Archive | May, 2014

Are Sermons Too Few or Too Many?

Preachers

Say the word “sermon” and the average person doesn’t get too thrilled. In fact for a lot of people the word is only used as a pejorative (as in, “You can spare me the sermon, OK?”). But consider the sermon in its true sense – the message or homily or whatever you choose to call that which is taught aloud on a regular basis to a corporate church gathering. It’s not a popular word, and it’s not a popular concept. Maybe that’s not entirely bad. If it were, then by now we’d have had to witness a nauseating reality show competition in which young preachers go one at a time & America texts in its vote for the best sermon.

 

But to the degree that the sermon has a bad rap, whose fault is it? The sermon is one thing that is definitely not in short supply. America in particular is a land of 10,000 sermons, in just about any given week, and with a vast array of differences between them. A 72 hour trip around the internet would show you an endless matrix of church and other websites with all the sermons you could sample in every bit of free time you have. If I were Dr. Seuss my title for this would be “Oh the Sermons You’ll Hear.”

 

While a number of people in the present secularized society have only heard snippets of sermons, or have only a distant memory of sermons they heard as children, those with particular interest in the thinking and doing of churches realize that there are more species of sermon than of insect living in your backyard. Below is my own catalog of many (maybe most?) of the different kinds or types of sermons preached on a regular basis somewhere not too far from any of us. It is a homiletical parade of the good, the bad, and the ugly. As you move down the list you will see that I begin with more standard fare but then later I get to some of the more bizarre and even obnoxious kinds of sermons, where I include some links to examples that you will find entertaining and/or disturbing.

 

On to the Carnival of Sermons …

 

The Expository Sermon: Verse-by-Verse

I begin with the ancient standard, the time honored, the historically preeminent, and the unfortunately not nearly as popular as it once was: verse-by-verse exposition. It is still the sermon of choice for a great many of the most serious and devout. It’s a harder sell, though, for the masses today, since it demands more of the listener, moves more slowly and carefully, seeming to the short attention spans of today like a boring and tedious study of words and ideas that requires too much detailed concentration on the text and its meaning.

 

The Expository Sermon: Passages & Narratives

Not every expository sermon is necessarily of the verse-by-verse variety, so I thought this deserving of its own category. Sermons can still be very text-based but with a wider view. Some of the “books within the book” do not lend themselves as much to verse-by-verse, like Old Testament narratives, wisdom literature and exotic apocalyptic visions. Much as in the case of the difference between literal word-for-word translations vs. thought for thought (“dynamic equivalence”) translations, sometimes an exegesis and exposition that is not merely one-word-at-a-time (or even one-verse-at-a-time) is more appropriate and effective in communication of what is in those words (and verses).

 

The Theological / Doctrinal Sermon

Sure to shrink a crowd these days, sermons of this kind would hardly even be understood by a lot of modern church-goers. The language would at best seem vaguely familiar while arcane, and at worst completely foreign. A friend of mine said he once used the word “supralapsarian” in a sermon on salvation and the Fall, and afterward someone asked him, “What was that ‘super-cali-fragilistic’ thing you talked about?” The fact is you’ll be hard pressed to hear a sermon that even includes much overt theology, let alone one that emphasizes or prioritizes it.

 
Continue Reading →

Why the Name “Jesus” Means Very Little

The name, “Jesus”, means very little. What I mean to say is that the actual handle  J-E-S-U-S does not carry too much value in my opinion. When someone says that they love “Jesus”, I don’t bite. It takes a lot more than that, before I will acknowledge anyone’s claims to hope in Jesus’ name.

I was listening to a debate between a Christian and an atheist the other day. One of the hang-ups the atheist had was that God, if He existed at all, had not done a very good job of making sure that the Jesus story remained pure. After all, this atheist argued, there are dozens of religious groups out there, all claiming “Jesus” in some significant way, but they could not even agree on who He was.

This is frustrating, indeed! I would prefer not to second-guess or doubt anyone’s confession of Christ. I would rather to let it be, when they say they know and worship Jesus. However, such is not the case. It is apparent that the atheist is correct: There are a lot of Jesus’ out there. If we fail to realize this, Jesus will soon become a postmodern hodgepodge of whatever people claim.

