Why sermons are like nitrogen
There are some who believe that we should figure out and replicate the New Testament model as if there is a divine model for doing church. I’m not one of those people. I think the church should hold to central core values and principles but be flexible in various areas so it is relevant in its context. However that doesn’t mean that the apostles don’t have anything to tell us about how we do church today.
These days I find lots of people saying that one way of “doing” church is just as valid as another. You can be a house church or a mega church, do whatever works. Much of evangelicalism and in particular the church pragmatists have become ecclesial relativists.
Unlike some house church advocates I’m not a New Testament purist. There are a great many things about the New Testament church that we can discard. We don’t all need widows lists, men can have long hair and women don’t need to wear hats. However there are some central themes that we can’t discard. I’m afraid that we have neglected them.
One huge theme is Paul’s metaphor of the body. Based on 1Cor 12-3 the church should function as a body. Each individual:
a) is given equal concern and indispensable
b) is empowered by the Spirit through a varied impartation of gifts
c) is functioning as a minister to others
d) sincerely loves others
I’m not proof texting as this concept of church is found through out the New Testament across more than one author. If we sat down with this concept of church and thought through how we might facilitate this in our day would we come up with what we have today?
The standard evangelical approach to church gatherings is to emphasize biblical teaching or among the more charismatic the balance has swung to “worship”. Unfortunately these things are over emphasized to the detriment other essential elements. Lots of teaching without real fellowship or a shared mission is like a car with lots of gas but no spark plugs.
The point I try to make about sermons is that they are like nitrogen in lawn fertilizer. I might broaden “sermon” to involve any kind of proclamation to a group of people but you probably get my point. Nitrogen is an essential element in fertilizer but if you use too much in the wrong proportions it will kill your lawn. I’m no more opposed to sermons in church than I am to nitrogen in fertilizer.
The church today is like a homeowner with a bunch of dead grass that keeps pouring nitrogen on it expecting it to grow. We keep filling peoples minds with knowledge assuming that growth will come but we see just the opposite.
Maybe, just maybe we need to back off on some of central assumptions on things and rethink our strategy. You can’t make a lawn grow just like you can’t make people grow. But there are sure fire ways you can kill the process. I don’t think it is wise to rest content with the lack of visible life transformation in the church because growth is God’s job. If most of the church is dead it probably isn’t because God isn’t doing his part. We have to consider that we may just be aborting the growth process.