By Paul Koch –
I had an interesting conversation with a few of my colleagues the other day about preaching. We weren’t talking about preaching in our own congregations but in the strange environs of other churches. The conversation turned from a discussion about being invited to preach at your childhood church (or some sort of district event) to the offers made by church bureaucrats to come and preach in the church where you are called to serve.
Now perhaps many of you don’t even know that such a thing happens, but trust me, it does. Every so often you receive mail from some bureaucrat or washed up pastor making a second go of it by trying to garner support for a new missionary opportunity or Synodical pet-project by offering to “preach” in your congregation. What they are really doing is coming to give your congregation a prepackaged commercial.
What concerns me is that there must be a great amount of acceptance out there for these commercials to be heard in our churches. Why else would they send out the letters if they don’t get any takers? I can’t begin to tell you how distasteful I find this. It would be like me writing you and inviting myself to come into your home on Thanksgiving and carve the turkey. Now I can carve one hell of a turkey, but what right do I have to invite myself to do it at your place?
Aside from the hubris, it is a bit terrifying that we would opt for a commercial over our regular sermons. So, what does that say about our regular sermons?
Then again, perhaps we are missing the boat with the possible benefits of such commercials. After all, they give us some extra time off from preaching; it means less work, more time for whatever the hell it is a pastor does when they are not preparing a sermon. In fact, if we just go all in we could make a tidy profit from embracing commercials.
I remember visiting a church down in Florida a few years ago with my family. They had these really nice large flat screen TV’s mounted on each side of the chancel wall. My daughter leaned over and whispered, “Dad, what are the TV’s for?” And I answered, “For the commercials.” To which she just nodded and continued coloring on her bulletin as if commercials were the most natural thing in a church (after all they were on TV).
But really, think of the possibilities. I could be getting discounts or even freebies by allowing commercials. “Your pastor’s shoes were provided by Johnson and Murphy.” It’s not like it would have to run all service long, just a spot during the prelude and postlude – maybe the high dollar sponsors can get a shout out during communion distribution. Hey, I like the sound of that! After all, if Thrivent can get a plug in the bulletin why not my mechanic or favorite bar? I mean, why waste a captive audience, right? Just think of the kickbacks… I mean, the increased capital for ministry.
And for those of us who don’t have TV’s or projection screens in our sanctuaries, not to worry. We could simply sew patches on our stoles so they would look like NASCAR racing suits. Hey, I think I just solved your church’s budget worries.
If your Sunday sermon began with the words, “This sermon is sponsored by…” How would you finish the sentence?