October 2013

Pew Potato Statistics

What is the one statistic that churches traditionally strive to improve.

You might think it is membership. It’s not.  Everyone knows that less than a third of any church’s membership roster is actually involved with the church in a manner that counts toward viability. A church with 1200 members is likely to engage less than 300 at weekly worship.

The single statistic that drives congregations is worship attendance.

This number represents a number of things. Church attendance is the old-fashioned “social proof.”

  1. It measures the relationship with church leadership. People don’t attend worship when they dislike leadership.
  2. It measures purpose. Worshiping God in communion with other Christians is a prime reason for holding a worship service.
  3. Most important: Church attendance is a snapshot of your offering plate. Look across your sanctuary. Do you see a large number of children and youth? Probably not. They are not valued in worship because they can contribute little to the offering plate. Do you see large diversity in ethnicity or color? Probably not. They may have little expendable income. As one pastor points out. It takes ten of ‘them’ to equal the giving of the people who do attend worship. This brings us to the typical Sunday morning population—seniors and soon-to-be seniors. They are low maintenance members and they represent stability to the offering plate and potential endowments.

A great deal of worship revolves around keeping prime givers happy. When prime givers are happy, church leadership is happy.

When this becomes the focus of church life, we are neglecting the mission of the Church and the development of church leaders who will sustain the church twenty years from now.

There is one more church statistic that is so important we often ask for physical proof. Church attendees are asked to sign cards to prove they joined others at the Eucharist Table.

Once a year attendance at communion is required for voting eligibility. Why do we record more than that? Habit. In the old days church secretaries even wrote to the home churches of visitors to validate this useless statistic!

Old habits die hard. We like to see people in the pews because it validates our traditions.

Worship attendance is easier to measure than mission, vision, passion, potential, creativity, and sweat.

Should worship attendance be the prime statistic in the church? If it is, the Church is in big trouble.

Pakistan Revisited

The Pain Doesn’t Go Away
Just Because Christians Have “Moved On”

2×2 was appalled by the church bombings in Pakistan last month and were disappointed that western Christians barely took note of the attack.

This is indicative of the isolation of most Christians. We worry first about ourselves, then about our own congregation, then about our denomination. Our denomination handles the rest of the world by dividing the relatively safe mission areas of the world between its synods. This is effective in that isolated parishes feel like they are making a difference and are connected. And they are. But all the world, we discovered, is not covered by this system which fits so neatly into our “organized” religion.

Christians in the most dangerous places for Christianity are left very much alone as we build relationships with missions that we can control and visit occasionally and see the results of our efforts—perhaps even having a building named after a congregation.

Christians in the more dangerous parts of the world suffer. And yet their efforts help all in the foundational mission of all churches—to preach the gospel to every nation—not just those in our approved fold.

2×2 befriended the church in Pakistan two years ago. We were easily in touch with the people who were so deeply hurt by this horrific and senseless terrorist attack. 2×2 raised some money for Pakistan. It wasn’t easy. We are, ourselves, excluded from our denomination (some nonsense about inability to achieve missional purpose).

We looked for a channel to send our support within our denomination and found none. We worked it out with our bank. Took some doing. We found that Pakistan is one of the most difficult places to work with in banking. But our mission dollars—every one of them—were finally received. 2×2 paid all costs, so every contribution benefited Pakistan.

Our efforts will continue. One of our members is hosting his own fundraising event next month to add to effort.

Here’s a thank you note we received today from Pakistan.

I received your blessings /offerings /donation $250 USD (as I already told you). I distributed to the families and to the little kids. I will send you their distribution photograph soon.

God be with you and all your peoples. I send personal thanks for this great and merciful behavior from you and your peoples. We are still in suffering from the accident and from this big and huge bombing attack. Over 50 peoples still injured. Some of these cuts their legs, lost their eyes and arms and hands. Please pray for us.

Please try to do some more help for their foods, clothing and medicines. This is the time to help your Christian brothers and sisters from Pakistan.

God be with you.

