So here’s what we did and why. We decided to take how we were reading in the Bible and try it. No that wasn’t a misprint. I didn’t actually mean to write “what” we were reading in the Bible. I meant to say “how” we were reading. I feel like we talk a lot about what the Bible says. And that’s important. But we believe that it’s also important to learn from how the Bible communicates. Sometimes in a whisper; at other times with a shout. There are deep cries of sorrow and loud proclamations of praise. Sometimes the prophets enact the truth. That is, they do something to communicate the message in tangible, memorable, and sometimes crazy ways (think of the prophet Ezekiel cooking over human excrement or the prophet Isaiah walking around the streets naked or the prophet Hosea marrying a prostitute – all in the attempt to be obedient to God’s call to communicate God’s Word to the people). Out-of-box, outlandish, and possibly even one-off experiences? Maybe. But didn’t Jesus also turn over tables, curse a fig tree, wash feet and tell stories about seeds, birds, coins, and sons in order to get his message across?
Were the psalmists just being overly emotional when, from their anguish and sorrow and confusion, they cried out to God? Would they not have been more pious if they had just calmly, rationally spoken to God in “normal” tones? Would the prophets not have been more respectable had they just spoken (without all the antics) about injustice and suffering and oppression taking place all around them? Would Jesus not have fared better had he stuck to cool, collected, and reasoned speeches?
Well, no. At least, not all the time. Because not all subjects and situations call for three point sermons. Not all issues are best addressed with collected and rational deliberation. Sometimes tables have to be overturned and stories have to be enacted and parables have to pack a punch. And we’re pretty sure God knows this. Because there’s evidence of it all throughout Scripture. We just weren’t seeing much of it in our congregation. I can say that because I was doing most of the preaching and teaching. And most of the time I was just standing at a pulpit and delivering words. And there was nothing wrong with words. God can and does do some pretty powerful things (think: creation of the world) with words. But we don’t believe that God is limited to words. And God didn’t create all of us to learn only audibly. Some of us learn best when we see something or taste something. Or hear it. Or sing it or cry over it or laugh about it. All of us, I’m convinced, learn best when we connect with someone or something in personally meaningful ways. And since we’re all created and shaped to be different, it seems to me that God employs different methods of communicating with us.
And so we, at Chesterfield Community Church, decided to do the same. If God is not limited to three point sermons, why should we limit ourselves to them? If we only need two points or one point or no point (actually we’ve probably heard enough sermons like that), then why not do that? And as long as we’re talking about doing and not just talking about talking, let’s consider the possibility of including drama in the mix. And spoken word. And dance. And music. And whiteboards for people to write on or candles to be lit in response to the message—sometimes. Not all the time—because that would be missing the point. What we’ve discovered is that there is beauty in the unpredictability of trusting God to work in multiple different ways through multiple different people to tell God’s story. To shout it and sing it and whisper it and dance it and speak it and write it and paint it and…
You get the point.
And that’s the point. That we actually communicate. Because the message we have is vital. It’s important enough to translate into the languages of the people. The creative, vibrant, beautiful, and meaningful languages of the people. All people.