So, here I continue to attempt not to give away the entire book that Adam Hamilton wrote while putting some of the essential points out there.
The primary idea is to plan a very long way in advance all your sermons, and I think this is a very good idea. When you have a plan you can bring other people on board get their creativity involved. Adam sits down and talks each week with his worship team about what’s coming up this week, but each person has had the plan for months.
The previous Dean of Duke Chapel, Samuel Wells, said he always finished off his sermon on Sunday to get the manuscript to the worship leaders and other ministries in advance. I can’t say I’ve ignored him, but I’ve never had a chance to sit down and plan that far in advance, and my challenges with writing have always kept me from getting manuscripts finished too early.
This planned out strategy has a lot to recommend it. It give a unity to the service that people may not appreciate at first, but this grounds worship and everything else at the church around a central theme. Even the sermons are grounded around the core ideas of the church and the seasons of the year. Because the plans are done so far in advance and so many people are involved in actively and creatively engaging with the vision of the church, the identity of the church is clear and constantly/consistently communicated and on the minds of the people.
He also touches on some basics that I wish he’d hit on in more detail, but I agree with the general sentiment.
1. Use video in worship but remember less is more.
2. Planning ahead to lay the ground work for capital campaigns.
3. Tie in sermon series with bible memory work, spiritual disciplines, and small groups.
4. Tie in music with sermon series.
5. Tie in drama or church decor with sermon series.
6. Time to reflect and address the issues of pastoral care.
The first 5 are pretty obvious, you can get creativity from people if you give them time to engage with the topic. But number six strikes me as the most interesting. It was through pastoral care and continued pastoral care that Adam got in touch with the needs of the congregation. Several are obvious, we all face anxiety about our marriages, our finances, and ordering our day to day lives. Any good premarital counseling book will address some of these, but it makes a good point that we often need to be encouraged that we are not alone in these struggles and given strategies for coping and communicating. Stress is an ever present reality, and people need ways of dealing with it.
Having planned in advance, it gives Adam the chance to deal with harder issues as well. Talking about suicide is never easy. Talking to teens about their issues (or even figuring out what those are) isn’t easy. When you plan in advance it helps you find ways to do it well and thoroughly.
Now remember, Adam’s grounding principle is being a mouth piece of God. Preaching is speaking God’s word into situations that go beyond our understanding, and I think he desires to do this well. He has definitely set up an attractive model, but I have some problems here.
I do want to acknowledge that Jesus Christ did not die for us to have a comfortable middle class american existence, and I think Hamilton acknowledges this in some good ways. He isn’t advocating for an undisciplined Christian life, and he is advocating for people to come to God where they are at. The set up he has also lends itself to seeking justice. He doesn’t include this in his line up of 5 core areas of the church, but perhaps that’s part of his mission work at the church, and no doubt, Church of the Resurrection works diligently to lift up the poor.
This approach does however allow for diligently training people to be in pursuit of justice and peace making. It puts sermons in a focused attempt to grow disciples, and that is a good thing. With some clarity on not just the personal but the social ramifications of the gospel, I think the identity of the people at his church could be shaped through such discipline to truly be ready to combat the spiritual forces of wickedness and injustice in all the forms they display themselves in this world. This is the very idea behind parts of our baptismal covenant in the United Methodist Church.