Nevertheless, I do object to this reality becoming a smudge on God’s character, much less it being asserted as an argument for His non-existence due to impotence. You see, the multiple Jesus culture in which we live is not the product of years of religious evolution. It is not the product of God’s inability to keep Jesus’ name pure. It is, in fact, nothing new. From the very beginning there have been multiple Jesus’ proffered to the world. And from the very beginning, God has been more than aware of this fact.

Notice this question that Jesus asked while He was still on the earth:

Matthew 16:13 Continue Reading →

Tolerance Has No Clothes

Emperors-New-Clothes-2

In 1837 Hans Christian Andersen published a Danish fairy tale called The Emperor’s New Clothes (originally known as Keiserens Nye Klaeder). Here’s how the story goes (retold in my words)…

A long time ago there lived an emperor who really loved showing off his impeccable taste for great clothing. Think of him as a modern day male fashionista. Two guys approached the emperor one day saying, “Your highness, sir emperor, we notice you appreciate the nicer things of life. We just happen to be purveyors of the finest custom line of men’s clothing.”

The two men convince the fashionista emperor to create a new wardrobe from the most rare materials. Fine clothing usually comes with some unique qualifications. High quality raw denim pants, for example, can be worn for months without needing to be washed. If you wash them every week you may not be worthy taking care of such quality. So what was the qualification to the emperor? Well, the clothing is only worthy to be seen by the non-stupid. If you are a stupid person the clothing will not be visible. Only the most worthy intelligentsia can behold the beauty of the clothing.

The clothiers took his measurements and went to their studio to get started. The emperor wanted to make sure everything was legitimate. He sent two of his most trusted men to check on the progress. Neither admitted they couldn’t see the clothing. They each thought of themselves as non-stupid progressive citizens. So they told the emperor the clothing was as beautiful as promised.

The day came for the emperors new clothes to be unveiled for all to see. Correction, for all of the non-stupid to see. The emperor paraded down the street “wearing” his new high-quality fashion to the applause of everyone. Everyone, of course, was too afraid to admit they were stupid.

Finally, a small child saw the emperor and exclaimed, “But he has nothing on!” The crowd began whispering. “Do you see any clothes?” “No, do you?” Word quietly spread through the crowd until everyone in the crowd shouted that the emperor was indeed naked. The two men had duped the entire empire. Everyone, including the emperor, went along with the masses because they were afraid to be the only stupid person.

A little child was unafraid to state the obvious. The obvious had become hidden underneath apparent niceties and self-convincing behavior.

I have started to wonder if there is another type of parade going on in America today. A parade where it seems stupid people are blind to the beauty of the new clothing. I have started to wonder if the emperor in the new parade is actually naked. The emperor dancing through the streets of America and dancing through the media outlets bears the name “Tolerance.”

Are his clothes beautiful? Is he naked? Am I too stupid to see the clothes? Let’s look at just two examples consuming our non-stop news coverage.

“Tolerance” has become the Emperor with New Clothes
Exhibit #1: Donald Sterling

I was in middle school in the 1980’s when political correctness swept our country. Yes, there are many wonderful aspects to the idea. Yes, there were many things in American needing to become more politically correct. I received all the training under the direction of our school board and then received a lot more politically correct training when I worked for a Fortune 500 company. I resisted none of what I was taught, I thought it made a lot of sense.

The last few weeks in America, however, have made me uneasy. It all started with L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling making private comments to a woman about his dislike for black people. All of us, hopefully, will admit Sterling’s comments were terrible. Why would someone who has devoted so much of his life to the NBA make such an asinine statement? Racism is a wickedness within humanity.

I was a bit uneasy, however, with the backlash toward Donald Sterling. A secret recording within his own home from a lady who appears to be of at least questionable character led to severe rhetoric against Sterling. Almost no one tried to give Sterling the benefit of the doubt. No one withheld judgement until understanding his side. No one tried to see it from his perspective. No one wondered if he needed to receive additional human resources training with the hope he would come to see the error of his way. All of the previously mentioned perspectives I was clearly taught were healthy for a tolerant politically correct future.

