When it comes to pastoring and preaching, I’m mostly on the sidelines these days. I recognize that I’m not in the
trenches pulpit this morning, like many of my friends and colleagues. I’m not even in Virginia today to stand in solidarity with neighbors who are hurting. So you can take or leave what I’m feeling.
In the wake of deadly violence in Charlottesville this weekend, my Facebook feed is filled with preachers talking about rewriting their sermons and other sideline-dwellers encouraging preachers to preach the truth this morning. I’ve been there, so I totally get it. I appreciate the value of a skillfully delivered sermon in times like this.
But most Presbyterian and mainline Protestant preachers are white people preaching to mostly white congregations who mostly already agree that white supremacy is evil. (I know that this description doesn’t apply to every mainline Protestant this morning, but it is true for most.) So your bold sermons and moving prayers will provide comfort and inspiration to the already-converted, who will most likely go back to life as usual after consuming church for an hour instead of cable news or some other distraction.
Is this the best we can do?
On the sidelines, I’ve been plotting something different. I’ve been laying the groundwork for a new faith community that is rooted in the dinner church and slow church movements and the ethos of Coming to the Table. Instead of preaching to the choir, I’ve been dreaming of shared tables that bring together people of all races and ideologies to reconnect with each other and with the divine. I’ve been dreaming of Jesus-followers being church instead of going to church.
For centuries, American Protestants have relied on traditional worship and preaching as a primary strategy for individual and communal transformation. With notable exceptions, this has largely resulted in segregated churches, polarized echo chambers, and consumer Christianity—none of which will help us address the urgent crises of our time. We need a different strategy.
Maybe rewriting your sermon isn’t enough. It’s time for a more radical response. It’s time to rewrite church.