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Sermon Pentecost 14A

Sermon Pentecost 14A

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Published by Chris Bedding
Second in a series on first third ministry
Second in a series on first third ministry

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: Chris Bedding on Sep 21, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Sideshow Alley?
Exodus 16:2-15 
For those of you who weren’t here a couple of weeks ago, between now and Advent thetheme of my preaching will be ministry in the first third of life. To start with, I’m
focusing on slaying some of the sacred cows of first third ministry
those acceptednorms and assumptions that have served us so poorly, yet with which we persist in the
face of powerful evidence to the contrary. I’m defining the sacred cows as ‘instruct,attract and exhibit’ and today I’m going to address ‘attract’.
 Lurking somewhere in the psyche of nearly every congregation is person. Usually a
man. A man I’ll call ‘Darren’. Darren is a surfer or footy player. He has a neatly
-trimmed beard and discreet earring. He plays guitar or drums. Darren listens to all theright bands and dresses fashionably
but he doesn’t smoke weed or look at porn or
get drunk. He
knows his bible but he’s not a bible basher, he has an active faith butnothing too radical and he has moral standards, but he’s not judgemental. Ever
 ybodyloves Darren
when Darren organises a yoof group, children and teenagers flock to it.Darren is polite to the elders in the church, but relevant and hip to the yoof. He lovesgiving up his Friday nights, and he has a nice girlfriend called Janine who helps as well.
Sooner or later, when you start talking about first third ministry, Darren comes up. ‘If only we had a Darren’ people say. Someone who was cool and could relate to the kids.
Someone who could rock out the church with funky tunes to get the yoof in. Darrenhas a lot to answer for. Churches that are Darren-free use this as excuse to do nothing
‘If only we had a Darren’. Worse still are the churches that once had a Darren ‘If only we had Darren back. Things were great when Darren was here’. He’s the cause of  jealousy ‘They’ve got lots of yoof at St Whatsit’s – 
but then, they’ve got a Darren’. Andhe’s the cause of great insecurity – 
‘Ooh, I can’t do ministry with children. I’m not aDarren.’ 
  The thing is: Darren is real. At last count there were nearly six Darrens in Australia,and the US has a few hundred. The baffling is that, when those handful of churchesmanage to score themselves a Darren, they always have a brief burst of activity andnumerical growth, then a long period of decline. But the legend of Darren spreads like wildfire, and like a child who will only be happy if she gets a Tickle-Me-Elmo forChristmas, everyone wants one. The whole premise of Darrenology is that Christianity is boring, meaningless andpointless. No one sensible, particularly a person in the first third of life, would want to
be a follower of Jesus Christ. It’s lame. It’s uncool. It’s an epic fail, as the young people
say. So it needs to be tarted up and made sexy
rock’n’roll, games, a youth worker
 with sex appeal, a jumping castle, white-water rafting
 whatever it takes. It’s the logic
of consumerism
get ‘em in the door with the offer of a $2 cheeseburger, and they’ll
stay to buy an overpriced hamburger.
But before we go too much further, let’s be clear t
hat there is nothing wrong with
busting out a few funky tunes. I live for the day that St Cuthbert’s rocks out on thrashmetal. And there’s nothing wrong with having fun, and community development, and
building relationships
that’s why we’re going on cam
p together, and why I love goingaround to your houses for meals and good wine. The problem comes when -
as we’ve done since the rise of the consumer age – 
weequate marketing with evangelism. When people merely showing up to events at achurch is considered a success, and when first third ministry is defined simply by thepresence or absence of a program or activity.If the outcome that we are seeking from first third ministry is the formation of people with a mature and active faith, then the practi
ce of ‘attracting’ has failed us. It’s failed
us because - and this is possibly the strangest sentence I have ever preached - we haveplaced our faith in the attractiveness of Darren and not in the attractiveness of Jesus.I put it to you that Jesus is inherently attractive - and particularly attractive to peoplein the first third of life. In a world in which climate change, global poverty and war arereal and immediate concerns
Jesus speaks of equity, compassion, for the poor andpeacemaking. In a society like ours in which the abuse of power, whether through workplace bullying or sexual abuse, is a real and immediate concern
the story of  Jesus offers a way to make meaning about true power. In a culture where constantacquisition, meaningless sexual gratification and a monotonous self-interest are thenorm
the poverty, dignity and sacrifice of Jesus provide a desperately neededalternative.But who will tell people in the first third of life? Who will recount the story of Jesus?Who will invite them into a different way?
Darren ain’t gonna save us. Sunday School’snot gonna do it. Just being nice and kind and giving money to charity isn’t gonna do it.
At some point grown-ups
parents, neighbours, grandparents, friends
need to be
able to say ‘I’ve b
een serving a murdered Galilean peasant for forty, or seventy, orninety years, and I do not regret it. I want to invite you to follow him as well. I want totell you the sacred stories so that you can absorb them and pass them on to yourchildren and your
children’s children.’ 
 But the perceptive among you are already realising the problem. Before we can tellpeople in the first third of life about Jesus, and invite them to sign-up to hismovement, in order to share our dangerous stories and invite
person to join theadventure
 we’ve got to be attracted to it ourselves. We’ve got to believe in it. And this
is, I suspect, the shadow lurking behind Darrenology. The reason that mainstreamAnglican churches are devoid of people in the first third of life i
s not because there’s
something wrong with the yoof of today.
It’s not because we lack the X
-factor or askate-
park. It’s because we are not, collectively, passionate enough about Jesus. As arule, we think he’s a terribly decent chap, a good bloke to have around, certainly
someone to worship. But when it comes to proclaiming and working for his kingdom
 we’re slow, we’re distracted, it’s not entirely a priority.
It’s a hard truth to

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