Leaving Fundamentalism, Day Four

The UNwelcomed Church Guest…

Sermon Evaluation Forms

IFB sermons not cutting it for you? Try some sermon evaluation forms!

As you seek a church home, sermon evaluation forms can help you study sermons objectively and consistently. They keep a record of what sermon was delivered when and where. Any pastor can come up with a hot sermon [whether it is his or not], and most have occasional duds. Build up a file on each church you consider seriously. Review them before a decision.

Sermon evaluation forms are readily available. Some are simple, some are complex. None are perfect, but many can be studied to advantage. Study several to be acquainted with technical issues. You may then want to construct a form meaningful to you. Google some forms or try these:

Developed by Tim Keller
From the Orthodox Presbyterian Church:
From a Roman Catholic priest in the Jesuit order
From Seventh Day Adventist tradition [pages 8-10]
From the Evangelical Presbyterian Church [an MS Word document].

If you need an excuse to break with your Fundamentalist sect, a month of sermon evaluations will probably furnish all the grounds you need!

What’s out there

Your church search may reveal a wide range of styles and abilities. Some sermons are didactic and read like Paul epistles. Some are allegorical and as playful as the Psalms! Seminary instruction on sermon preparation and homiletic strategy changes with each generation. But whatever style is employed, some questions remain timely.

  • Is the pastor truly disciplined by this passage?
  • Does the message throb with God’s own heart?
  • What good news has the text for our liberation?
  • What is revealed of God’s work and character?
  • How does the sermon incarnate God’s kingdom?

Know What you Want in Sermons

Some seminarians must learn Hebrew and Greek. They master the grammar and syntax of these languages and use lexicons effectively. They translate the passage to be preached, discern its timeless principles, and observe where and how said principles intersect with modern society, churchly ethos, and congregant lives. They deepen study with insight from Biblical, exegetical, systematic, historic and patristic theology. They drive a wedge into the text. They reach through that crack to enfold and draw hearers into the Biblical world. Situated in the passage, people find their own thoughts and attitudes, dreams and agonies, longings and lusts, blasphemies and prayers woven throughout the narrative. There, they hear the Spirit’s call on their lives proceeding from the lips of Jesus.

Others need a King James Bible, a certificate of ordination, a street corner or a few people in some Fundamentalist sect. This difference matters.

Those who know the difference tolerate nothing but expository preaching. They will rise up, demand and have it, or they will leave. Know what YOU need to hear to be nurtured and challenged in your faith walk with God!

How is the Homiletic Diet?

Many languish under the tyranny of the pastor’s pick of texts. If a pastor has a fetish for legalism or prophecy, well … you know the story.

Believers need a varied diet with texts from the OT and poetic books [as Psalms], epistles and Gospels. But this tends not to happen without a plan. But there is a plan. It is called a ‘lectionary.’

A lectionary is a plan for preaching through the Bible in 3 years. Years A, B and C stress Matthew, Mark and Luke respectively. John is dispersed throughout all years. Lectionary systems also follow the church year.

Each Sunday has an Old Testament reading [or lesson], a response from Psalms [thematically related to the OT lesson], a second lesson from the epistles, and a Gospel reading. Psalms are read, read responsively, sung from a Psalter, sung as Anglican plainchant, and more.

Some churches use all four readings. Sermons are based on one or several of the readings. Readings usually follow books, so there is continuity from week to week. This builds congregational Bible knowledge.

Whether or not a prospective church uses a lectionary, look for a church that offers the Biblical diet and preaching you need to grow your faith.

Leaving Fundamentalism Behind: Day One

Time to Go!

Leaving Fundamentalism?

This is the first in a series on leaving Fundamentalism. In addition to my thoughts, no doubt others will have their own insights to add. In time, I hope to become more adept at this. SFL should have a more permanently accessible page for those planning their escape from fundamentalism.

Time to Go!

You’ve seen enough. You’ve calculated the cost and burned your bridges [if only in the sanctuary of your own mind]. Insipid antics, sanctimonious sermons with neither form nor content, theological unbalance, irrational arguments, scurrilous slanders on [always-at-fault] women, double standards and false standards, bellicose rhetoric, ignorance and anger – all this and much more established one thing: It is time to go!

Go Where?

Less than an official guide, more than a few principles, here are some admittedly fallible observations on finding a church. No perfect church exists. You may need to scratch something on your ‘looking for’ list. But solid matches do exist. Make a GOOD effort! You need to be able to live with your church. But also enjoy this. Give yourself permission to be ‘playful’ about this! Church? Fun? Heeeeey! Who would have imagined it!

Why Hurry to Re-affiliate?

1. You needn’t rush to re-affiliate. Know that churches do target seekers.

Many churches have people who gush about how wonderful it is here. Not infrequently, gushy people left another bad situation. They’re happy now because the old dynamics associated with their former congregation are GONE! That alone doesn’t mean the new situation has no issues. You want a good sense of where a church is before you affiliate.

Take your time. Look around. Especially if you’re looking at a number of possibilities, six months likely won’t be enough. Depending on where you are and what options are available, take a year. Perhaps two are in order.

Finding a church is rather like a marriage. Both are a big step, and in each case, you’re after a good match. Many new things are before you. You’re going to grow in perspective as you look. You’ll learn plenty! As you do, you may want to revise your ‘looking for’ list. Remember that you need to be able to live with your church. Take your time! Two years isn’t too long.