Scott Hoezee is director of the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Articles by this author:
- Learning from Those Looking In
Years ago during Lent at my former congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I structured a series of Lenten sermons around Merold Westphal’s then-new book Suspicion & Faith: The Religious Uses of Modern Atheism (Fordham University Press, 1998). In the book, Westphal profiled three of the most prominent atheists in the modern era: Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche.
For about seven years in the 1960s, the Beatles recorded special Christmas songs and greetings for the members of its fan club (mailed to them on a 45 rpm—remember those?). One year the song was titled “Christmas Time (Is Here Again).” It has to count as one of the simplest of all Beatles songs as the five words of the title are sung over and over. And over. And over again.
The statistics tell it all. The population is getting older. The first of us born in the so-called post-World War II generation of “baby boomers” are now in our early 70s, and even the youngest of this group—of which I am one—are turning 55 in 2019. Small wonder that something like Social Security has become imperiled. When President Franklin D.
A while ago a friend of mine (who is not a preacher) made a good observation. She noted that when she began attending a certain congregation, she found the pastor’s sermons to be mostly just OK. There was nothing wrong with the sermons. They were solid, fairly interesting most of the time, and very biblical.
The Same Old Story
It always felt wrong, and I thought maybe it was just me. But then I heard similar musings from fellow pastors who also felt guilty about it. Easter, after all, is the liturgical high point in the Christian year. More so even than Christmas, Easter sees churches packed to overflowing. So why as a pastor did I sometimes see Easter Sunday coming down the pike and feel a sense of . . . well, not dread, but a certain heaviness—the kind of thing that could wring a sigh or two from me?
Recently I was interviewed for a podcast in connection with a blog I write for a couple of times each month. The interviewer asked the question, “What is the difference between a blog and a sermon?” It was a good question and not one I’d thought about much before. Whether what I came up with by way of an answer was very good or complete I don’t know.
In one of the congregations I served, a friend of mine went through the training to become a Stephen Minister. Stephen Ministers work alongside the church’s elders and pastors in providing pastoral care to members of the congregation. One week the training focused on how to handle mental health issues. The training was given by an expert from a local Christian mental health hospital, and among the topics covered that week were depression but also more severe chronic conditions including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
- The Pastor-Philosopher
When I began to write this article, it had been only a few days since philosopher Alvin Plantinga formally received the 2017 Templeton Prize at a ceremony in Chicago. Through his teaching at Calvin College and then at the University of Notre Dame—and through a bevy of influential articles and books—Plantinga revived serious philosophical engagement with theological and religious topics.
- Discipleship as Thanksgiving
Some of us know people who are highly enthusiastic, complimentary, and positive. These are not bad traits! But sometimes such people are so lavish with their praise about every sermon they hear, every restaurant meal they eat, every movie they see that eventually we come to wonder about their judgment and just how valuable getting a compliment from such a person really is. If you are on the receiving end of a “That was a great sermon, pastor!” comment at the church door, you want to believe it.
During three of my four years as a student at Calvin College I served on the Knollcrest Worship Service Committee. This was a group of about a dozen students who were advised by the two college chaplains. It was our job to plan and help lead the two worship services held every Sunday during the school year. We were also supervised by a consortium of local church councils that sent elder representatives to every service.