Patriots, Predictability, and Preaching

I am sulking this morning and disappointed. The New England Patriots will go to the Super Bowl again this year. This makes my brother-in-law happy, many in my congregation thrilled and other friends elated. For the rest of the world, we simply roll our eyes.

The NFL has been complaining about the lack of viewership this year. Apparently, it is down around 10% from last year. The way we watch TV when we watch and what we watch has changed over the last few years and so it is easy to see the NFL hit by viewers changing the channel or streaming something different. I suggest it is something else. It has become too predictable.

Somehow and in some fashion, the Patriots win with Tom Brady doing something spectacular. I think people are getting tired of it. I was happy for the Pats first Super Bowl win. Good for them. I could care less about Brady’s sixth ring. It isn’t fun for other fans to watch any more. So we change the channel. I’ll still watch the Super Bowl…at least until the second half. Then it might be time to binge on something, which will keep my attention.

Predictability is comforting but it can be boring. I use to know an associate minister who would tell him how each one of the sermons of the senior minister went. Starts by reading the Bible, moves into a story, talks about the scriptures, moves down out of the pulpit for a personal and touching story, then back into the pulpit to conclude and wrap things up.   As a new preacher in that congregation, this was a fresh and energetic approach because it was different than the last preacher. Years later it was predictable. You could play “sermon bingo” knowing the ebb and flow of each week.

I wonder if my sermons are predictable. I attempt to change the format every so often. I read the scripture in different places. I attempt to work from illustration to scripture or from scripture to illustrations. I know my approach and style are similar but I continue to attempt to stretch in those areas as well.

In this world, when people can listen to dynamic preachers from podcasts or YouTube, how does the local church, every week, ‘normal’ preacher keep things fresh and new? How do I stop my congregation from playing “sermon bingo” because what I am going to preach has turned predictable?

Here is my “Super Bowl Bingo.” The Eagles will go up by a little. Tom Brady will complain to the refs. Some calls will go the Patriots way, which keep them in the game. In the end, a miraculous play wins the game for the Patriots and Tom Brady gets his 6th ring. I don’t have to watch the game to know how it is going to play out…this is the way it has always happened.

I pray I can be willing to change myself, my approach, my preaching in order that I don’t become predictable and people will sit in the pews excited to hear what happens next. I don’t want my congregation to approach their worship the same way I am approaching Super Bowl LII…with a lack of enthusiasm and expected predictability.

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