Sermon illustrations


Gathering & Scattering

I sometimes wonder (although I exaggerate in order to make my point) if it would not be very healthy for church members to meet only on Sundays (for worship, fellowship and teaching) and not at all midweek.  Then we would gather on Sundays and scatter for the rest of the week.

We would come to Christ for worship and go for Christ in mission.  And in that rhythm of Sunday-weekday, gathering-scattering, coming-going and worship-mission the church would express its holy worldliness, and its structure would conform to its double identity.

Taken from The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor by John R. W. Stott Copyright (c) 2007 by John R. W. Stott. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Love in Action

When I was growing up, my dad was a farmer, not a Christian. He had little interest in faith, having been told by his father that the Bible was a fairy tale. But then a local pastor took an interest in my dad, asking if he could help plow the fields on the weekend.

That one act of service spoke louder than words ever could to my dad. By his actions, the pastor made my dad feel loved, and that did more than any preaching could have. He didn’t need convincing about the theological correctness of the Bible; he needed to feel God’s love for him. This pastor met that need in a practical way. And that’s evangelism.

Dawn Pick Benson

A Missional Hermeneutic

James Brownson describes what he calls a “missional hermeneutic” as observed throughout the New Testament:

I call the model I am developing a missional hermeneutic because it springs from a basic observation about the New Testament: namely, the early Christian movement that produced and canonized the New Testament was a movement with specifically missionary character. One of the most obvious phenomena of early Christianity is the way in which the movement crossed cultural boundaries and planted itself in new places. More than half of the New Testament was in fact written by people engaged in and celebrating this sort of missionary enterprise in the early church.

This tendency of early Christianity to cross cultural boundaries is a fertile starting point for developing a model of biblical interpretation. It is fertile, especially for our purposes, because it places the question of the relationship between Christianity and diverse cultures at the very top of the interpretative agenda. This focus may be of great help to us in grappling with plurality in interpretation today. . . . The missional hermeneutic I am advocating begins by affirming the reality and inevitability of plurality in interpretation.

James V. Brownson, “Speaking the Truth in Love: Elements of a Missional Hermeneutic,” in The Church Between Gospel and Culture, ed. George R. Hunsberger and Craig Van Gelder Eerdmans.

Moving to the Front Yard 

Tom and Angela had lived in their neighborhood for about twelve years without really getting to know many people. They lived in a cul-de-sac of eleven houses and had limited communication…with the people around them. They admitted that this felt strange because they really had a desire to know their neighbors better, but nobody was making the first move…They began by taking one simple step. They switched yards. Their kids had always played in the backyard, and that setting was the social hub of the family. So Tom and Angela simply switched to the front yard.

They put up a swing in a front-yard tree and added some lawn chairs… Nothing happened at first. Then over the next few weeks, children and even dogs began to migrate into their front yard. Eventually adults followed. Soon both kids and adults were spending more time in their front yard than they could ever have imagined. And all they had done to attract this traffic was hang out where they could be seen.

Then Tom and Angela decided to go a step further by organizing a series of block parties. Surprisingly, the first one they held went over quite well. All the neighbors really needed was someone to step forward and break the ice. Other parties followed…The results were powerful. Barriers were broken down, and people started getting to know each other. Soon they were inviting one another into their homes. Neighbors began to assist neighbors in various ways…

Jay Pathak. The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door, Baker Books.

Released or Sent?

”Paul and his band were “released,” not sent. Let’s get the exegesis right. First, the operative agent here is the Holy Spirit, not the local church or any other human entity. Second, what those around Paul and Barnabas did was recognize the Spirit’s activity and sovereign choice, and they responded by releasing Paul and Barnabas.

As C. Peter Wagner writes in his commentary on the book of Acts, Some scholars point out an interesting use of two Greek words for “to send” in this passage. Obviously, the chief sending agent was the Holy Spirit, and the Greek verb in the sentence “So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit” is pempo, which is usually a more proactive kind of sending or dispatching. The “send” in “they sent them away” is from the Greek word apoluo, which frequently means releasing something that has its own inherent source of energy.

Thus it could be said that “they released them.” Certainly here we have a combination of the two kinds of sending and spiritual power for missionary activity coming ultimately from the Holy Spirit.

