SERMON: Image is Everything
Introduction: Stevan has been the lead pastor of the Shippensburg First Wesleyan Church in Western Pennsylvania since July ’10. After serving as a youth pastor in 3 churches in a 10 year period, this is Stevan’s first solo-pastorate. He describes the new leadership position often by referring to discovering “new cylinders” that he is firing on within this new ministry context. He loves the challenges and rewards of pastoring in the local church
Lenny: In the sermon introduction, you took a very familiar phrase “image is everything” and put a theological twist on it to make a powerful statement. You also used imagery in your introduction to effectively orient people to where you were heading. What are some of your general goals for your sermon introductions? (The video used in the introduction can be accessed by clicking on the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U).
Stevan: I sometimes describe myself as having “undiagnosed A.D.D.” in relationship to my attention-span (or lack thereof). In many ways, I try to prepare messages in a way that gains the attention (and hopefully keeps it) from the onset. I love asking questions and/or making a bold statement in an introduction as a way to ‘earn’ the attention of those in the audience who suffer from the “watch-checking syndrome” I observed while growing up in the church.
Lenny: Early on your sermon you were unpacking the meaning of some Hebrew words from the text you were preaching. You did something that few preachers seem to do but I found significant. You told your people about some online resources that can help them with their exegetical study of the biblical text. Do you do that often? Why do you think it’s important to direct your people to biblical resources during the sermon?
Stevan: I absolutely LOVE tearing down the “curtain” between pastor and people much like the curtain-dropped between Oz and his audience in L. Frank Baum’s “Wizard of Oz.” I have had many conversations with people that reiterate the idea that the pastor has some kind of ‘magical power’ and reveals his or her power on Sunday mornings in their crafted sermon. I think it is necessary and beneficial to maintain a level of transparency as a pastor that I know some find concerning. Sharing the tools I use in studying the Word and preparing a message seems like a no brainer to me.
Lenny: Stevan, you minister in a small, rural, blue collar town surrounded by bigger, thriving towns. It seems to me that your message was designed to remind people in your context, who may feel insignificant, that they are indeed significant. Their value is not based upon their looks, size of their house, income, or skills but upon the reality that God created them in His image. Describe how the thrust of your message intersects with the specific hopes and heartaches, dreams and disappointments of your people.
Stevan: I think every single person on this earth sees someone else on a higher rung on the ladder our culture emphasizes all around us. Someone else has more money, someone else has a better education, someone else has something more than me. I tried to relate the truth that God’s imprint upon His creation levels the REAL playing field.
Lenny: Many messages on the sanctity of human life tend to be a negative tirade against those who advocate abortion. But, your message was focused positively on human significance. In other words, your sermon felt like a pro-life message more than an anti-abortion message. You broadened the issue of the sanctity of human life beyond abortion. I applaud this. Why did you sense the need to broaden the issue, and to do so in such a positive and powerful way?
Stevan: I’ve been learning that though it is often easier to fight the symptoms of brokenness and sin, it is much more important to re-educate at the core-level. Emphasizing that “image is everything” in the context of our Creator should, in turn, lead us to a different end as far as how we react to the subjects of abortion, treatment of the elderly, capital punishment, and even how we treat our neighbors (next door and across-the-sea).
Lenny: Although your sermon had multiple points, it seemed to me you had one primary thread running through your sermon to tie everything together with one focal thrust. What was the one Gospel reality you were trying to plant in the consciousness of your congregation? And, do you typical have one primary focus to your messages?
Stevan: Jesus’ reaction to Zacchaeus’ actions upon his interaction with Jesus in Luke 19:10 sums up what I hope is at the core of who I am: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Human beings are valued enough to be sought-after and saved by Jesus Christ – this idea has been suppressed by years of cultural-education that teaches a false human hierarchy and worth. I’d like to think that most of my messages revolve around a similar primary focus, but I know I don’t get it right all of the time.