I’m just finishing up reading Shauna Niequist’s book, I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet, and I’m touched by the way she walks back through these last couple of years and details her own pain and struggle.
I believe 2020-2022 have been the hardest years of my own life, and I think that’s true of everyone I know in my own generation. We’re exhausted. My wife is a Northwest Arkansas therapist and she’s more covered up than anyone should ever be and the calls just keep coming.
This past weekend, we dealt with the report about the Southern Baptist Convention’s sexual abuse scandal and, before we could catch our breath, we were dealing with another school shooting. Both issues automatically incite a range of political viewpoints and strong emotions.
I want to offer a word of encouragement for those of you who serve on the frontlines. When you’re preaching and serving and leading the church the best you can, you should realize that you cannot possibly please everyone. You will disappoint people.
But you didn’t go into ministry to please people, did you? You entered ministry because you believed God was calling you to make the name of Jesus and his good news known more broadly by as many people as possible.
Keep it up! The world has never needed the gospel more than today!
This past week, I wrote a piece about How to Make Church Safe Again and wanted to pass it along. I’ve already heard from church leaders who are going to use it to start a discussion amongst their staff members and leaders in the next week or two.
Please remember that I do coach church leaders and have some openings right now, whether you need wisdom about your next steps in leadership or need to work through personal issues of burnout and spiritual growth.
Enjoy The Reflectionary this week and please feel free to share it with others!
Lectionary Sermon Starters
Year C – Day of Pentecost
First Reading and Psalm
Working Title: Are You Building the Right Kingdom?
Whatever we build of our own little kingdom – whether on our own or in cooperation with millions of other humans – is at best, temporary and at worst, evil.
This little kingdom of Babel was brought down. It would be brought down again in Nebuchadnezzar’s day and is promised another momentous ruin in the Revelation. And the big takeaway for each of us is:
Are you going to invest your life in building your own little kingdom? Your tower of Babel? Or will you allow God to come into your life to offer his rule and his grace so that you can invest the rest of your life in a Kingdom that will outlast everything?
Working Title: When God Pours Out His Power
The point of Pentecost has been the subject of debate amongst various scholars and denominational traditions for hundreds of years now. What we can certainly agree on is this: The church was never the same after this day.
Until Pentecost, we see the disciples confused, immature, and hiding. After Pentecost, they are boldly facing persecution and powerfully giving witness to the risen Christ.
Whether you believe that this day was the beginning of a new kind of spiritual baptism or simply the mass empowering of God’s people once and for all in this present age, perhaps the bigger points of the story are these:
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Working Title: How God Crafted Earth for Life
The universe God has created is absolutely mind-boggling. For example:
- It takes our sun 225 million years to travel around our galaxy one time.
- A spoonful of a neutron star weighs around one million tons.
- There are an estimated 400 billion stars in our galaxy.
- There could be 500 million planets in our galaxy that could sustain life.
- There are over 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe.
- The human brain is the most complex object in the known universe.
All of these facts about the universe beyond earth’s atmosphere are cool, but what’s even more amazing is the fine detail with which God has carefully crafted life on earth. We live in a beautiful world.
Working Title: God Formed You for His Family
Romans 8 is perhaps the most hope-filled chapter in the entire New Testament in terms of what it means to be a child of God and a follower of Jesus. God truly means for this life to be enjoyed to the full!
John 14:8-17, 25-27
Working Title: Geater Works Than Jesus
In our era, in obedience to the Great Commission and in partnership with the ever-present, empowering Holy Spirit, we get to take that message to the very ends of the earth to see the lives of billions transformed for all eternity!
Creative Sermon Series Ideas from MinistryPass
My favorite resource for sermon series and message ideas, complete series graphics, and video bumpers (but NOT full notes or sermon outlines) to get you started is MinistryPass! Each week, I’ll feature a series I would recommend checking out for the upcoming season of the church year. This week:
From the Description:
This eight-week sermon series will take the congregation on a journey through Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. Throughout this series, the congregation will hear Jesus invite them to follow him as he preaches about the coming of the kingdom of God.
Books, Links, and Resources for Pastors and Church Leaders
I also want to share helpful and encouraging resources each week including articles I’ve read, books I love, and practical tools for leadership. This week:
- Dale Hudson writes about How to Talk to Kids About Shootings.
- Pastor Rick Warren steps in with Nine Reasons for Your Burnout.
- Geoff Surratt hits the nail on the head with 5 Crucial Changes to Address Sexual Sin in the Church.
- Carey Nieuwhof addresses the trend of deconstruction very well in 7 Practical Ways to Counter The Wave of Deconstruction.
- Scott Cochrane shares a big leadership principle with How To Build Healthy Culture In the Midst Of Heated Debate.
- Brandon Kelley offers wisdom in 3 Areas Pastors Can’t Ignore to Lead the Church Effectively.
- Bishop Rob Wright interviews Catherine Meeks on the subject of Courage.
- This week, I have to recommend A Church Called Tov: Forming a Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and PromotesHealing by Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer
- And Nonviolence: The Revolutionary Way of Jesus, by Preston Sprinkle.
About the Cover Art: Each week, Vanderbilt Divinity School shares dozens of pieces of art that align with the lectionary readings. This piece, entitled Pentecost, was painted by Jesus Mafa of Cameroon in 1973. (More information.)