Thanks again for your kindness, labor and practical ministries for us. We did not forget your help, and the reward will be multiplied to you from the father God. Your brother in Christ Jesus, (name withheld for protection.)

Adult Object Lesson—Luke 6:20-31

All Saints Sunday: The Rocky Road of Sainthood

At last we have the Reformation and Halloween out of the way. A few days have passed since November 1, the actual All Saints Day. Perhaps we can put aside the Halloween hoopla and stop to remember that all of these traditions were once important to the faithful.

The reason we dwell on ghosts and goblins at Halloween is because we once spent more time thinking about the afterlife. All Saints and All Souls Days were part of our faith. We were honoring the faithful who have gone before—remembering to once again honor them and pray for them and perhaps thinking ahead to our own fate and relationship with God.

In the Lutheran tradition, we believe in the sainthood of each believer–even those who struggle with their faith. That’s most of us at one time or another. Remembering the faithful who have walked their faith journey before us helps to bring us all back into the fold.

teddybearToday’s object is a worn child’s toy—a rag dog or teddy bear that has seen lots of loving.

Have a beloved child’s toy in hand as you address the qualities that Luke writes about today.

Ask your adult congregation to think back to their childhoods and their relationship with a favorite doll or stuffed toy. Reread the scripture. It’s a parallel to Matthew’s Beatitudes.

Look at that rag doll. “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.—But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”

Remember those pretend tea parties, “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.—Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.”

Remember the times when you felt scared, excluded, or lonely at night and clutched your toy under the covers. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.—Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.”

Remember when an older sibling might have grabbed your favorite toy and taunted you with a game of keep-away. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.”

Now remember why you never threw away that dusty toy—the toy that bore your childhood worries—the toy that helped you learn to love.

Since it is All Saints Sunday, ask your people to remember the real people who came to replace our toys as we grew in faith and faced difficult challenges—our parents, teachers, friends and role models. They may have all become tired and tattered from heavy-duty loving. They are the people who brought us close to God and they are worth an annual prayer of remembrance.

Close with the final verses of today’s gospel:

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

photo credit: PiggBox. via photopin cc

Ambassadors Visit St. Matthew, Chester Springs, PA

StMatthewChesterSpringsA Low-key Reformation Sunday

The bright, blue sky and fall colors of October lured us into the Pennsylvania countryside.

We took the highway to Chester County and then followed Conestoga Road through the rural suburbs of Philadelphia. We saw a sign for St. Matthew’s and pulled into the parking lot but realized it was a UCC Church. We found the Lutheran St. Matthew’s a sparse quarter-mile up the road with only a playing field separating the two St. Matthew’s. The parking lots of all three were full!

St. Matthew must have walked this very land with two namesake churches so close. Of course, we guessed correctly that the two churches have common roots as Union Churches. They separated as friends in 1833.

St. Matthew’s is proud of their agrarian heritage and continue many traditions based on the agrarian calendar with festivals to mark the planting and harvest seasons. Their description of the intermingled social life and church life describes Redeemer’s historic roots, too. Our people were/are mostly small business owners. Regardless, St. Matthew’s homegrown nature of their parish life mirrors ours!

The ELCA Trend Report shows the congregation holding its own since 2005 with 1200 members, give or take 100 or so, year to year. The average attendance is listed at around 250. There was a major increase in membership since the 1990s. Rare!

We were plenty early. We sat for a while in the parking lot and watched people coming and going as our pastor read aloud from Habakkuk. A good number of children were playing in a playground. There had been a 9 am service that featured “faith formation.” The children must have attended the early service as there were none at the 10:30 service. There were about 42 adults at the service we attended.

Their pastor, Rev. Tina Mackie, was installed as senior pastor this month. She had served as associate pastor since 2003. Her husband is the music director. He and a second musician added pleasantly to worship.

