So here I am at age 62 finding myself asking questions that most folks, especially preachers, probably ask when they're 12 or 20. It's not a crisis of Faith at all, but it is an exploration of faith that's more intense and actually more fun than I seemed to have time for when serving as a pastor. I know that must sound strange to many. It is assumed that preachers hibernate in a musty office surrounded by dusty volumes of books exploring the penal substitution theory of atonement. That's not usually the case. Most often pastors are caught up on the "business" of church or the never ending task of trying to keep church members appeased or stopping the flow of gossip. Churches, under the surface, are not always the "heaven on earth" that they are meant to be. The reason is really quite simple. It's because they are not museums for saints but rather hospitals for sinners. They are filled with hurting people and the old adage is true that "hurting people, hurt people." The sin that most pastors fight against in their churches is not alcohol, drugs, adultery, etc. Though there is certainly enough of that. It's the fact that church folks find ways to nibble away at one another. Petty bickering, backbiting, criticism, finger pointing....well, enough of that.
I find myself these days asking questions about worship. Is our normal Sunday morning gathering really worship? Is that the best we can do? Is God really thrilled with we gather in His living room and sing a few songs ( if we sing at all) and then listen to a little religious lecture?
And preaching? Is it really necessary for someone to stand up front and try to talk people into some salvation experience? I think back on the sermons that I've preached over the past 39 years and I wonder how many of them were even worth listening to. And here's the big question for me. Was I really a spokesman for God or simply an entertainer? And how much entertainment does it take to get folks to come to church? I was one who was eager to get on the band wagon for screens and video clips and props on the platform. I loved that stuff. Before leaving Denver First Church we had four screens up front with constant content meant to keep the attention of the folks looking on. I wonder, at what point did I leave the simple message of Jesus and reach for the gospel of Cecil B. DeMille. When did I stop believing that the Word was enough?
No, I don't have a bunch of answers but I'm having a kick just exploring the implications of the questions. Would I do anything different? Probably not. We can only make decisions based on the information we have at the time and at that time I was panting hard trying to keep up with the call to be "relevant."