Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Problematic Vision Preaching

I'm preaching my first vision casting sermon this Sunday. October is stewardship month at DUMC, and rather than throwing a bunch of numbers at the congregation, we are attempting to present a "narrative budget." Which means this Sunday I will attempt to cast vision for student ministries in an attempt to encourage people to give of their time, talents, and tithe.

I finished the 2 Timothy 1:1-14 sermon yesterday--I'm focusing on Paul's charge to "fan into flame the gift of God," and how this church is full of "small sparks" that are in need of fanning...cute, right?

The sermon was flowing smoothly and I was actually quite excited about it until I came to the end and realized that I said "we" a whole lot more than "God." I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this, but I'm having a difficult time finding an alternative. What I am planning on preaching is true. I believe/hope it is edifying. I believe/hope it will engage the congregation to serve with their time, talents, and tithe...but I'm not sure that the congregation will be leaving with a clearer understanding of grace, mercy, justice, etc.

I realize that in a perfect world I should be able to preach on the attributes of God; out of which would flow an ideal vision for the church, but...

Please don't leave a comment telling me I need to re-write my sermon (unless you feel very strongly that I should...and then only if you also attach a downloadable, uncopyrighted sermon).

Is it okay to preach a sermon that focuses more horizontally than vertically? Where is that line?

Sigh! My Princeton friends would shake their fingers at me and say, "This is what happens when you stray from the lectionary!"


Keith.Drury said...

I'd say go ahead and preach the horizontal sermon but intro it with a recognition that this is "Part B" stuff... in preaching (teaching, priorities etc) balance comes over time and no one sermon is perfectly balanced--at least none I've ever preached.

Amanda said...

Part B (aka disclaimer?).

You're good, Dad. I think you get the award for fastest comment after a posting.


David Drury said...

Just a thought:
I don't think God is a line or that community is a line. Nor is there a line between them. Such linear thinking is something you can feel free to move past. And certainly the sacred/secular line is centuries outmoded.

So think in lines no further. Think in bubbles.


David Drury said...


Mandy now lives and works and preaches in the real world. She's also a natural "bubbles thinker" who may do her best work outside of a box as narrow as the lectionary.

-David Drury
(I have no Princeton friends, although a few at Harvard.)

Anonymous said...

Mando, I've wrestled w/ this a lot myself in the last couple of months. We've been doing vision-casting sermons too in our church plant. I'm a big-time Bible-focused teacher, but these have been LESS Bible focused & more "here's what you need to hear" focused. (Which is kinda what Paul's letters were all about...!) I see this as a SEASON of preaching that will be balanced later on w/ more expository & exegetical stuff.


Christy said...


"C" is me. Christy. :)

JohnLDrury said...


You could put a disclaimer, but in the same amount of breath you could share a one-minute reflection on the significance of giving in the context of the economy of salvation. This is precisely what Paul does in 2 Cor 8-9: his focus is on our giving to the poor, yet he does not fail to mention the christological ground of our giving. I think a lot of Paul's letters could be described in there terms: dealing with real practical problems head on, drawing on theological resources here and there but assuming them throughout. This is how Paul overcomes Dave's "lines" problem. Maybe the one minute thought dropped in might be your way.

Amanda said...

Dave: As always, you give me good images to think through this stuff...the bubbles work. Thanks.

Christy: Thanks for the "Season" thought--that's very appropriate since we are dedicating a single month to this topic. It's nice to hear this from someone else who is "in the trenches." by the way, I knew the comment was from you... "Mando" tipped me off.

John: I just checked out 2 Cor. 8-9. Whew! You were right--that was extremely appropriate. Thanks for the advice as well as the illustration.


Kevin K. Wright said...

Rob Bell preached a sermon at Mars Hill on stewardship and basically lambasted his congregation for being the worst givers in all of West Michigan (he had statistics comparing Mars Hill giving to other West Michigan churches). Bell said that although he had started out believing that if one simply preached the gospel in terms of vertical content, the horizontal actions would line up. WRONG! Bell admitted his ignorance in this sermon and then proceeded to preach a very "vertically" minded sermon. So take heart! Sometimes you have to preach vertical but I do think John offered a great compromise thereby disolving the potential dicotomy. What a smart guy you married!

Gwen said...

Why don't I just pray for you on Sunday morning as you deliver your message? That's my best offer. May God's Spirit take your preparation and make it come alive in the people's hearts.

Amanda said...

Kevin: thanks for the fascinating story from Bell-land...i would have loved to have heard that!

Gwen: I cannot tell you how much it means to me to know that you are praying. I am so thankful for the way that God uses you to be a blessing in my life. Thanks.