Looking back on 2010 at Cobblestone Community Church, I'm grateful to reflect on a year that was, in some respects, one of our more sense-ational years of preaching.
What I mean by that is that we try, as often as possible, to make our teaching and preaching ministry at Cobblestone participatory, and to involve the learner's senses whenever possible. In years past, we have used costumes, props, and various forms of participation to get the main message across.
This year, some of my favorite sense-ational preaching moments were:
On Palm Sunday, in the final message in a series called, "Do Something," I talked about how during my latest visit to Jerusalem, our group was walking through the Old City of Jerusalem, our guide Nader pointed out to us several times a scrap of bread on a window ledge or a few pieces on an electrical box. He explained that, because Jesus revealed himself to the two disciples he met on the road to Emmaus in the breaking of bread, bread is so revered by the Christians of Jerusalem, that they will not throw it in the garbage…and if any bread falls to the ground or is seen on the ground, the residents will pick it up and place it on a ledge so it won’t be trampled underfoot. So I asked everyone to come to communion, expecting to meet the living Christ in the breaking of bread, like those two disciples, and then I asked them, on their way back to their seats, to leave a piece or two or more of bread on the window ledge to represent the person or persons they had invited or planned to invite to Easter, with a prayer that that person would someday soon be meeting the living Christ in the breaking of bread, as they had just done. It prompted a beautiful response from the people of God that day.
Free to Belong
A few weeks later, we were studying Galatians in a series called, "Livin' Venti." When I preached on the first ten verses of Galatians 2, in a message called "Free to Belong," I wanted to emphasize the futility of adding to the Gospel of Grace. So I produced a fresh Krispy Kreme donut, and asked how many would eat that donut if I gave it to them. Of course, many hands were raised. Then I produced a ketchup bottle, a jar of jam, and a bottle of hot sauce, and added those ingredients to the donut, asking if anyone would eat it. ONE young man (in each celebration!) raised a hand, so I gave him a bite. The crowd loved it--and even more when one of the guys had to leave the room shortly after to get a drink, or crackers, or something! It was fun--and, I hope, got the point across.
The next week, in the Livin' Venti series, preaching on the latter half of Galatians 2, I preached the first part of the message in a strait jacket, to illustrate our tendency to return over and over again to the constraints and strictures of the Law, instead of enjoying the fact that we are "Free to Enjoy" the new life God gives us. That simple visual seemed to make this message one of the most impactful and memorable I've ever given. Oh, and in case you're curious, the strait jacket was bought from a costume supply place....I didn't just happen to have it on hand, despite what you may think of my mental state.
War and Wedding
This past summer, we studied the book of Revelation in an eleven-part series of messages
called, "How to Survive the End of the
World." It is one of my favorite series, ever. For the ninth message, "The Last Word on Salvation," on Revelation 19-20, I depicted salvation as wedding (ch. 19) and war (ch. 20), and we did a number of things to make the message memorable. We divided the message into two parts, separated by the celebration of communion. For the first part of the message, I came onstage in a tuxedo, and issued the invitation, "Come to the Wedding" (from Revelation 19:1-10) after which we celebrated communion together from a beautifully appointed banquet table, to emphasize the wedding supper of the Lamb (right). After communion, I returned to the stage, this time in Army camo fatigues (thanks, Butch Sterwerf!) and issued the call, "Go out to War," from Rev. 19:11-21. We also had, on each seat in the auditorium, a card with a printed invitation to the wedding of the Lamb on one side, and a draft notice on the other; as part of the response, I urged participants, if they accepted the wedding invitation, to also sign the signature line on the draft notice, emphasizing that we kid ourselves if we think we can come to the wedding without joining in the battle.
John Johnson planned and delivered one of the most imaginative messages I think I've ever seen. He actually constructed a silo in the auditorium (on the left in the photo at right; sorry for the quality, but the photographer is not the brightest bulb in the box) and delivered the first ten minutes or so of the message from INSIDE the silo, and had a video feed that showed him, contained and isolated in the silo, speaking to us from the big screen! He also had a SECOND camera that he could switch back and forth from to show us the cozy confines of his self-imposed cell. It was a memorable way to depict how many of us tend to prefer isolation from each other rather than engagement and vulnerability and community with each other.
Finally, on Thanksgiving Sunday, November 21, I surprised the whole church by concluding my message that day by challenging them to donate their shoes--the shoes they wore to worship that day--to people around the world who don't have even one pair of shoes to wear, through the ministry of Soles4Souls. God's people responded magnanimously! It was a day to remember, as worshipers came forward during the closing song, left their shoes on the platform steps, and left church BAREFOOT! Since then, people have donated shoes by the hundreds, and we will this week ship them to the Soles4Souls distribution center!
All in all, it has been a memorable year of preaching at Cobblestone. I especially loved preaching through Galatians and the Revelation, as well as the wonderful series on "The Blessed Life," "IF," and "The Songs of Christmas," among others. And our plans for 2011 are no less exciting!