Rev. Mackie attended Eastern Baptist Seminary, spending a year with the Lutherans. She preached a barebones Reformation sermon. She referenced each of the four scripture readings and hit the basic high points of Lutheran thinking. Otherwise the service was unremarkable for the festival day that Lutherans so enjoy.

st. Matthew Chester SpringsSt. Matthew’s is looking for a new associate pastor. We found their web account of the call process very interesting. They rejected some names and asked the Synod for more names to consider. What a contrast!

In 2000, we were told we had to accept the one name presented with a very serious “or else” attached. In fact, Bishop Almquist tried to bypass the call committee. He demanded the congregation vote on the candidate, hoping the congregation would vote against the advice of the call committee. Fortunately, we never had to see how such divisive advice would play out. The congregational vote failed, too. Bishop Almquist kept his promise and refused to work with us to fill our pulpit for his entire second term. He told us we would die a natural death in ten years. Instead, we grew five fold by the time his term was over.

We enjoyed the opening Reformation hymn and the closing hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation,” although they left out two favorite verses. When you memorize hymns, you notice!

The credal “Elect from every nation” verse and the great cry of oppressed Christians, among whom we are numbered:

Though with a scornful wonder
we see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping;
their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.

Redeemer is still crying, “How long?”!

St. Matthew’s use of projected worship aids was the best we’ve seen if a little slow at times. We learned that they were early innovators in this regard, using a stereopticon lantern with a curtain projection for evening worship in 1917, decades before other churches started using projectors.

As is common in larger churches, we came and went without engagement with any members.

St. Matthew’s has active involvement with Tanzanian missions and sent a mission party to Tanzania recently. The blogs of lay members, chronicling this trip, are included on the St. Matthew website.

We wonder if they realize that their synod exiled about 60 Tanzanian members from this very region in 2009 when they voted to take Redeemer’s property and lock Redeemer members out of their church and the whole ELCA. As one of our younger Tanzanian members commented, “The ELCA is great on Tanzanian mission . . . as long as we Tanzanians stay in Tanzania.”

Before the service, Rev. Mackie addressed the congregation about an ongoing discussion — Vision 2020. That’s not so far off!

She correctly outlined how historic church structure is no longer working. We write about this all the time! She noted that the Reformation of 1517 was made possible by the printing press. She noted that modern communication may spark another Reformation. She is correct. We are part of this new reformation—victims with the potential to seriously lead, given the opportunity!

She highlighted two challenges. 1.) Weekly Sunday worship discipline is difficult in a world that offers alternatives on Sunday morning. 2.) People no longer give offerings to churches for centralized disbursement. They tend to give directly to causes. This affects church operating costs.

Members were asked to fill out a questionnaire which focused on shaping the modern worship experience and how it might be reshaped for modern Christians and the survival of the church.

We can give this advice.

Don’t attempt to fund large church deficits and hierarchical mismanagement by taking endowment funds and property from small congregations.

What Good Can Come from East Falls?

The composer of this well-known church anthem was from St. James the Less in East Falls.

Hey! Lutherans! Time to Reform—Again!

The Ongoing Reformation of the Church

This Sunday, many Protestants will celebrate the influence of Martin Luther and the 500-year-old movement that forced religious reform on a major power structure of their world—the Church.

The medieval world of Martin Luther was controlled by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. They reached into every aspect of medieval life—home, work and government.

There were very few upwardly mobile career tracks. It helped to be born to wealth. If not, you could use your youthful good looks to marry well. If you were strong, you could fight your way to gaining land and social status. If you were wealthy you could get some schooling. But most people farmed or entered a trade.

But there was one more way. The easy track. You could give your life to the church. Prestige and influence were for sale there. Your chances of a good life were pretty good!

Then came Martin. He had bought into the system. But it didn’t sit well with him.

He laid it on the line.

“Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.”

The modern Lutheran church fails to emulate its namesake.

Today’s church faces similar challenges. We may not be selling indulgences but we are always tempted to look at congregations—their property and their memberships—with a keen eye for how the hierarchy can benefit. We fall for the same temptation faced by all offenders. “We need what you have more than you do.”

