What do you do with a congregation that is unafraid to ask the really tough, core questions of our faith?
What do you do with a congregation that is willing to accept a variety of responses to those core questions of faith, understanding that we won’t all accept the same answer?
What do you do with a congregation that is unthreatened by honest emotion and passion expressed with integrity by its pastor as the pastor seeks to address their questions?
Here is a very practical question……What do you do when your typical sermon ranges between 1600 and 1900 words and your attempt to answer significant questions from the congregation goes well over 3000 words? That is the difference between a 22 minute sermon and a 35 minute sermon. Will the congregation accept it? Will there be mumbling in the pews and people pointing to their watches as the sermon time goes long? What about our lunch reservations?
What do you do? Well I don’t know about you, but I can only give thanks for the spiritual hunger, patience, and grace of Laguna Niguel Presbyterian Church today in worship. We had absolutely stunning music offered by Timothy and Nathan Le as they offered violin and cello pieces in worship. Singing was great. But for the first time, we experimented with the teaching offered during the sermon slot in worship.
Borrowing an idea from Dr. Chris Atwood, senior pastor at San Clemente Presbyterian Church, we solicited questions from the congregation and sought to address them in worship. I tried to first give the congregation some sense of the variety of responses to questions posed about the interpretation and practical takeaways of the book of Revelation, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and then how one can be faithful and still struggle with Scripture.
I don’t know if the answers given were any good. I gave it my best shot and the congregation seemed genuinely appreciative. Most importantly they seem to embrace the idea that church should be a place where we are unafraid to ask questions – ANY question!
I am so thankful for the saints of LNPC. I am thankful for their honest, open, inquiring minds. I am thankful for their unwillingness to accept trite historical clichés and formulas. I am thankful for the freedom to say, “I am not sure.” I am thankful for the grace that covered the entire experience.
I think we will do this again. Thanks Chris for the idea. Thanks LNPC for the freedom. To God be the glory!