Typically, I implement a few new changes at the beginning of February since being at Mt. Salem. I am planning and praying about those changes now. The changes are much more gradual, thought-through, and sensitive due to the age of our congregation. I have seen this challenge as more of a blessing to me than a burden, amid occasional frustrations. Patience is NOT my virtue!
My sermon title was, “The Difference the Gospel Makes.” I had a different title (Clothing, Containers & New Beginnings) but I decided against it, going with a more ‘conservative’ label. I have often struggled with titles and the labeling of my sermons. Sometimes I get an epiphany of a blockbuster title; but those times have been rare. There has been, at times, an envy of those (especially my white seminary brothers) who have such catchy titles for days. Bryan Carter, who pastors the Concord Church in Dallas, has become one who is great in this area. I remember visiting the concorddallas.org website once, and seeing a Resurrection series entitled ‘HeRose’, a play on words from a television show entitled, ‘Heroes.’ I remember saying, ‘Wow....that’s genius. Why didn’t I think of that!?!?’ lol If I ever get the opportunity, I hope to take advantage of some college or seminary interns, or bright minds, who sit around and don’t mind throwing out ideas and title to preachers who have the content but no title! My only consolation is once hearing of one of my preaching heroes, Dr. Ralph West, stating he struggled with titling his sermons, at least creatively.
I will say that my major reason for going with, ‘The Difference the Gospel Makes,’ came to me as I delved deeper in my study of the text. It was one of the sermons where I went into the study of this text, Luke 5:33-39, thinking I would be dealing exclusively with ‘new wine and old wineskins’ and giving our people an encouraging message on a type of ‘new year/new you’ kind of pep talk. BUT.....the more I began to study the parable and text, I began to notice much more - Christ is dealing with the contrast of Judaism and the gospel. Essentially, Christ reveals to the Pharisees (who were such a pain, by the way) and the disciples of John the reason why He hangs with publicans and sinners. The premise (or as my friend, Rev. Arthur Lane would say), the sermon in a sentence is: the gospel of Jesus Christ trumps any other religion in its message, its standard and its recipients.
I argued that:
1. The gospel begins with a new start
2. The gospel births a new self
3. The gospel builds a new structure
4. The gospel brings in a new seat
When I return to the Mt. Salem Pulpit on the 3rd Sunday, I plan to share on prayer. It was my plan to preach on prayer yesterday, considering we begin our annual 21 Days of Prayer on the 7th of January. However, the Lord be praised for the direction He led us in.
After I speak on prayer, it is my hope to lead our church in a short series on Stewardship. Looking forward to what God is doing in our congregation and excited to be apart of what He is doing now. To God be the glory!