I Preached a Sermon. Now What? (with a glimpse into Aaron's thought process)

This past Sunday evening, I preached a sermon on disappointment, and how grace and forgiveness is so much more beautiful than vengeance. My creation process for a sermon is a fairly complex one.  There are countless thoughts that flow through my mind from the beginning to the delivery.  I preach portions of the sermon in my head in between all the free moments in my mind.  I spend more time in the Bible than usual, being sure that the passages the sermon is culled from - and the supporting verses to help go deeper - are the right ones for the message. Then there is the transference of my mind's thoughts to paper which has always been a fairly hard thing for me.  My mental thoughts are fairly abstract.  I often think in fluid concepts or emotions moreso than I think in actual language and organized thought.  So, while I'm good with language, settling the mind down to actually put it on paper is often a chore. I often have multiple threads of thoughts going on at a time that all tie in together.  The ebb and flow of such thought always seems much more exciting than linear thought from point a to point b.  I'd rather explore. So, when composing this sermon I found my mind going through the concept in three ways: 1) The Theology of Sin/Forgiveness/Beauty of Grace 2) The Biblical/Historical Support for Grace from Human to Human 3) My own life Unfortunately, it's nigh impossible to communicate three things at once, since we have not mastered ESP.  Instead, I needed to communicate each thread in a linear fashion, then be sure to tie everything up in a bow at the end. What helped me get there was creating my powerpoint presentation.  By limiting myself to what could be contained visually on the slides, I was able to control the message and flow.  I ended up creating a side-bar to keep fresh the thoughts that came before. 31st Slide I ended up with 34 slides.  The final portion - practical examples/stories from my life - never made it to the side bar. I ended up spending probably 3-4 hours on developing the power point from my notes. So hours of preparation compress into a 35+ minute sermon, and my thoughts and theology were lifted into the air and communicated to a gathering of supportive friends and loved ones.  And, as they say in the story books: The End.   That's the pain of a pastor, I believe.  Your work and soul floats from vocal chords to the present ears, and then you have no control of it.  You're done.  You know for sure that no one will dote upon the message for nearly the same amount of time you spent preparing it.  And so, Monday comes... and you don't know if your child of a message is alive in peoples minds or dead and forgotten. With messages of the spirit, there's no way of knowing why any response is what it is.  It could be a moving of the Holy Spirit, or a hardening of a heart.  It could be lack of preparation, or a humanistic talent of charisma and engaging public speaking. All this to say, teaching/preaching is hard.  Let your pastor know when you agree (or disagree) with their message; doing so at least lets them know you processed it a little bit.  Hug them when they have a bad day, and blog about it when a message really resonates with you.  Pastors put their time, thoughts and theology into messages week after week; they need all the motivation they can get to let their children of words and phrases float on each week, dying on deaf ears or living in our memories.
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The Things We Don't Know (within our own Church)

