Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: preaching

An Anxious Evangelist

I am anxious. Especially around other people. You should see me at Costco. Actually, you shouldn’t. And if you do, stay out of my way because I may have a panic attack or run you down in a frantic attempt to escape. I dread nothing more than encounters with others.

In college I became an evangelist. My first time handing out tracts I almost passed out. It never got easier, but I kept doing it anyway. Sketchboard Evangelism. Open air preaching. Intentional friendships with shopkeepers and strangers in Ontario and Sindh with an eye to sharing my great and glorious salvation. Absolutely terrifying. But there was a script / story / drama that gave me the power to rise above myself:

“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:9

The fear didn’t hold be back because I believed Christ was the only one who could heal the nations, and if the knowledge of him filled the earth, all hurt would end. My own anxiety was nothing compare to the eternal weight of glory that was promised. It helped me do difficult, powerful things.

I still want to work for a story that brings healing.
But the script is no longer simple.
I don’t think a single way is possible.
The gods, being greater than us, are not likely jealous.

I do, though, miss the script that made me do the things I “knew” I couldn’t do.

Sermons and Stuff

People often get surprised when they find out I’m a preacher.  They get even more surprised when they find out I mostly preach in evangelical fundamentalist churches.  I remember one man, when he found out I was a preacher, asked “So, you part of the Church of the Universe or something?”

Yes.  Yes, I am.

I enjoy preaching and the wicked-cool opportunity it gives me to throw ideas about love around.  And, since I didn’t have much else to say this morning, I figured I’d give you a link to the last two sermons I preached, both of them on the favourite passage of weddings: First Corinthians 13.  Love, baby.  It’s all about love.

What is Love? Pt. 1

What is Love? Pt. 2

Hope it makes you want to love more.  If it doesn’t, then one of us missed the point.

New Testament Gathering Principles

    Dr. Zaius, you silly orangutan.

Three monkeys

     I preach sometimes. I grew up in a nifty restorationist denomination that was formed in an attempt to get back to ‘New Testament Gathering Principles’. The founders figured that the organized church had drifted pretty far from the pattern of being Christ’s body that he had originally laid down. Sounds good, eh?

     I decided to preach on New Testament gathering principles last week. If you drop by in one of the churches from my denomination there’s a chance you’ll hear a sermon with this title. It’s pretty popular. I can’t count how many of them I heard growing up. Usually they’re about how we need to say ‘assembly’ instead of ‘church’ or how women aren’t allowed to talk or lead or go around without doilies on their head. I wanted to get a bit closer to the core in my sermon, though. Here’s some gathering principles I shared:

  • Famous for Love – John 13:34-35; 15:12. A quick Google search shows that the top four adjectives for describing evangelicals are ‘Insane,’ ‘Crazy,’ ‘Dangerous,’ and ‘Scary.’ Jesus said that people would know we were with him if we were famous for love.
  • Devoted to the Apostle’s Teaching – Acts 2:42. What did they teach? The same stuff that Jesus taught. Love. More love. Lots of love. The kind of love that leads you to die for strangers and enemies. Devoted to that.
  • Community – Acts 2:44-46; 4:32. No, not the wildly funny TV show. Living with such a sense of unity that we share everything we have. No private property. Like having a wildly big family. Most churches are clubs that meet on Sunday. The pattern was a community of people who lived and loved together all the time.
  • Productive, Risky Social Action – Acts 4:34. People quote Jesus in saying that the poor will always be with us as an excuse not to help eliminate poverty. It’s a good thing Jesus is still alive, otherwise I think he’d be turning over in his grave to hear such talk. The first followers eliminated poverty amongst their circles. It was risky, but it worked. Good pattern.
  • Making Disciples – Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:47. Not converts. Jesus never tried to get the Samaritan woman to convert to Judaism. His call was never convert. It was follow. Repent. Walk. Move. He didn’t come so that our theological statements could be more logically consistent than a Muslim’s. He came to reproduce.

     My people left the Anglican church because their leaders were more concerned with robes and ceremonies than they were with the things that Jesus said. I hope that we can always be moving in a restorationist direction, or else we’ll find ourselves, like Dr. Zaius, pushing truth away because it comes in a different box than we’re used to

What Makes a Good Sermon

I’m always a little sad when I see that sermons are starting to get weeded out of most people’s spirituality. I mean, I agree that sermons and listening to sermons should never be the main part of your Jesus-life, but I think they have a place. Or, at least, a use.

I’ve always liked good sermons. And I enjoy preaching them. But, as much as I like good sermons, bad ones kill me. And if they kill me, I often wonder what people are going through when I preach a bad one. So I started to think, what makes a good sermon?

  • A good sermon is exciting. I don’t think excitement is optional when we are discussing Jesus. If you can discuss the Jesus-life and Jesus himself without a raised pulse, then you’re doing a lecture, rather than a sermon. Jesus is exciting. People who think he’s boring have only heard boring people talk about him.
  • A good sermon makes me want to be a better person. If I walk away from a sermon the exact same person I was when I walked in, I have to wonder why I went. Sermons are tools to prod us on to doing wild Jesus-filled things. They aren’t lectures on impersonal metaphysics.
  • A good sermon is true. It’s a poor preacher that has to lie to get his listeners to do what he wants. A good preacher only wants his listeners to fall more in love with Truth and to live it.
  • A good sermon is honest. People can smell hypocrisy a mile away. Do you know what hypocrisy smells like? It smells like poo. And when people think of your sermons, you don’t want them thinking about poo. Trust me.
  • A good sermon is clear. Preachers gain no points in being vague or aloof. No one thinks you’re smart because you know words like supralapsarianism. The preacher’s goal is to communicate divine messages. Not to impress.
  • A good sermon may rock the boat. The sermon on the mount rocked the boat. Just because everyone nods theirs heads and mumbles ‘amen’ does not mean the sermon is of any use. A good sermon changes people and makes the world a better place. And to do that, it may need to rock the boat a little.
  • What do you think makes a good sermon?