Summary: Preach a sermon that builds to an adventurous climax
To create an adventurous kind of sermon that is like a fox hunt or a game of chase which builds towards a climax at the end.
In our neighborhood the old fashioned game of tag was called chasey. It was a chase, a mission and an adventure all wrapped up on one. As I grew up, we also played more courageous games like British bulldog and capture the flag. Team sports like football, volleyball, and baseball also became an adventure with unpredictable results. Solo sports like tennis, swimming, track and field, golf, paintball and windsurfing provided me with a sense of adventure as well. Perhaps you can remember some of the fun you had in games and adventures that you have had. As adults we sometimes retain that sense of adventure by going into business, by taking vacations to fascinating places or watching television dramas. Sermons can also create a sense of adventure and excitement.
We will look at the subject of adventure, whether it is predictable, manageable, the risks, introduce the important topic of adventure discipleship and show how to create an adventure sermon.
1. Is an Adventure Predictable?
One of the facets about an adventure that excites the participants is that it is not predictable. Where do we go from here? How do we get there? How do we overcome this obstacle? A mystery drama also contains an element of adventure. Who dun it: the butler, the maid, or the chauffer? This is something that a mystery leaves unanswered until near the very end. Until then it's a guessing game with many false suspicions and blind alleys. While some few people are annoyingly skillful at guessing "who dun it" long before the end, most of us are left hanging until the last few minutes.
Many sermons are boringly predictable, and while that is needed sometimes, it is mind-numbing when it happens all the time. Just as we don't want every meal to be an adventure into strange foods and exotic tastes, neither do we want every sermon to be an adventure, but it is fun and even healthy every now and then.
2. Is an Adventure Manageable?
Believe it or not, you can actually get a degree these days in adventure management. It is part of the tourism curriculum at some universities. In a sense then, the preacher who does an adventure sermon is also an adventure manager. Besides special skills for a specific activity, adventure guides must have skills in planning, health, first aid and risk management.
For example, suppose I want to lead an expedition to a particular wilderness location. What do I need to do to prepare? I need to know the climate and seasonal weather conditions. I need to make sure that appropriate clothing and footwear are worn. I need to pack appropriate food and plan for shelter. I need to know the terrain for drinkable water, trails, river crossings and if I need ropes for some climbs. I may also need maps and a GPS. I need contingency plans for emergencies, such as a first aid kit, trained staff, and possibly radios and a satellite phone.
3. What are the Risks?
In an adventure sermon, there are also risks that have to be managed. It is not wild animals or dangerous falls, but the danger of people jumping to wrong conclusions or believing you have suddenly taken leave of your senses and gotten some wild ideas in your head. What do I mean? Remember the old radio show about an invasion from Mars that people actually thought was real? Despite the fact that it was announced several times that the show was a drama, people panicked, thinking that a real invasion from Mars was being reported. The same thing can happen in your adventure sermon if you are not careful. So plan wisely to avoid any misunderstandings.
For instance, if you are playing a guessing game, keep them guessing until the very end, but don't let them think for a minute that you are going off track in your theology, or that you have suddenly gone off in some other wrong direction. It can easily happen if you are not careful. For instance, suppose you want to preach on the most important doctrine, you could ask a bunch of questions, like: Is repentance, the cross, baptism, faith, hope, etc. the most important thing? Those questions could each be a point in your sermon. However, the answer to each question would be no that is not the most important doctrine. Then in your last point you could point out that the most important doctrine is __________ (you fill in the blank).
I would say that love is the most important doctrine, based upon Jesus' Great Commandments and 1 Corinthians 13. It could be argued another way I suppose. The risk management in such a sermon would be to avoid letting people think that repentance, the cross, baptism, faith, hope, etc. are somehow unimportant useless appendages or giving the impression that you think they are.