Taken from Beyond the Local Church by Sam Metcalf Copyright (c) 2015 by Sam Metcalf. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Staying in our Christian Bubbles

I was in London browsing one of the ubiquitous British tabloids and an advertisement for a new health club grabbed my attention. The picture was of a magnificent gothic church sanctuary that had been turned into the swimming pool of the new spa. It was a telling image of the continuing demise of the Anglican Church in a city where more people attend a mosque than the Church of England on any given weekend.

Or consider the church building, one block off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, that is now a nightclub and lounge.

To add insult to injury, the club is called Sin, and the logo that has replaced the stained-glass window is a fallen angel descending from the heights of heaven. The decline of the Christian movement in the West is well documented and unsurprising to honest observers. Unfortunately, many of us are like the proverbial frog in the kettle.

We remain in our religious bubbles, oblivious to the rapidity of change around us until it is too late. But the point is that without a restoration of apostolic function and the necessary apostolic structures, I believe there is little hope that the Christian movement will ever regain the initiative in the West.

Until we understand, legitimize and embrace the essentiality of such apostolic gifting and structures, and free them from the limitations imposed by well-meaning local churches, local church leaders and denominational authorities, we will never be able to overcome the perceptions of irrelevance and marginalization that confront the good news of Jesus in the Western world.

Taken from Beyond the Local Church by Sam Metcalf Copyright (c) 2015 by Sam Metcalf. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

We Added Color!

I was taking a tour of the Church of Scotland’s beautiful Glasgow Cathedral, which is technically the High Kirk of Glasgow. It is estimated that over 50,000 university students live within walking distance of this extraordinary building. The congregation of the church itself is down to a remnant of less than two hundred people.

So I purposely asked the docent leading the tour, “If this building still houses an active congregation, what is being done to reach these 50,000 students with the good news of Jesus?” Her response was stunning. “The people we have who are active in this church are mostly old. And as you may well know,” she said, “young people these days are not that interested in religion.

But we’re trying and we’re making adjustments. For example, the Church of Scotland has historically used black or dark vestments for our clergy. But recently, to be more relevant, we’ve added color!” I was so stunned I could barely contain myself. So who is going to reach those 50,000 students who are far from God? The High Kirk of Glasgow isn’t, despite its use of colored vestments.

If there are going to be any inroads among the student population, it will probably require apostolic efforts—and the more the better. And as those apostolic structures and missionaries are effective, their efforts will result in the creation of countless new local church expressions among students, expressions that probably will not look anything like the High Kirk of Glasgow.

Taken from Beyond the Local Church by Sam Metcalf Copyright (c) 2015 by Sam Metcalf. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

What is a Missional Church?

its simplest form, the term “missional” is the noun “missionary” modified to be an adjective. Missional churches do what missionaries do, regardless of the context. They can parachute-drop into a village in India or go into a metropolitan U.S. city and be missional…

They do what missionaries do—study and learn language, become part of culture, proclaim the Good News, be the presence of Christ, and contextualize biblical life and church for that culture—they are missional churches. A “missional church” functions as a missionary in its community. It eats, breathes, and lives within its culture, while sowing seeds of love, kindness, grace, redemption, and Good News.

Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, Comeback Churches: How 300 Churches Turned Around and Yours Can, Too, B&H Books, 2007.

What it Means to Be Sent into the World

[Jesus] sends us into the world as he was sent into the world (John 17:18; 20:21).  We have to penetrate other people’s worlds, as he penetrated ours: the world of their thinking (as we struggle to understand their misunderstandings of the gospel), the world of their feeling (as we try to empathize with their pain), and the world of their living (as we sense the humiliation of their social situation, whether poverty, homelessness, unemployment or discrimination).

Taken from The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor by John R. W. Stott Copyright (c) 2007 by John R. W. Stott. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

When the Mission is Clear

A documentary about Ernest Shackleton’s early twentieth-century exposition to the South Pole shows the classified ad Shackleton put in a London newspaper:   “Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” Ernest Shackleton.

Men responded to Shackleton’s advertisement in droves.

Why? Because the mission was clear. The cost and potential loss both drew the right men and made sure the wrong men didn’t sign up. God’s mission, similarly, is not for the faint of heart. Even becoming a Christian, according to Jesus, should be weighed heavily. Luke says, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish”’ (Luke 14:28-30).”

Hugh Halter, The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community.

See also illustrations on Cross-Cultural Experience, EvangelismMinistry, Missions, Sacrifice, Servanthood, Service