Have you ever thought about how you title a sermon or a sermon series?
I’m not talking about brainstorming ideas. I mean, have you thought on a deeper level about why we title a series?
I don’t think many pastors have.
Most churches title their sermons in a way that they think sounds cool.
For example, here at some real series titles that I found today on church websites:
- “Fake News”
OK, now please look at this list and tell me what these sermons are about.
Ready, set, go.
Can you do it? I can’t.
These titles tell us nothing about the message. But hey, they all have a custom-designed sermon graphic and video bumper that looks really, really cool!
We have a problem.
What’s the point of a sermon series title? Is it just to sound cool? Is it just to give direction to awesome graphics for your website and the projector screens?
I would argue that the primary goal of creating a series title should be to get people interested in listening to the sermon.
Instead of just picking an artistic or trendy word, what if we wrote our sermon titles more like a magazine or website writes a headline.
The goal of a headline is to draw people in to read the article, just as the goal of a sermon title should be to draw people in to listen to the message.
The more I read through the gospel of Matthew, the more I think he intended to present a sharp contrast between the way of Jesus and the way of the religious legalist.
- A religious person would have quickly succumbed to any one of the temptations Jesus faced (Matthew 4:1-11).
- A religious person would have taken great offense at much of the Sermon on the Mount (“You have heard it said …”).
- And while some religious people were drawn to Jesus because of His miracles (Matthew 8:19-20), they reviled Him as he began to forgive sin (Matthew 9:3).
- Given the presumption Jesus was a blasphemer, it was nothing to question His integrity and holiness based on the character and behavior of His disciples (Matthew 9:9-17).
- And when Jesus drove a demon out of a man, it was the religious people who accused Jesus of doing so as a ruler of demons (Matthew 9:32-34).
I believe it’s in this context that Matthew records the last few verses of chapter 9.
35 Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. 36 When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out,like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
What is the opposite of a religious person?
What is social media doing to our ability to communicate with kindness, clarity and depth?
Should social media be seen as a redeemable form of communication, or is it a medium that is not meant to hold the weight of discourse?
Can heavy matters of faith even be discussed on social media, or is the platform too temporary and cheap for the eternal riches of the gospel?
In 1985, Neil Postman published Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business to show how the advent of television caused much of American public discourse to be “dangerous nonsense.”
Oh, Mr. Postman, if you only knew.
1. Social Media Deceives Us
Social media deceives us into believing we are informed when we are, in fact, misinformed. Postman writes that television created a species of information that might be properly called “disinformation.”
He writes, “Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information—misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information—information that creates the illusion of knowing something but which in fact leads one away from knowing.” Consuming an obscene amount of useless information as a means of entertainment deceives us because, over time, it can erode our ability to prioritize and address information we receive.
2. Social Media Distracts Us
Social media distracts us with an offensive amount of unimportant information disguised as matters of great importance. Social media, in its perpetual barrage of “BREAKING NEWS” alerts and other false flashes of urgency, actually end up cheapening that which is “BREAKING NEWS” and urgent.
’m a pastor.
It’s becoming harder to say that lately.
Sure, there are the usual pressures.
- Dealing with congregation members and their expectations
- Trying to stay ahead of the change curve
- Combatting theological and moral compromise
- Managing a mostly volunteer staff
- Figuring out how to pay for it all on a small, sometimes shrinking budget
- and more
But in addition to that, in the last few years, one of the greatest pressures on pastors is the constant drumbeat of voices from church leaders telling us that our church will never be great if the pastor keeps pastoring.
It seemed strange to me the first time I heard it, too.
It’s often phrased in different terms than that. We’re encouraged to move from being
- shepherds to ranchers
- servants to leaders
- caretakers to entrepreneurs
For a church to be great, we’re told, the pastor must do less pastoring, more managing and leading.
That may be the most pervasive principle being taught in church growth books, blogs and seminars today.
We’re telling pastors they’ll be more successful pastors if they stop pastoring.
But it’s wrong. And we need to stop it.
Pastors don’t need to pastor less. We need to pastor better.