evolutionary theory

back in the swing of things! the trip to d.c. was good-- classwork complete! now all that is left is the final project, a 100-page document on an issue related to preaching. my idea for this project has progressed significantly over the last couple of years. first, i wanted to study preaching in the african-american church, but later felt this would not be effective, since that is not my personal tradition. next i wondered about the processes preachers use to decide topics for sermons; most use the lectionary, pre-assigned readings for each sunday. others, including myself, prefer to preach in series, developing a theme or question over time.

last summer the project progressed to the point that i would interview pastors in new appointments what they preached about during their first few months. how did they discern the congregation's needs? its questions? the issues that need to be addressed from the pulpit? the goal at the end of the project was to create a tool for preachers to use to survey the congregation and use the results to develop sermons. however, after speaking to several pastors in new churches, it was clear they preferred to do their own sermon preparation, thank you very much. i didn't want my project to be a purely academic exercise.

so talking to the head of the department last week we discussed my preaching so far this year. i mentioned the three sermon series: world religions, seven deadly sins, and most recently, moral questions of our time. he was very intrigued by the last series, since outside of adam hamilton in kansas city very few pastors of so-called "mainline" denominations will touch these issues. so we decided to ask for feedback regarding the last series; a similar future series will involve parishioners even more. please note: the decision to involve this sermon series in any school work was made after it was preached, not during its development or the actual preaching.

the first step in the project happened today-- i sent the church an online survey to gauge the impact of the series. most of the comments have been very positive, with a few negative ones sprinkled in for flavor. most of these are very helpful, much more so than the typical, "i enjoyed that," "good sermon," "lovely service" (that's a favorite across the pond), or "that stunk." i'll include some of these comments and my hypothetical responses to them in a future post.

one hurdle i am trying to figure out is hearing feedback for preaching from layfolk. normally it is my practice to offer a companion study/discussion group so others can voice their opinions. this was impossible this time due to confirmation classes on wednesdays and our first worship service, which runs concurrent with our sunday school hour. this was a major problem and must be fixed.

how do you give constructive reactions to sermons? let me encourage you to think seriously about this. send your pastor a signed note, thanking her for a challenging word. sit down with your pastor and tell him, "when you said _________ i disagreed, because __________." or is it your experience that pastors resist feedback beyond "thank you" and a handshake?