Not surprisingly, the world has changed a great deal since the 16th century. The hierarchies of yesteryear have been crumbling in business and public sectors. The connected age doesn’t need them anymore.

The church, too, is in danger of seeing its tallest spires crumble. Those who reach the most influential stations find themselves in charge of fewer people with less money. Power wasn’t what they dreamt it would be.

This Reformation Sunday let’s return to the foundational teaching of Martin Luther.

  • Let’s work to make the family the center of religious education.
  • Let’s make sure that access to the scripture is universal.
  • Let’s empower God’s people by strengthening them rather than shaming them, bullying them, or creating dependency.
  • Let’s demand that our leaders model their ministries on Christ’s sacrifice.

The Reformation isn’t over. It never will be.

Art: The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

6 Depictions of the Pharisee
and the Publican or Tax Collector

Jesus’ story is a study in contrast. Each of us can probably relate to the story. We may see ourselves as the tax collector even when our actions mimic the Pharisee.

The Pharisee is sure of himself. He is a good man. He has no reason to question his place within the faith. He has followed the law. He does what is expected of him. And he’s thankful for his lot in life. Doesn’t that describe most happy church people?

But the focus is on the little guy—the guy the better people in society look down on. The tax collector is hated. The tax collector is cozy with society’s enemies. The tax collector makes his living at the expense of good Jewish people.

That describes an awful lot of church people, too! It just takes a story from Jesus now and then to set us straight.

And so artists through the ages have visited this story over and over. Let’s start with the iconic portrayal typical of Eastern or Orthodox Christianity.


Icons are painted with meditation in mind. There is enough in this depiction to think about. The relationship of both the Pharisee and the Publican to Judaism is prominent. The artist depicts both men as equal for the purposes of mediation. They are of equal size and position.

Contrast this depiction with another work which is similar in detail but which clearly focuses on the tax collector. Don’t you want to put your hand on his shoulder?


In the next depiction the Pharisee and Publican go head to head. Separate but equal.
















Here is another storytelling approach.


The next artist won’t let us forget that this is a story. Jesus is present in the background. His audience is there. The foreground is a stage for his story. The poor tax collector! He even needs a cane to walk!

















Last, we show you a modern depiction by artist Bryn Gillette. This contemporary artist painted this rendition in response to a sermon he heard. He tells his story on his website.

The sermon had contrasted the spiritually dead, hypocritical, and self righteous attitude of the pharisee with the persevering faith, obedience, and selfless stewardship of a true disciple of Jesus.

I tried to paint this familiar scene from the more shocking spiritual lens of what was happening within the two figures: the pharisee’s self righteous posture emanating darkness, spiritually dead but covered by a veneer of beautiful color, while the tax collector is contrite in posture, full of life, covered in humble earth tones, and shimmering with God’s anointing. —Bryn Gillette

And so the pharisee is a skeleton and the publican has a halo!

It’s great when the artist is still around to help us understand his work!

Here’s an idea. Paint or draw your response to next week’s sermon!


Adult Object Lesson: Luke 18:9-14

Peacock-MockingbirdA Story of Two Birds

This week’s gospel is Jesus’ story of two men praying before God. It is the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

The Pharisee prays loudly, thanking God for his life filled with riches, finery and the prestige of having many important friends. He’s a big shot in the church. God should be proud to hear his prayer.

The tax collector is of low rank in the community. He prays to God in humility.

Today’s lesson is a parallel story. Who doesn’t like a story?

The Story of the Peacock and Mockingbird 

Once upon the time, there was beautiful peacock who lived in a large fenced yard in the center of a very big farm. The peacock did not mind being fenced in. The farmer fed him well and often paused from his work to admire his pet bird’s beauty.

The peacock enjoyed the farmer’s attention. He was proud of his long blue neck and his long feathery tail of splendid gold, green and blue. Whenever he saw the farmer coming his way, he began strutting about the farmyard, dragging his beautiful feathers behind. At just the right moment, he would raise his tail and spread its feathers like a fan. The farmer would always smile with pride.

