Not to suggest that Scot normally doesn't or anything. (And I really don't think it's my place to suggest who is wright right and who isn't.) But when I read his post from an hour ago on Third Way Preaching, I wanted to stand up and cheer.
I received Jim Belcher's book, Deep Church yesterday. (Actually, two copies. One from Amazon and one from IVP. Don't ask.) Having been under the weather for over a week, and with work backed up, I figured I'd get to his book next week. Well. I'm on page 164 of 210 – not including the Notes – which I read first. (That's a quirk of mine.)
I like Jim's book a lot and think you should buy it and read it. That doesn't mean that I love every jot and tittle. In fact there are a number of tots and jittles that I struggle with – primarily around his "deep preaching" sermon concept and it's particular emphasis.
Jim advocates what he calls Centre-Set Preaching – which follows a Homiletical Plot – over against Doug Pagitt's "progressional dialogue" preaching (Deep Church, Chapter 8). I find myself nodding in agreement as I read Jim's deconstruction of Pagitt's style – but then I'm oddly left cold by his own approach.
Scot McKnight gets it right explains my discomfort.
What is most needed is a complete spiritual formation approach to the entire church and for each person; outcomes need to be formulated by the leaders and the church so that the whole approach is embraced. Within the overall approach to realizing outcomes, which I would say are loving God, loving others and a life of holiness, sermons play a role and sometimes an important one. But serious formative changes occur when the individual and the group participate in, activate, and integrate what is being taught. (By the way, that last sentence requires pages of discussion.) And these formative changes take place within a set of outcomes. And, perhaps most importantly, they take place with spiritual directors, pastors, teachers and friends who come alongside to help a person.
The biggest issue here is not preaching; the biggest issue is the weight given to preaching in the overall mission of the local church. Emphasizing the weight of preaching is the Third Way.
All of this, of course, within the parameters of the work of God's Spirit through Word and Eucharist, which means respect for the Great Tradition of the Church. There is no Third Way preaching until we get beyond the Sunday morning service as the primary form of education and formation in the church. [Emphasis added]
The whole concept of spiritual formation in the western church seems to be centred around the sermon. My friend, John Frye, in the comments on Scot's post says, People expect the sermon to be the magic bullet for personal and family transformation.
Another good friend of mine who lives in the midwest, once led a thriving youth ministry which saw hundreds of kids profess their faith in Christ. When my friend asked the senior pastor how they were going to disciple these kids, this "pastor" stated they just needed to come hear him preach on Sundays and Wednesday nights. Would that this "pastor" be one of a kind. He's not.
Imbi was recently in discussion with a friend who had seen a woman in her late 30's become a Christian. His profound lament was that he did not know a church or ministry in Toronto where this woman could become properly grounded in her faith – where people (who have an expectation of outcomes – see Scot above) would work with her to see her established in the faith whilst they walked along side of her. She is hearing good sermons on Sunday mornings though.
It may be a start but it's not enough.
UPDATE: Jim has a good response at Scot's post (comment #9) – delivered in his usual irenic, winsome style.
UPDATE 2: Read Tim Sokell's comment/rant in my previous post, Drive-By Church – it fits rather well with this one.