Last weekend I preached the Sunday morning service. I have been pondering the act of proclamation and the institution of the sermon for a few months, and suddenly had a chance to apply some theory in a very practical way (which is always a shock to the system: theories are one thing, practicing them is another).
I spoke on Revelation 4-5, with the punchline being that just like Jesus called John, he calls us to "come up here" through the open door to worship (and true worship enables God’s will to be done). So I spoke for 25 minutes on the passage, and some specific ways it related to our congregation for the time, and then brought a door in a frame to the front of the room, and told people if they wanted to say "yes" to the invitation, to come walk through the open door. Most of the church did so, singing as they went through.
It was a modest attempt to involve the congregation in activating their faith. It wasn’t practicing anything they would actually do in real life, but rather a prophetic act designed to help people involve their whole being in saying "yes." I went back and forth on the idea the whole week, because I was concerned it would be considered hoaky or manipulative, but I decided to do it because I am convinced doing something with one’s body is much more powerful than simply asking them to bow their heads and say yes to God "in their hearts."
So there is the proclamation, the preaching, the announcing of the kingdom, truth, Jesus. But then there is the response, the activation, the repentance, the doing. I think I have decided that to preach a message that doesn’t invite a response (and then include an active way of response) is to say "You don’t really need to change anything about your life. All you need to do is ‘believe’ all the right things, and you’ve relly accomplished something."
I can get energized about preaching that activates people to faith and good works, but I can’t get energized about preaching (or anything else) that encourages passive consumption of religious goods and services.