Nearby, in the branches of a large bush, lived a small gray bird. He often sat on a tiny twig and watched the peacock put on his show. He longed for the farmer’s attention. He’d fly above the farmyard, occasionally swooping low. “Much as I would like the farmer to notice me, I will never be as beautiful as the peacock,” thought the little gray bird. Still, he kept flying, hoping that one day, the farmer would smile at him with the same pride he had for the more handsome bird.

“Hm!” the peacock thought. “Look at that puny little bird. His feathers are so short and they have no color. Of course, the farmer likes me best! Why doesn’t the little gray bird go back to his nest and let the farmer enjoy my show?”

One sunny, spring day the farmer put down his how and leaned against the farmyard fence for a rest.

The peacock took notice and began strutting across the yard. Just as he was about to spread his beautiful tail feathers, the little gray bird began flying above him in wide circles.

“It’s time I put that little gray bird in his place,” the peacock thought. “This is my farmyard. The farmer wants to see me! I am beautiful. He is so very plain.”

The peacock raised his voice to keep the farmer’s attention.


Aha! It was working. The farmer was delighted.


But then the farmer turned his head to follow a different sound. It was very similar to the peacock’s call but so much softer.

“Ack! Ack! Ack!”

The farmer saw the little gray bird flying in circles above the farmyard. He couldn’t help but watch the little gray bird’s graceful flight.

The little gray bird landed on a nearby branch and repeated the peacock’s call ever so softly. “Ack! Ack! Ack!”  The softer the little gray bird called, the more carefully the farmer seemed to listen.

The peacock was jealous. “Is he mocking me?” he wondered. His dark eyes, circled with white, flashed in anger. He strutted toward the bush and spread his beautiful tail, intent on blocking any view of the little gray bird. The farmer moved closer to the bush, straining to see around him.

“ACK! ACK! ACK!” The peacock called as loudly as he could, but the farmer’s eyes were on the little gray bird sitting in the bush.

“Why isn’t he paying attention to me?” the peacock thought. “Is he hard of hearing?”

He stopped to consider whether or not his question made sense. But the little gray bird did not stop. The little gray bird repeated his call. “Ack! Ack! Ack!” The farmer beamed with pleasure at the little gray bird’s delicate echo.

Then the little gray bird changed the pitch. One “Ack” was high. The next “Ack” was low. The third “Ack” was somewhere in between.

“He’s ruining my song,” the peacock thought.

But that was just the beginning. Soon the little gray bird added new sounds to his song. He tweeted and twittered. He rasped and he whirred.

The farmer applauded in delight.

The peacock strutted toward the farmer. He stretched his beautiful blue neck and lifted his tiny head. He tried to echo the little gray bird’s song. But all that came from his mouth was a harsh, ugly “ACK! ACK! ACK!”

The little gray bird stopped singing. He flew a few times around the farmyard. The peacock spun in one direction and then the other as he, too, watched the little gray bird.

Then the little gray bird flew off. The farmer followed the plain gray bird’s soft, delicate call through the wide fields.

The peacock watched from behind the fence. For the first time he wished he could trade his beauty for feathers that could fly. His beautiful tail dragged in the dust as he strutted slowly around the yard with neither the farmer nor the little gray bird interested in his splendor.

Talk to your congregation about what God expects of us when we talk to him.

You can post these links of a strutting peacock and singing mockingbird on your website. The peacock sings at about the 13-second mark. The mockingbird never stops singing. You might even play the recordings for your congregation.



You can make stick puppets of a peacock and mockingbird from photos found easily on the web. If you use the story with children (or even with adults) you could divide the group with one singing the harsh peacock ACKs and the other singing more delicate Acks whenever you point to them.

Have fun!


One Reader Asks: Who Owns the Rights to a Sermon?

2x2virtualchurch doesn’t get a lot of online engagement. But people do contact us. We get direct emails and sometimes even phone calls about our posts. When I encourage readers to comment on site, they say it’s too hard from their mobile phones—which tells us something about how the world gets their information today! Easier to use that phone to autodial us!

