanted the primary. Preachers and people move too swiftly into the applications that focus on what we should do and how we are to apply the truth in our life. Not sufficient time is given to let the text speak and reveal who God is and what He has done. The anthropocentric focus often deters a theocentric priority.

“Transformation is God’s business”

For Smallbones, transformation is a radical change that comes from deep within a person and is lasting. It  is growth in Christ-likeness. For her,  “Transformation is God’s business and not our own” (Smallbones, 2007) and it often takes place by grace, despite our efforts or teaching methodology. To Smallbones, the secret of transformation lies in having a dynamic, living, interactive relationship with God. No self-disclosure, no friendship; no friendship, no transformation. God’s desire to reveal Himself and have a transforming friendship with us is embedded in the purpose of the Bible. Therefore we need to teach it in such a way that it reveals who God is and what He has done, and elicit a response of gratitude, worship and faith. It makes you want to have a friendship with God, one that in the end would empower you with the grace to do all that a response of faith entails, and one that will transform you beyond surface behavioral cosmetics, and touch you at the roots of your personality.

Exploring a worship service that facilitates transformation

I like what I read in the article and there are many more stuff she has written that is thought provoking and resonant of what the Lord has been teaching me these several years. The question that begs to be answered then is what would a worship service look like that reveals God and invites us into experiential and living encounter and growing friendship with Him. Well for one, the lyrics of the songs we sing would be theocentric. They will exalt and reveal who God is and what He has done, and is doing.  Some time could be given for “testimony” where someone could share how God has been real to them.  The sermon should constantly have a theocentric focus that exalts God, and should lead people naturally and finally into deep trust, adoration of God, and experiential communion with Him. Instead of focusing on the faith of David, the cowardice of the Israelites, and the blasphemy of Goliath in the sermon, focus on the God who honors His covenant, and waits for someone to dare believe in Him, in order to deliver His people. See Christ defeat of Satan in David’s defeat of Goliath and how we are more like the people of Israel who rejoiced at the victory, than like David. We sat in fear, darkness and oppression until the One greater than David appeared and set us free (got this idea from Graame Goldsworthy).

Silence and holy communion

Another way to create space for the Lord to transform by friendship is the use of silence. Silence is the womb of communion. So have silence before the service begins; or a silent pause or two between or at the end of singing praises; at the offering time; silence for the gifts of the Spirit to manifest; at a pregnant moment in the sermon or a longer silence after the sermon; or during the Holy Communion; and hey, why not a long pause just before the benediction. And of course talking about Holy communion, that visible ritual that proclaims the Lord’s death until He returns, why not do it more often than the conventional once a month.

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