Thursday, June 7, 2012

Beck’s Viewers Rally, Fill 11 Tractor-Trailers With Food for the Needy in Just One Hour

Is preaching in America in a particularly bad state?

Is preaching in America in a particularly bad state?
Several commentators have recently raised the question, yet it has a long history. "It has become an impertinent Vein among People of all Sorts," wrote Jonathan Swift in the 1720s, "to hunt after what they call a good Sermon, as if it were a Matter of Pastime or Diversion."
And often those on the hunt declare their disappointment, as when Britain's Lord Hugh Cecil said in the mid-20th century that "the two dangers which beset the Church of England are good music and bad preaching."
Today's complainers include Ross Douthat, whose recently published "Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics" describes churches whose preachers promise prosperity to the faithful or dispense the gospel of narcissism. Others wonder about a pulpit presence so charismatic that it draws more attention to the preacher than to his message.
And yet, on the basis of a lifetime of churchgoing, I have to report that week after week, year after year, I have heard the Word of God faithfully preached. And I am particularly skeptical of sweeping claims, as by the Barna Group's David Kinnaman, that the upcoming generation of churchgoers has tastes and needs radically different from those of any previous generation in human history.
So what explains the recently announced million-dollar grant from the Lilly Foundation "to cultivate excellence in preaching" at Calvin College's Institute of Christian Worship? Does this eye-catching grant suggest that worship is on perilous ground?
It doesn't. Preaching—and worship—is in need of renewal because it is always in need of renewal. No pastor, congregation or denomination will ever get it right once and for all.
At the Lilly-funded program, pastors—men and women from various denominational backgrounds—will study together in "Micah Groups," named for the biblical passage that has become a touchstone for many Christians of this generation: "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). The goal of the program, says director Mark Labberton, is "the convergence of worship, preaching, and justice."