It doesn't matter how great your sermon is.
As long as the what you have to say is perceived by culture as judgmental, unhelpful and irrelevant, people will ignore you.
Seth Godin points us to a story in the Washington Post. (World-class violinist plays for hours in a subway station, almost no one stops to listen.)
He writes, "The experiment just proved what we already know about context, permission and worldview. If your worldview is that music in the subway isn't worth your time, you're not going to notice when the music is better than usual (or when a famous violinist is playing). It doesn't match the story you tell yourself, so you ignore it. Without permission to get through to you, the marketer/violinist is invisible."
I meet people all the time who believe in God. They pray often. They want to develop their spirituality. But they quit going to church somewhere along the way because of a bad experience. Not because of theological reason, because of a relationship reason.
They would say, "I don’t have a problem with God. I just don’t like church people. There were some church people once who treated me like …" You fill in the blank.
My theory is this: I think most people would love to have a real relationship with God. I just think the church hasn’t helped very much!
Lot of guys who do what I do feel like their primary responsibility is to educate people on what’s in the Bible. Their idea of spiritual development is all about learning a lot, memorizing information, and knowing how to work your way through scripture. They’re very good at pointing out wrong, majoring on minors, and keeping preoccupied with the church calendar.
The result is that it’s easy to get the idea that a good Christian is someone who knows a lot, but not necessarily loves a lot. Somewhere along the way, we just decided to be smart and knowledgeable and dogmatic. Somewhere along the way we decided that we were “right”, which means everybody else was “wrong” and we needed to treat wrong people, um, “wrongly!” Our history as Christians is full of it, and it’s grieving!
The number one enemies of Jesus were biblically the smartest guys around. Jesus was constantly saying to them, "You’re not paying attention to what you’ve memorized and what you teach everybody else."
And unfortunately, all over this country, (maybe you’re one of them) people have missed God because of the people who were supposedly representing Jesus.
Maybe Seth doesn’t know he’s a preacher, but he has the right message: "I don't think the answer is to yell louder. Instead, I think we have an opportunity to create beauty and genius and insight and offer it in ways that train people to maybe, just maybe, loosen up those worldviews and begin the trust."
If you've had that bad experience, Jesus would say to you, "I was misrepresented to you, because the one thing that will mark a person who is truly a follower of mine is not what they know, and not what they say, and not their church membership, or even a practice in their private lives, … its how well they love other people!"
I know. It sounds simplistic, but if you simply love people well through genuine acceptance, practical help, and personal sacrifice, you earn the right to be heard. Kindness unlocks the door of the heart.You will pleasantly surprise people, which is the first step of building trust ... "I wasn’t expecting that!" That's when the life-changing message get's through.
When people of Indianapolis encounter the people of Heartland Church, I long for them to say: "If this is what God is like, then I want to know Him." Suddenly, what previously was irrelevant becomes a place where you’d have to bar the doors to keep people from coming.
On the journey with you,