Being Affirmed…

I received an insight. It may be a well-known bit for you, but it was a new insight for me.
You see, up to this point, I’ve always been working with kids and preaching to kids.
Today, I also work with kids, but now also with the adult congregation, and I get to preach once a month to that congregation.

A couple of times, word got back to me that my sermons were… well, some people felt they were getting beat up. Which was really never the case, at least not what I intended. What got me thinking was that I don’t preach any different than I did when I was working with kids. I’ve been preaching like this since the first time I got to preach.

So then, it got me thinking. So I called a bunch of my friends who were part of an Angl0 UMC church and I asked them about the sermons that their congregation hears. Now I am fully aware that this is just a limited survey, but all of them had a similar answer: our congregations hear affirmation.

And it’s seems that’s all they hear.
Affirmation is important. We need to be affirmed. We need to know and be reminded that God loves us and that God is with us.
But, now what?
I listen to sermons by the likes of Francis Chan, Adam Hamilton and Rob Bell, and I’m always moved and challenged. It’s always like I’m affirmed but afterward hear the “go and do likewise.”

And then, it hit me.
Maybe I’m on the right path or maybe not.
But the people I asked, we all had one thing in common. The majority of our congregation members are well… not young, a lot of them retired or about to retire.
They lived a full life.
And maybe they just want to be affirmed for living a good life.
It’s totally understandable and totally earned.
But that’s the generational difference I saw.
Me, and my generation? We see all the things that’s wrong with our communities, our country and our churches. We want to go and change the world. We’re fired up. Energized. Highly motivated to make a difference in the world.
Remind me that God loves me. Remind me that God’s with me, before you send me off to do God’s work in my community.

The older people have been part of this church for most of their adults lives. They love it. It has had a significant part of their lives.
We young people are now just being brought into the world of church. And we see the flaws. And we see how we could benefit if things were to change.

Maybe we think “why are they so set in their ways?”
And perhaps they think “slow down a bit.”

But this is what I believe.
We as pastors can still call anyone, regardless of age, a call into action.
There is no retirement from the kingdom of God.
No one is too young and no one is too old. That there is a middle ground to be able to reach both generations.
We just have to refuse to settle for less.
Being young of age is overrated.
But we can be young of heart
I remember my professor telling me about a 60 year old youth volunteer in his ministry.
The man came up to my teacher and asked him “How important is it to play football with these boys?” And my professor replied, “Oh, kids love any interaction with our adults outside of a church setting.” The man looked at him, smiled and said “Okay.”
The next Sunday, all of the old man’s small group boys couldn’t stop talking about how awesome it was that their small group leader was playing football with them. They were so excited and so amazed that this 60 year old man would get dirty with them. And they were so thankful. It made that small group even more dynamic.

I fully believe it begins with the pastors.
We don’t have to settle for less.
We don’t have to just preach about how God is so good and so nice. We can add Jesus’ quip of “go and do likewise” here and there.
And it really begins with us, after all( borrowing from Remember the Titans) “Attitude reflects leadership. Sir.”

5 thoughts on “Being Affirmed…

  1. I go through those same thoughts on a regular basis (probably cuz I preach to two older congregations every Sunday). And I have wondered if I am just beating them up all the time, not encouraging and celebrating the good things they do, but not wanting to slip into people-pleasing sermons. The Gospel is both.

    I don’t know. The congregations are making some changes. The one has some new younger families. New ministries. But at the same time, I am leaving because of some of this. I am in a different place than they are – I want to be using technology, emerging worship, social justice outreach…many church members can barely get email and even if they aren’t old, are in a similar mindset.

    After I announced I was leaving, I got a card from one of the leaders – a lady who had grown up in the church. Late 60s? President of UMW. She said, thank you for not letting us be complacent. And I thought, wow.

    I don’t know the answer and I think it might always be that struggle because the Gospel is both. People need to feel good enough to know they are loved, wanted, and have something to offer. And challenged enough to keep growing and offering. Keep preaching the Gospel.

  2. I do believe the Gospel is both, but I think many pastors often opt out of challenging aspect of the gospel because who knows… maybe we’re afraid to lose key members of the congregation…

    And I think you said it: Keep preaching the gospel. The full gospel. and i’d like to add, keep focusing on pleasing God and doing God’s will and not what makes people happy. some times they go hand in hand, the other times they go against one another…

    but as always “easier said than done…”

    hey… where are you moving to?
    actually, where are you moving from?

  3. I am always challenging the congregation. Always. Every week. And those same messages challenge and push me. I love working HARD on writing a sermon, one that challenges, one that encourages (but not in a complacent, snuggie kind of way).

    I frankly don’t have time to sit around playing the “I’m OK, you’re OK” game. There is way too much on the line to waste our time “playing church”

    There is a place for bringing comforting words. Yes, there is. There is something to celebrate each week. But it comes with a challenge as well.

  4. Well, P.J., I’ve heard all your sermons at our Sunday morning worship services and I have never felt beaten up by them. I’ve appreciated that you’ve challenged me to think about the scriptures that you’ve preached about and you’ve brought new viewpoints to some of the passages that I’ve heard over the decades that I’ve been going to churches. I like your enthusiasm, the way you tie in your personal experiences, your use of everyday life to illustrate your points. Even the use of the slides during the worship service enhances the points you want to make, because you do your preparation well. I come away from your sermons knowing that you are a disciple of Christ and you are committed to doing your best to serve Him. I’m always uplifted after your sermons. Is there room for improvement? Of course, because none of us is perfect. My parting word is to stay close to Jesus and follow where He leads you–good advice for me to follow, too!
    Blessings to you and your beloved.

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