Several years back, I made a shift in my preaching to focusing on one central idea, and to try to get more of the church engaged in the message series in various ways. Intuitively, I just felt like I was missing the opportunity to maximize whatever teaching I was doing for God's glory.
I did some praying, thinking and reading, and became an increasingly bigger fan of what I call "integrative preaching." It's a spin on the "Big Idea" concepts that Dave Ferguson and others have put forth (I highly recommend the book, The Big Idea)
I'm not a big topical preaching guy (not that there's anything particularly wrong with it…I'm just more of an expository guy), so it took me a while to figure out how to tailor things a bit to fit my teaching style and life in a Church of Christ. I realized that the concepts, with a bit of tweaking, work equally well for "expository" series.
I still always preach from a major text–and prefer to preach through books of the Bible, but week-to-week I try to narrow my focus and that of the church to one central idea. I then work with the creative people that God has put around me to create a homiletical world for the Body using creative media, arts and all other means possible. I'm indebted to Dave Ferguson and the folks at Community Christian Church for helping me understand the value of focusing church-wide on a single big idea (worship, classes, groups, etc.–or some combo), rather than different messages being communicated throughout the church at every age-group…especially in this information soaked age.
So, I tweaked it a bit for fit, and with the help of the HOCC staff guys and gals…we began to see an immediate change in the ability of our assemblies to leave a spiritual mark on people.
And…it was so much fun!
As we grew as communicators, the staff and I presented the concept and steps involved in our version of the Big Idea in much more detail in a class at the 2008 Pepperdine Bible Lectures entitled, "Sunday Mornings at the Creative Church of Christ." That class might be a helpful resource to you if you have interest in diving into this whole idea a bit deeper.
In essence, it's about conceiving a series/study, then doing particular, extra legwork to make sure things are crafted well and the church can focus. Then, it's about using all the creative stuff at one's disposal to communicate in ways that help gatherings and messages stick.
We've embraced focus and creativity at NCCC, and this week, we begin a dive into a new message series entitled, "Old School: Lessons on God from the School House." Here's a sneak preview of how this will flesh out in this series:
- The stage will be decorated like an old schoolhouse. I'll be preaching on an old-school wood pulpit, the praise team will be sitting on an old church pew from our prior church building. There will be a chalk-board on stage (where a kid will write each sermon title as I'm getting settled on stage), old yearbooks, etc. We have a decor team at NCCC that does an awesome job. Props to Erin, Tara, and Brenda.
- The lobby will be decorated with some stuff from the school-days of church members.
- We gave out series-themed bookmarks for people to pass out and use in their school books.
- Midway through the series, we'll hand out no. 2 pencils with the Old School theme on them to our students and those who need them.
- We launched a series-related website: http://www.oldschoolseries.com for people to interact with the messages in greater depth between Sundays.
- Even the bulletin is series-themed…meaning it is redesigned with each series. The info stays the same, but the bulletin look changes. It keeps people reading it. Bulletins that don't change are like billboards that don't change…people ignore them over time.
- A 1-minute or so video intro will introduce each message.
- It's no coincidence that we're preaching this series at back-to-school time 🙂 Preaching is often more effective when you bring the Gospel to bear where people's minds are already.
There's other stuff on the horizon, as well. But, during the series, EVERYTHING is Old-School related. If people don't like the series…that's OK…it'll change soon 🙂 I like 6-8 week series…but will occasionally do the 3 weeker or 12 weeker.
Here's why we do it…people will remember biblical content better. Kids will remember the series. Older folks will remember the series. Teens will remember the series. Why? First, because it's not crowded out by a bunch of other messages being communicated simultaneously. Second, it's more fun, visual, interactive, and verbal/auditory. It gives people a mental scaffolding on which biblical concepts can be hung like ornaments.
So, here's the layout with the titles and macro-themes (we have a two-three sentence clarifying statement that goes with each week):
- First Day – New creation (2 Corinthians 5)
- Recess (Labor Day Weekend) – Sabbath and Recreation
- Lunch Money - Stewardship (Matthew 6)
- Ditching - The Importance of Church Attendance. (Hebrews 10)
- Homework – The Importance of Spiritual Growth (Hebrews 5)
- Bullies - Dealing with difficult people like a Christian (3 John)
- Graduation – Baptism (Galatians 3)
Lastly, to my preacher buddies…having all of this stuff helping you teach makes your preaching better than it is, but it doesn't minimize the importance of a well-crafted, well-studied-for message. No cheating! If you prepare your best as well, Sunday gatherings will be memorable and the truth of God's Word be come alive for people.
Tomorrow or Saturday, I'll add some more on this concept. But, I hope you'll use whatever creativity exists around you to it's fullest. It's all for the sake of Gospel-stick. And, it'll be fun in the process.
Pray. Focus. Create.