Paying for School

My ongoing adventures in life and the pursuit of more...

Friday, December 18, 2015

Preaching That Grows Churches

After hours of painstaking research, listening to and watching hours and hours of podcasts, live feeds and archived messages, I can tell you the kind of preaching that apparently grows churches in the United States in 2015.

1. Angry Preaching.  This style of preaching seems to be exclusively successful with male preaching pastors.  This approach involves both tone and volume.  The pastor who utilizes this approach will season their messages with angry outbursts, will reference MMA and will occasionally threaten bodily harm to individuals who aren’t getting it.  They are typically very aggressive in their criticism of men and very generous in their encouragement towards women.  Often those who choose this approach wear flannel.  This group of preachers tends to elevate their own church (or multi-site campus) and what they’re doing, subtly but clearly, over and against the other churches in their area.  People most drawn to this style seem to be young men dealing with feelings of inadequacy and their own deep seated sense of anger at their little world.

2. Surrealist Preaching.  This style of preaching doesn’t seem to be gender specific and it typically involves a willingness or even a commitment to saying whatever crazy thing comes to mind.  It uses the biblical text as a springboard into whatever pops into their minds, including endless non sequiturs.  Careful listening will reveal that the pastor choosing this method will often be asserting exactly the opposite of what the text itself is saying.  Commonly, followers of this style will comment on how “deep” the messages are.  People most drawn to this style seem to be individuals who find personal satisfaction in feeling just a little bit deeper and more spiritual than others. (Followers of this approach often would testify to seeing the emperor’s new clothes.)

3. Self-Realization Preaching.  This style typically takes every biblical text to be written with the primary intent of helping you realize a more successful life.  This group will often preach from Old Testament stories to create models of uncovering those things that are keeping you from being all that God created you to be so you can find success in marriage, business and dating.  A favorite text and biblical character: David.  David faced Goliath so we’d all know how to overcome our problems.  David was overlooked by everyone but God just like we are, but God made him a king.  Preaching is often filled with many Barnum statements to make each message feel personal and yet universally appealing at the same time.  It’s possible this approach would even produce a coloring book for their children’s ministry that featured Jesus and their pastor.  People most drawn to this style of preaching seem to want an authority figure who will provide them with assurances or promises as well as affirmations that can empower them to have their best life now.

It seems that in any larger center in the United States, any one of these three will find an audience and will be effective in adding numbers to Sunday attendance.  While there are many other styles or approaches to preaching, some of which can be found at very large churches, these seem to be the most duplicated styles, most commonly occurring – according to my research – in growing churches in the U.S.

What kind of preaching do you like best?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Words With Friends

Like you, I read.  And like you, I also write.  And like you, I read blog posts.  Maybe too much.

Something that has occurred to me lately is that we Anglophones talk the same talk but it seems to me, we often mean very different things though we use exactly the same words.  Voltaire is to have said, “If you wish to converse with me, define your terms.”  There’s nothing like a vigorous debate that ends when one or both of the people engaged realizes they aren’t talking about the same thing, nor have they been.

For the sake of future research and as a reminder to me to define my terms and ask others to clarify their own meaning and usage in future conversations that may take on a feisty tone, I offer these words by which I think people in my circles often mean very different things from one another in their use.


Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

What words would you add to this list? What words are you confident always mean the same thing to everyone who uses them?

"Perhaps nothing speaks more eloquently of the variability of spelling in the age than the fact that a dictionary published in 1604, A Table Alphabeticall of Hard Words, spelled “words” two ways on the title page.”  ― Bill Bryson, Shakespeare: The World as Stage