"Unapologetic Theology: A Christian Voice in a Pluralistic Conversation" is the title of a book by my beloved theology professor and friend, the late William C. Placher. It is also now the title of this blog, a place where I hope to add a Christian voice -- God knows, not "the" Christian voice, but "a" Christian voice and not just any old voice, but a distinctly Christian voice -- to the pluralistic conversation going on about just about everything.
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What makes Teaching or Preaching Useful?
About ten or so years ago, I was attending a conference and heard a speaker say something that not only stuck with me all these
years, but forever changed my ministry – or at least the way I preach and
Before I tell you what he said, a bit of background
may help: the speaker was summarizing the conference’s presentations and leading
us in what he called a “LESS AND MORE” exercise.
It’s a simple exercise, and one you may know: you take
out a sheet of paper, draw a line down the center, and write the word “LESS” at
the top of the left hand column. Then you write the word “MORE” at the top of
the other column. Then you write down, based on what you have heard and
experienced, any actions or behaviors that
you would do less of going forward, as well as any actions or behaviors you
will do more of from that point on.
It was sometime during his introduction to this
exercise that he said the thing that stuck with me:
does not change behavior is not useful learning.”
At first my mind rebelled against the thought: “what,
there’s no value in knowledge for the sake of knowledge? There aren’t things we
learn in order to be better informed, better educated?”
But think about it: why? Why do you want more knowledge, why
do you want to be better informed? Why
do you want to be better educated? Isn’t the point of acquiring more knowledge,
becoming better informed, or becoming better educated, to help ourselves see
differently, feel differently, and understand the world differently? And if we
do see, feel, and understand the world differently, doesn’t that mean we will behave differently?
That has a huge implication for preaching or
teaching: preaching that does not change behavior is not useful preaching.
Teaching that does not change behavior is not useful teaching.
And think about the implication on a daily and
weekly basis, when you are reading your Bible, when you are receiving some
insight about yourself, and when you are in church worshiping or attending continuing
Christian education classes.
Imagine the difference it would make if, when reading,
praying, and coming to church, more of us were asking ourselves, “so what?
difference does this make?
behaviors am I being called to do more of, and less of?”
that does not change behavior is not useful learning.
One of the joys of my ministry is leading children's chapel for our Day School every other Wednesday (Rev. Cathy and I take turns). About 11:30 each Wednesday, the children - about a 190 of them, ranging in age from 18 months to five years of age - file in with their teachers, take their places in the pews in the Historic Church, and wait for Mrs. Thomas, the Day School Director, to start us. The service is simple: Mrs. Thomas welcomes everyone, brings us to order with a short prayer, and introduces Rev. Cathy or me. We give a short message based on the theme of the week ("David the Shepherd," "Mary and Joseph Go to Bethlehem," "Jesus is Born," "Jesus as a Little Boy" and so on.) After the homily, we stand and say what's called "The Children's Creed." I believe in God above, I believe in Jesus' love. I believe His Spirit too, comes to tell me what to do. I believe that I can be kind and good, dear Lord, like Thee.
Farewell, The Falls Church Episcopal The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector The Falls Church Episcopal October 27, 2019 Well I’ll name the elephant in the living room up front, which is that this is my last service here with you as your Rector, and therefore this is my final sermon. I don’t have anything new to say to you this morning. But, I hope, I’ve never had anything new to say to you - I hope I have spent seven years and two months reminding you of old truths, ancient truths, lasting truths. Seven years and two months: that's roughly 366 Sundays, and while of course I’ve only preached on slightly more than half of those Sundays, most Sundays we preach twice, and so roughly speaking, I figure I’ve preached over 350 times here. And in all those sermons I’ve really only been trying to make three points. One, you are the Body of Christ and individually members of it. Two, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he said “love the Lord your
I was recently listening to a podcast of a wonderful on-line daily prayer resource called " Pray as You Go ," and the day's reflection was on part of Proverbs 30:8 - " ...give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread." Can you imagine yourself praying that prayer to God? Can you imagine sincerely, honestly praying, "Dear God: please... please give me neither poverty nor riches. Don't allow me to be poor, but don't allow me to become rich, either. Please give me only what I need to get through this one day." It's a counter-cultural (and counter-intuitive) thing to pray for. Well, actually, only part of it is counter-cultural: I'll bet most of us would be perfectly comfortable - certainly more sincere! - praying the "please don't give me poverty" part of the prayer. (I don't know too many people who pray on a daily basis for poverty, do you?) But listen to the author