Friday’s post drew a phone call that raised an interesting question. It is a question that no one has probably thought about, because there was little need.

Our post advocated for “repurposing” the sermon.

The sermon, always central to Lutheran worship, is very ineffective for the purpose of spreading the Good News. Yet it is a focus of our expectations and budgets.

Most churches say something in their mission statements about reaching beyond that limited audience. Yet finding a way to do that has been a challenge, despite the tools in our modern hands.

Sermons—even great sermons—aren’t going to do it! Our post began exploring ways to maximize a congregation’s investment in providing a weekly sermon to a shrinking, limited and static audience of people who are predisposed toward the message. Our reader raises this question:

Who owns the rights to the sermon?

The caller is well-versed in both the corporate and church publishing worlds, especially the higher end of the Protestant Church. She commented that in the corporate world, if the corporation subsidizes the creation of content, the corporation owns the content. We are guessing the church world will argue that the pastor is self-employed and therefore owns his or her words.

I am self-employed but I know from experience that my clients consider my work to be their property. I often know that I have legal rights to the work product, but usually decide to not argue with clients. I value the relationship and the next job above the value of past work and insistence on accepted professional rights.

All this thinking may belong to the past—when publishing was the business of publishers. Today every evangelist or entrepreneur must publish if they hope to succeed. Hair dressers, chefs, dog trainers, roofers, lawyers, doctors—everyone will publish.

Congregations can (and we would argue MUST) be publishers. (Click to tweet)

What roadblocks will congregations encounter when they try to get more mileage from their considerable investment in spreading the Good News? They will have to get content for their evangelism efforts. Can they rely on the cooperation of clergy? Will everyone be stepping on toes? Will congregations seeking to call pastors insist their candidates understand modern publishing? They should.

The question probably enters no one’s mind now. As it is, very few pastors publish. Those that do are likely claiming all royalties without anyone questioning who subsidized the time they took in writing the book.

Will pastors value relationship over work product? Will they argue that Jonathan Edwards published his sermons for his own benefit and therefore they have the same rights? I don’t know the answer, but it is something to think about as congregations — like everyone in the modern world — realize that they have the power and need to publish. Publish or perish, for real!

These will be refreshing legal battles after the church has wasted so much of its resources in arguing about physical property, land, and monetary assets. Maybe church leaders will at last realize that their message is a major asset!

Realize this. A congregation’s content could fund their ministry.  (Click to tweet.) They must create and own their content.

This is a game changer. It can be the salvation of the small church. If we make it a contest, all will lose. Congregations should think about this now before their regional bodies start to tweak their constitutions to favor them and the clergy. Clergy are a pretty big voting bloc in that regard.

Congregations must become involved in any upcoming debate. They may have to spark the debate or watch decisions made for them — and not in their favor!

This has happened before. The Lutheran Church in America (the predecessor body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) forbade congregations from publishing. It was seen as competition with the national church publishing houses. Now there is no way to stop congregations from publishing.

Denominational leaders will be shooting their mission in the foot if they start to legislate these rights in their favor, but they’ve been doing this in their lust for land for years.

Prediction: This is going to change—dare I say transform—the relationship of congregation and clergy. (Click to tweet)

Congregations, think about this now! If your next pastor is uncomfortable with publishing and uncomfortable with others in the church becoming involved in publishing, they will be unprepared to bring your congregation into the future.

Repurposing the $1000-Sermon

pew copyPreaching Past the Pews

Think about what goes into the staging and delivery of the weekly sermon.

  • Divide your pastoral salaries by 52 and then divide by five. That’s what you paid your professional leaders for the week’s sermon.
  • Then add the costs of maintaining a building.
  • Add heat and air conditioning costs.
  • Now add the costs of the other professionals who help set the stage for delivery of the service—the sexton, organist, and choir director.
  • Add the cost of the church secretary and the cost of printing the bulletin.
  • We won’t add the costs of the many volunteers, but they added to the experience, too.