It wouldn’t have surprised me during the backlash against Sterling if someone would have yelled, “Get a rope. Let’s string him up” (joking…kind of). The NBA then acted swiftly. Sterling must sell the team. Sterling is never allowed again to own an NBA team. The commissioner then went one step further, Sterling is not allowed to attend an NBA game for the rest of his life. The last statement is the one that made me uneasy. What if Sterling would come to be enlightened? What if he truly repented and truly apologized? Convicted felons who have served their time are allowed to go to NBA games. Sterling officially did not even commit a crime. Would he still never be allowed to buy tickets for a game even in the cheap seats?

To go back to the fairy tale. Can stupid people go to an NBA game? If you can’t see the emperor’s new clothes can you not attend an NBA game? Will people need to undergo racism and perhaps homophobic evaluations before being allowed to go to an NBA game? Will people failing the test be marked for life as outsiders unable to ever attend events designed for the enjoyment of the non-stupid?
Continue Reading →

Seven Reasons Why Christians Doubt

I want to briefly give you some of the more “mundane” causes of why we, as Christians, might experience doubt, whether it be doubt in the existence of God, doubt in his love for us, or doubt in our salvation.

Personality causes: Some people are prone to doubt because it is in their DNA to doubt. Just as some people are more outgoing and others are more socially reclusive. Many of us have a hard time believing anything due to the skeptical nature of our personality. In this case, it is fairly easy to discover if this is a contributing factor to your doubt. Are you skeptical about everything in life? Do you have problems in your marriage due to a lack of trust that is not warranted? Do you find it hard to trust people, even your closest friends? Are you afraid to get on rides at the amusement park that others believe are perfectly safe? There are strengths and weaknesses to this type of personality. The solution is to rationally pursue the truth so as to make a sound judgment and let your thoughts adjust accordingly. Don’t give your personality undue control. Use it to your advantage. (And lay off your wife!) Continue Reading →

J.I. Packer on Brokenness

Here is a quote someone sent me after my “Scared” post.

“He [Paul] demonstrates a sustained recognition that feeling weak in oneself is par for the course in the Christian life and therefore something one may properly boast about and be content with (vv. 6, 9–10). (‘Boast’ here means, not parade or be proud of in a self-centered way, but highlight when appropriate as a significant, God-given part of one’s life.) Continue Reading →

A Harsh Response to my “Scared” Post

I received this email yesterday. It was in response to my “Scared” post. The basic thesis seems to be that I am characteristically crying out for attention in an unhealthy way that reveals some underlying sins.

Mr. Patton,

You ask people to follow your leadership, to pay attention to your words and teachings. This is a defacto property of your public and indiscriminate “ministry” via the internet. You need to respect and accept rebuttals, you appear to be unable to do this at many points, particularly when it is unflattering. A big ship cuts through many a wave, a small ship needs rescued.

Now, that aside and to your recent article. It is what I would estimate to be the pinnacle of your recent wave of whining and doubting which, as I look back, actually appears to be part of your internet ministry for quite some time. About now you wish to stop but you cannot, you’re angry and good because you need to stop with all of the emotional dysfunction parading as virtuous doubt. You are abusing your audience and your students.

I posted a response at your website, have not seen it accepted as of yet but here it is:

Why do you insist upon using your blog as your confessional/therapy room and imposing so many of your doubts and insecurities upon the world of your reader?

Ever heard of the sympathy syndrome?

It is the kind of person whose overriding impulse is to share problems in order to garner sympathy and illicit suggestive answers for personal problems.

It is one thing to address problems common to us mall and admitting you share such things and then providing a response but your indulgences into intimate confessions with the world frankly is narcissistic. Continue Reading →

Unashamed to be a Non-Profit Like Twitter

twitter-iconAre you a chronic tweeter? Do you find yourself thinking in increments of 140 characters or less? Did you know Twitter is a non-profit? Well, they’re not, but please stick with me and I think this will make sense.

I initially resisted joining Twitter thinking, “Why would I join another social thing? I already use Facebook.” The more I heard about Twitter the more I resisted using it. I kept thinking it sounded way too intrusive into my life. Something changed, eventually, where I decided to give it a shot and sign up as a casual user of the site (@pastortimk).

I wouldn’t say I’m now addicted to Twitter but I have tweeted more than 10 times this week. I’ll probably also tweet once I post this on the blog. I then might tweet how people are responding and then tweet again about how I feel about how people are responding. Ok, I’m drinking the Twitter cool-aid. Maybe I should tweet about that?

