Although I served as a pastor for 46 years, I think I learned more about teaching, preaching and church in my 60’s than any other decade. Below are three things I learned to think differently about during this season of my life.
It is more important for churches to be unified and defined by their mission and vision than by their style of worship. A church family can handle different styles of worship because people have different tastes in both expression and learning, so they appreciate different kinds of music and teaching. But if there is a difference in vision and mission, there will be division. Unity is not the result of church members having similar preferences but is experienced being committed to the same applications of Biblical truth. A church committed to being on mission in the world and serving in the community can handle a variety of preferences and will make preferences secondary to mission.
Teaching and worship are becoming more visual and participatory than in the recent centuries. Since the renaissance we assumed that learning was directly linked to listening and reading, but through technology we have become very aware of visual learning. As a child, I gave credence to whatever I read in books as the print media was the way we learned. As a young pastor I encouraged members to read, but to be selective about what you read as not everything you see in print is true. But the world has changed and as a result of technology people now give credence to what they see on the screen. If they see a picture, they are more likely to believe it is real and true than just reading it. If they participate physically in a learning event, they are more likely to understand the meaning. That is why participating in a mission trip is more important than just reading about missions or hearing lectures on missions. This does not lessen or diminish the need for reading and listening in the teaching ministry of the church, but these traditional methods are more effective when combined with visuals and participation. Jesus was a visual and participatory teacher as Jesus frequently used objects like a coin, fish, loaves of bread and participatory actions like holding a child while teaching about child-like faith and washing feet when teaching about service.
Related to this, I learned that baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the offering and serving in the church are great teaching tools. Jesus gave us two excellent visual and participatory ordinances in baptism and communion. Baptism is an action picture of the death and resurrection of Jesus and is an excellent means of preaching and teaching. The apostle Paul in I Corinthians 11:26 says that in observance of communion we proclaim (preach) the Lord’s death until he comes. The offering teaches us that worship not only involves singing and preaching but also grateful giving. We are unable to learn the joy of serving by just listening to sermons about it. It is when we engage in sacrificial service that we recognize that it is a source of joy, just like the Bible teaches us.
In future columns I will talk more about lessons learned in my 60’s. I look forward to seeing you this Sunday and partaking of the Lord’s Supper during our morning worship experience on Sunday, February 3rd.
Your interim pastor,