These costs and efforts are repeated every week. The beneficiaries—the people in the pew—are likely to be the same people every week. They number between 15 at the low end and 700 or so at the high end. The median congregation is probably less than 75 per church.
Advertisers call this calculation the cost per impression. Church costs per impression are very high indeed.

Oddly, this is never seen as squandering resources. Why not?

Because it defines Church. This is what churches have done for 2000 years.

We are well into the 21st century. The internet has been around for about a quarter century. It gets more powerful every day. It also gets easier to use. We are capable of so much more than monks with their parchment and pen.

The same message delivered in your church on Sunday can and should be preached beyond the back pew. This does not mean printing the sermon on the web site. This will attract practically no readers—except perhaps other preachers looking for ideas!

Put the Same Information Into Different Formats
Reach Far More People

There are ways that a sermon delivered to very few (even in well-attended churches) can reach into the neighborhood. Done consistently it is likely to attract people to your ministry.

We could take any sermon as an illustration. We’ll take for example the sermon that our Ambassadors heard last week at Trinity, Norristown. It’s fresh in our experience. Like most people, we don’t remember sermons very long.

The source scripture for the day was the story of the Apostle Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. The eunuch was sitting in his chariot, minding his own business, trying to make sense of the book of Isaiah. Along comes Philip, who might have passed up the opportunity to share, except that he was following orders from God. Soon the two were chatting about Jesus.

The sermon was delivered by one of Trinity’s three pastors, the Rev. Dr. Asha George-Guiser.

The gist of the sermon was the “blasting of barriers.” She pointed out that Philip and the eunuch could not have been more different, yet both were able to come together and talk about scripture.

Dr. George-Guiser focused her entire sermon on just one illustration—her marriage. She is of Indian descent, tracing her Christian roots to the evangelistic efforts of the Apostle Thomas, father of the church in India. Her husband of many years is also a pastor of Trinity. He comes from a non-religious Pennsylvania farm family and is racially White.

Dr. George-Guiser talked about how difficult it was for her family to accept her marriage. Their many differences were barriers that took years to blast away. Blasting away at the barriers led to a long and happy union.

Great illustration. It probably resonated with the congregation of about 70, many of whom probably know both pastors very well.

The service was at 11 am. By noon, the sanctuary was empty. The message and sermon were already on their way to oblivion to await the message of next Sunday. The shelf life of a sermon is very short.

How could the same sermon be repurposed to reach many who were not present in church last Sunday?

  • What if earlier in the week, the congregation had been invited on a church blog or Facebook to identify barriers in their lives? Anyone taking part in that conversation would be more invested in the worship service.
  • What if illustrations of barriers in the community had been identified and addressed on the blog? People who might never set foot in a sanctuary but who discovered the blog because of their community interest would see a church in action. The church web site would find more and more readers.
  • What if photos of barriers in the neighborhood had been posted on Pinterest with a link back to a discussion on the church blog? The congregation would have even more exposure in the community.
  • What if a few memorable snippets from the sermon were recorded as a podcast? Commuters might listen during the week as they drove to work.
  • What if a Powerpont with key sermon ideas had been posted on SlideShare? Other churches might share it.
  • What if the same Powerpoint were used in worship to illustrate the sermon? They were using projection for every other part of the service. It might extend the short life of the average sermon.
  • What if a children’s version had been posted on a kid’s corner on the web site?

The possibilities are many.

It’s more work to be sure, but suddenly that $1000 investment in a weekly sermon is going much farther.

Your church can go from talking about “blasting barriers” to actually lighting a fuse!

Do you see why having a communications expert is just as important to today’s church as an organist or a choir director? They can help maximize your investment spreading the Good News. It changes everyone’s job description a bit, but if transformation is to occur, something’s got to give!

Warning! The effectiveness of a church communications plan fashioned to reach beyond the pew is a marathon. If you want to give it a try, plan to dedicate a year minimum to begin to see results. By year three it should be reaping benefits you’d never imagine going without!

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