If you missed it, I’m starting to post some of my own sermon introductions (and others as well). Here is my intro from this past Sunday.
“You know how people are.” This is a common response today when something happens that seems to go against the grain of what is commonly thought of as right or good. “Well, what do you expect?” In other words this phrase gives a pass, or a get out of jail free card to people because of the generation that they live in. For example, if someone from an earlier generation were to show up today, they might be surprised that the most watched sit-com of all time is Seinfeld, “The Show about Nothing.” The characters are rootless and never seriously committed to anything but themselves. Yet, we seem to live in a culture that is about nothing and proud of it! One author described as the culture of marketing and the marketing of culture. People are enamored with the grand narrative of post-modernity with its aimless plotless erring—and its lifeless gods of technology, entertainment, sex, power consumerism…Is this the only story that needs telling?
One pastor said that his children took him to their church with them one Sunday morning. The church was marketing itself as one that was an outreach to our postmodern world. On the way home, they asked him what he thought… “Wasn’t it alive and relevant they asked?” He replied… “In all my years….I have never seen such a studied avoidance of anything specifically Christian.” One advertisement for a new paraphrase of the Bible had a full color photograph of a young woman who appears sophisticated and well educated—the caption reads “Pastor, if you want to reach me, you better watch your language.” The inside copy elaborates: “Distracted by deadlines and bills, this is the only time she takes to nurture her spiritual life. You can’t afford to lose her attention when you reference Bible passages that are too lofty and obscure.” Really?
One has to wonder, in the process of being relevant, are we in danger of losing the reached instead of reaching the lost? Are our “cultural translations” really accommodations that empty the faith” of its meaning and power? Has fascination taken the place of reflection, and seduction taken the place of argumentation?
We can talk in terms of post-modernism and modernism if we want to, but the only distinctions made by Jesus are those in the Kingdom of Christ and the kingdoms of this world. Even when evangelicals say things like “traditional church models no longer work in our world…and we need to find new ways to fulfill the Great Commission, we must be arrested by the testimony of God, not of man. Should we look like our culture to reach our culture, or should we look like Jesus and live in our culture? Are we to invest in “this passing age,” or the “age to come?” What does it look like when a church lives in obedience to Christ and yet still loves their community and seeks to serve it? Today, we will examine a template of the local church, the first local church in Jerusalem as we turn together to Acts, chapter 2:4-47.
You can listen to the entire sermon here.
I owe this introduction almost entirely to Michael Horton, who contributed to the book Give Praise to God with his chapter entitled, Challenges and Opportunities for Ministry Today (P R Publishing, 2003, pages 436-446.)