This post is actually a mega-response to a little ditty I posted while sitting in a preaching class. But since some wonderful questions were raised I figured I'd move the conversation. We were watching a sermon by the esteemed Dr. Tom Long. He really is an excellent preacher and watching/listening to him is like being with Mr. Rogers again. Anyway, his strongest point of the sermon was that we often grasp at the Gospel rather than letting it soak in. Tom Long argues says in his sermon that America's greatest heresy (as opposed I guess to apathy or individualism or capitalistic greed) is superficiality. More on this after I answer some questions.
If that is the case, are some sermons too superficial?
Absolutely. Some sermons never acheive their potential because as much as God wants to say through a minister - that minister has to make it their choice to let God speak through them. Sounds like a lot stands in the way of God sometimes...
Some ministers too superficial?
You bet! I think one of the dangers of our society is the desire to increase the bottom line. Pastors will cheapen the Gospel to acheive personal goals, avoid pain/isolation/martyrdom, and maintain the status quo.
Some churches too superficial?
Well, if the pastors can be - certainly the Church can be? No doubt the church can be superficial. Have you heard some of the things we argue about? The conversations on Sunday morning between services...are they about God or football? There are a million and one places where we
Some denominations too superficial?
Well... who am I kidding. Of course!!! People see right through denominational arguments and organization and realize that it is a conversation (or community) that does not address their basic needs.
Or is it just the fault of Joe Christian because he is too superficial?
Well, the Church is made up of Joe Christians. So if the pastors are superficial and the churches are superficial I'm going to pass along a good bit of blame and say yep, Joe Christian is at fault for being superficial. This is for a lot of the same reasons the Pastors are superficial though. Have you SEEN what happens to people who take their faith seriously? In the very LEAST they start hanging out with folks you'd rather not be seen with.
Do we meet expectations, or are they too low?
Hmmm, depends on where you are coming and going with this one. Do you mean we meet/fail the expectations of God? Or ourselves? Are you wondering if we acheive our mission statement? Expectations are a tricky tight rope especially since expectation are not reality - just a measureing stick by which to guage reality.
Is the problem the system or the individual?
Again... much too vague. The people certainly are part of the system so if the system fails, it really is the fault of the people. All systems created by humans will fail. I hate to be so black and white in this but we cannot create the perfect realization of the Kingdom of God (the ultimate system) without some intervention on God's part.
As an aside, being Wesleyan I believe a person can be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect. This is, btw, why Jesus asks us to reach for that (because it can be achieved). Theoretically, if one could be perfect as the father in heaven is perfect and your neighbor could be as well, you'd suddenly have the perfectly realized Kingdom of God. In other words, the perfect system. Thanks to the grace of God all you need is yourself and God, boom... possibly realized KoG. Thats right. You and God (as God is a trinity) make a community - or system.
Well, superficiality is definitely another way of describing the convenience fix our society is in. Maybe its nothing new. But there is something to be said for waiting on the "God helps those who help themselves" is nowhere in the Bible. Instead, quite the opposite - the Bible is mostly made up of people waiting on the Lord. Read Psalms, or Jesus prayers, or the Gospels, or Paul's letters to any church...waiting on God is fashionable. But thats not what we want to hear today.
In our lives, we want it now. Or if we have to wait on God, the least we can do is fiddle around and look busy while we wait.