One of the things I learned from Mercadante’s book, Belief Without Borders, is that the spiritual but not religious (SBNR) routinely ask the following questions:
1. Is there anything larger than myself, any sacred or transcendent dimension, any Higher Power?
2. What does it mean to be human?
3. Is spiritual growth primarily a solitary process or is it done with others?
4. What will happen to me, if anything, after death? (p. 15)
These four themes kept coming up in Mercadante’s interviews and it reminded me of the need to keep them in mind during sermon preparation and delivery.
You may have seen similar lists. The concept of creating a sermon series from such questions has been around for a while. Number 4, for instance, is certainly not new.
However, while the sermon series idea has merit, I find it more effective to include these questions and answers in any sermon where they apply. Over the long haul of pastoral preaching week in and week out, congregants will benefit more from hearing answers to these questions embedded in sermons that are not particularly aimed at these questions.
Although the SBNR are not represented solely by one age bracket, I find the younger crowd asking these questions. Young professionals and artists voice their concerns more readily than my parent’s generation. If you have younger people in your church they will appreciate any time you address their questions.
You won’t have any trouble identifying questions #1 and #2 in most preaching portions. Virtually every Sunday affords opportunity to spend a minute or two on them.
Question #3 caught my eye. As the years go by, more and more people are believing less and less in the local church. The days of Mrs. Jones teaching Sunday School for thirty years seems to be gone. Question #3 will continue to be an issue pastors will have to address for years to come. In churches over 200 attendees, a smaller percentage of parishioners are involved in small groups. A greater percentage only attend Sunday morning worship and have little, if any, contact with others throughout the week.
Before Sunday, see if any of these four big questions can be addressed so that God receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).