Monday, March 14, 2005

Monday morning blues

A few days ago I posted about how much I loved my job - the opportunity to research and deliver teaching material, the response of the congregation, etc...

On Monday mornings, however, I sometimes feel shattered and beset with self-doubt. Last night I rounded off Habakkuk and this morning feel that I floundered somewhat. The service was dull, there was not much atmosphere, no one seemed to be anticipating reaching the climax of an absorbing series and I was, frankly, laboured, over-long, struggling to master the subject and probably guilty of missing a huge opportunity.

Ah well, Monday morning recriminations...

It does raise an issue about the minister's role as a teacher or, to use the more fashionable jargon, congregational formation - how believers are shaped in and by their faith. Our teaching model is the sermon. All the research suggests sermons are appalling vehicles for conveying anything. So why do we persist?

Last week we had a church meeting at which the subject of sermons came up as an aside. Some arguing there were too many, others suggesting they were the best part of church, some saying they were too long, others that they were fine as they were.

There has always been a difference opinion over sermons. Keith Thomas in his majestic study Religion and the Decline of Magic has a wonderful passage where Tudor and Stuart churchmen and preachers lament the fact that no one listens to or appreciates sermons like they used to. Plus ca change, hey?!

I think we're at the stage now where we need to be asking fundamental questions about how we form Christian disciples in the 21st century. Put that way, this conversation is about more than sermons, about more than how I can avoid the Monday morning, post-sermon blues. It's a conversation about how people living and working in an increasingly post-Christian culture appropriate Christian discipline so as to be socialised into a Christian way of responding to the world.

We'll start small. My team will muse on it for a while this morning - and probably go on doing the same things! But I hope that we might delve deeper and think about what people need so that they hear and respond to Christian truth, how that truth creates in them genuine Christian character.


john chandler said...

Great thoughts there...thanks for sharing them. More importantly, let us know when you have all answers figured out. :)

Ben Mizen said...

Thanks for this...
perhaps the "Monday morning blues after preaching syndrome" could be something to do with the fact that you may have spent all week immersed in the subject. You then preach it and want your disciples to make connections with it in 20 minutes.

As you point out there are real limits to the whole sermon model. Would it be possible to take your congregation on the journey that you had?... they may even get a different revelation. When I look at Jesus' ministry with the disciples i see that he taught loads but also took time to challenge, release, and walk (live)beside them. I guess that kind of organic discipleship wouldn't fit too well with preaching rotas.

Let me know how your musing goes!