One of the people I've been blessed to have in my life is Ariah Fine.  He is continually thinking, challenging, and loving.  Ariah loves to deconstruct (as I do) and - one of the reasons I love him and reading his thoughts so much - is that he very often comes to difference conclusions than I do.  He's a brilliant mind and an activist in ways that I could never be. However, we as humanity are not omniscient and hardly ever know all of the factors in play for any situation we're involved in.  Whether it be an inappropriate joke because we don't understand the connotations, a curse word being repeated by a child, or judgement on inaction when we don't know the histories of the people involved, we often - by very design of humanity, perhaps - bring our own expectations, biases and needs into any given situation. Ariah recently posted a blog post about whose role is is to take care of the poor and homeless.  I encourage you to read it, as Ariah has great ideas that may entice (or detract) you from the cause of helping the homeless and poor. But this post is about how we as humanity simply don't know everything.  In Ariah's post he mentions that Mosaic, while he was here, had one homeless man as a part of our community while he was here.  Unfortunately, that's not entirely true.  During the time Ariah was attending our community, I can distinctly remember at least four individuals struggling financially who entered into our church life.  One lived with one of mine and Ashley's friends for a while.  Another would regularly meet up with me and the guys on Thursday night when we would eat out, and we'd buy his food. The point of this is that Ariah was, without question, the most involved in helping and empowering the homeless and poor in the Nashville area from our church.  But while he was involved with the life of our 100-or-less person church, he apparently only ventured into the life of one of the four poor/homeless/financially challenged people who flowed in (and out) of the life of our church while he was here (we've had a few others since Ariah's left).  This isn't to say Ariah messed up or missed out... it's that even in the area he is passionate (and rightly so) about, there was more going on than one man could keep up with. All that to say... how Ariah and I "empowered" or "took care" or "loved" the poor/homeless is simply different.  He might say his way - working to politically change things, preparing lunches - is better.  I might say my way - getting to know them inside the context of the church, eating a meal with them - is better.  But we'd both be wrong. The fact of the matter is that both need to happen.  And more. That's the beauty of the church; we don't need to know.  The things we don't know are what makes us so strong and precious. Ariah was a part of our community... and so the things he did were things that the church did.  When you're as small as Mosaic is/was, then everything that its members do are symbolic of the things that the church is about.  The things that flow out naturally from the body become the passions of the church.  If it was forced from the pastor, it wouldn't work. I love the fact that I don't know everyone's pains and everyone's joys.  It makes for deeper relationships when I discover them.  It means that I can give grace - or be given grace - when someone messes up, or doesn't see eye-to-eye. I love Ariah, and people like him.  The church needs people like him just as much - if not more - than it needs technologists like me.  But we need to learn to support one another's passions and gifts and perspectives so that we are a more flavored church, rather than simply isolating things to that which the Holy Spirit has sent our way. It is clear the the Spirit has given Ariah a gift to seek the homeless and poor.  But the church also needs people whom the Spirit has given a passion for international immigrants, public safety concerns, understand laws to keep the church out of legal issues, web designers to help embrace church home seekers who are surfing the web, and men who are willing to play with children so our kids can see examples of stable, Godly men.  Just to name a few. And we'll never always know what is happening in all those ministries in our home churches... because they aren't our passion.  But, hopefully, the body can support each other and understand that God has gifted us in different areas with different passions because we are meant to be a body, not simply an arm... no matter how important that arm might be. 
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Preparing for a Sermon

This Sunday evening (April 6th), during the 6:30 service, I will be teaching at Mosaic. The last time I preached a full-on sermon (not lead a Bible study, but a full on teaching time to a church) was when I used to preach at Willoughby Baptist Church during my high school/college years (they're looking for a pastor.  A church like Willoughby would be a blast to work at).  Getting back into the idea and discipline of speaking is incredibly exciting for me. Preaching is a strange thing, to be honest.  For a pastor to be expected to come up with a teaching or lesson each week that helps the spiritual growth of the church he serves is a deal that gets less thought from the congregation than it should.  Preparing a sermon means so many things.  Not only do you have to do the research to be sure that what is being taught is theologically sound, but the message competes with all the other messages an individual recieves throughout the week.  A fifteen-to-fifty minute talking head on one subject is simply not replicated in any other medium for the common person, unless they are involved in schooling and recieve lectures from professors. So during the week, the pastor must bathe the message in prayer, to be sure that the words are from God, not just human utterances.  The pastor must be sure that any personal knowledge of issues in the church don't betray confidences from the pulpit, yet be sure that the message is applicable to the lives of the congegration.  And it's almost standard that the pastor must have at lest a good joke or two.  The preparation for a sermon is, without question, spiritually and mentally draining. Our pastor, Gary, is having dental work done and wanted to be sure that he would be well rested - and not too loopy - and has asked James Jackson to preach in the morning and for me to preach in the evening.  I'm settling in on an idea for the sermon... but this brings in only more questions. How do you decide what to teach on to a church?  If you have an opportunity to help the spirital development of the community closest to you, how do you whittle down a message that is meaningful, impactful, and representative of the lessons that life, friends and God has taught you? I'm excited to see what this week will bring me; what struggles, joys, revelations and humbling experiences.  It's an honoring, humbling thing to be asked to fill in for a pastor; thank you for the opportunity, Gary.
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Chad Jordan and LifeMatters

In the first video I did for LifeWay Conversations, I spoke with Chad Jordan, editor of LifeMatters for the Threads line of products.  It was  actually great to get to sit down with Chad and talk about the new product, as it is a drastic change in the presentation style for LifeWay's dated/ongoing studies.  What I didn't know when I went in to talk with him was that he actually had a copy of next quarter's materials as well he got to show off.  I'm not sure how well it translates to video, but the style and design are simply stellar. In all honesty, now that I've seen the materials and where the Threads team is going with all this, Ashley and I are considering starting a Sunday morning study at our church, just to use these materials. [kyte.tv appKey=MarbachViewerEmbedded&uri=channels/30228/84682&embedId=10030237&locale=en]
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