Monday, August 15, 2005

Open Pulpit

I have this crazy idea. Before I tell you my idea, here's the background.

We have two worship services a week here at my remarkable congregation. The Saturday evening come-as-you-are service and the Sunday morning sanctuary service. Almost everyone who comes Saturday night also comes Sunday morning. For the past year, therefore, I have prepared and delivered two sermons per week, not wanting to bore people who come to the two services. As a result, I have felt theologically, emotionally, and physically dried up after every weekend. Something needed to change.

A mentor of mine once said the key to preaching better is preaching less often.

So, I am starting "Open Pulpit," a program designed for people who have a calling to preach but do not have the opportunity. (Also designed to alleviate the pressures of one of my two sermons per week!) Essentially, people call or email me up to two weeks in advance of a given Saturday night to sign up. Then the two of us discuss scripture, theme, music, and liturgy as we put the service together. The preacher comes as our guest and delivers the sermon while I serve as worship leader. Finally after the service, if the preacher would like, I offer to sit and discuss the sermon with them, providing any feedback I might be able to. There are already four people signed up, after just ten day's worth of pretty limited publicity!

Another mentor of mine made a comment about Tom Sawyer and painting a fence.

Notwithstanding that reaction, I can picture this program being good for
- associate pastors who don't have worship responsibilities,
- lay speakers with a passion for preaching,
- seminary students anxious to try out their wings,
- retired clergy with wisdom to share,
- youth trying to discern their call,
- adults trying to discern their call ;),
- church staff members with something to say about ministry,
- and a whole slew of other people with the desire and the integrity to preach the gospel.

There is a risk here, I know. I risk opening "my" pulpit to someone who will come in and say something that I completely disagree with. But the reality is it is not my pulpit at all. And I trust that the spirit of Christ will find a way to live and move and breathe no matter who is preaching. Sometimes the presence of Christ is experienced because of the preacher, and sometimes in spite of the preacher. I have heard sermons before that have made me cringe, as have all of you reading this, I'm sure. But we are all still here, still doing our thing, still living faithfully as the people God is calling us to become. So the risk factor is not a big issue for me.

We'll see how it goes. Wish us luck and say a few prayers. And if you would like, contact me to sign up for Open Pulpit some Saturday night in the near future. We'd love to hear what you have to say.

Grace and Peace,
Andy B.


John said...

What a fascinating idea!

As a seminarian, I'd love to be able to preach once a month. I hope that churches in my area experiment with the idea.

Poppy said...

Why must you write your own sermon every time? Why not give a sermon given before by someone with something powerful to say that needs saying again?

Anonymous said...

Wow, no offense or anything... but I can't imagine a worse idea than opening up the pulpit. Now don't get me wrong, a lay witness is almost always a good idea. Nothing wrong with someone standing up and telling (in a couple of minutes) how the Lord has worked in their lives. But the sermon is a time for a person, ordained in ministry, to break open the word of God in a thoughful manner, theologically consistent with the church. That's the way of mainline, liturgically based Christian churches. Are we all called to preach the Gospel? Of course we are and there are many opportunities to do so, both in the Church and without (as St. Francis said, "Preach the gospel always; when necessary, use words.") Give the people a way to preach the gospel... but in the pulpit on a Sunday morning? Sorry, too much risk in my mind.

Anonymous said...

risk?! have you heard some of the sermons from mainline preachers?! Now, there's a risk

MethodX said...

in response to anonymous, i am a bit offended at the hig regard that you put on ordained clergy. somewhat of an infallable quality. I myself went to seminary, got a degree, but have no intention of being a local church pastor. Does that mean that I don't have anything worthy to say? I do see what you mean about some who get up and say how God has worked in their life but I think that's technically a testimonial. I think Andy is open to that kind of witnessing but don't limit preaching, real academic, theologically grounded preaching only to those who are ordained. There are some ordained folks who I think preaching is NOT their gift yet are required to do so anyway. - Julie o