I was surprised earlier this year as I was listening to NPR (@NPR) on my way home from Credo House (@credohouse) to hear that Twitter never had a profitable quarter until the fourth quarter of 2013. WHAT? The company started in 2006 and for 7 years never once turned a profit. How in the world is that even possible? I started to wonder. How can a company like that survive? WHY should a company survive for seven years without a profit? Shouldn’t they have just let that thing die? Why did they keep it alive for so long?

It then became clear to me that I would have never joined Twitter if it would have cost me $4.99/month to sign up. No one would have. Even as a totally free service it still took me a few years hearing from my “early adopter” friends talking about Twitter before I decided to give it a try.

Did the employees of Twitter get paid every 2 weeks for 6 years? Absolutely. Even if you have a great long-term idea mortgages still need to be paid and kids still need to eat (not in that order of course). Twitter undoubtedly had outside help to survive. Twitter had a combination of banks and private investors who understood the value and vision. They knew there would be no way to expect Twitter to start off with enough subscription payments and enough advertising revenue to pay all their bills from day one. In order for Twitter to exist it took a unique way to look at business.

match4Even six years into Twitter it was very clear the vision was working. With 600 million users they were not profitable but it didn’t really concern their investors because they knew it was working for the long-term. In order to accomplish something no one had accomplished, people approached the problem in a totally different way.

I feel like the Credo House is a lot like Twitter (in the most humble way). The vision of Credo House is working. It’s even working at the level that our coffee shop is profitable. We create curriculum that the most “early adopters” know they need but millions of other people don’t know they need yet. So we provide tons of free training and spend a lot of money waiting and being ready for when people realize they really need the Credo House and its training. We can’t wait until everyone is ready to then start the ministry and get it off the ground. We lay the groundwork now so when they know they need the Credo House we are right there in their neighborhood to help equip them as Ambassadors for Christ to our postmodern world.

Amazingly, the Credo House has grown to an organization with more than a dozen employees and reaching more than a million people a year and we have never taken an operational loan. Our private investors (donors) are those who share our vision. They see the potential positive influence if Credo Houses existed on University campuses throughout our country.

We strongly believe Credo House will get to the place where donations may not be necessary for survival (we will always remain a non-profit). We strongly believe that day could come in the next year or two where donations are only spent on new locations. Our online church memberships alone could be the thing that makes donations no longer a necessity. Today, however, we are still in the zone where the Credo House is very much working but is also very much dependent on kingdom-oriented investors.

When the Credo House has a solid financial foundation it can build an organization that needs to exist long-term and not one that necessarily produces the greatest short-term profit margins. Twitter would have never become what it did if it didn’t have those 6 years of long-term sustained focus.

Would you consider being one of those long-term investors helping us to fully become something that is already showing amazing success? We would be most grateful.

You can join the movement by giving here.

Scared

Fear

So much of what I write on this blog is hard for me to admit. Certainly, I don’t want people to always see the real me. I would rather show just enough to demonstrate that I can empathize with your plights and then extend my chest to show how my strength remains. But on some days I don’t have any strength. Some days I am weaker than any of you. The problem is that I forget these days when and if they pass. When this happens, I lose a part of me and am not able to be honest with myself.

Fear. I have never really known what it is like to be afraid. Of course, I have been scared. I suppose the most fear I have ever had was the day I attempted to disarm a man who was threatening suicide. I had never been shot at before. Now, I have. It was scary. But all is well, and the man is okay.

However, today, I am scared. I know what you are going to ask. The same thing I would ask you: “Scared of what?” I wish I could tell you. The best I can express it is to say that I am scared of living. I am scared of the future. I am scared of myself. It started a couple of weeks ago. There was a nagging insecurity about my future. I began to think that my life was unstable, irresponsible, and filled with stupid decisions that have created a situation of unrest.

Can I take care of Kristie and the kids? Am I going to be able to put bread on the table? Have I invested enough in their lives? Who am I to think I can take care of my mother? Is it too late to make up for all of my mistakes? Is the real me a fake? Have I bitten off more than I can chew in about every area? Who will be there for all those I hold up if I were to die? Continue Reading →