Speaking the Language of the Culture
Rev. Matt Rawle likes to tell the old story in a new way. That way usually involves the intersection of pop culture and the church. When he spoke to the United Methodist leaders gathered at Converge this year, he said a challenge in doing this is the four distinct audiences that make up most congregations, which he defined as this:
Heart people – They love the music and have no idea what you said in the sermon. They feel like they have been to worship when they were emotionally moved.
Mind people – They care very much about the sermon. Does everything that was said make sense? Does the order of worship flow in a logical manner?
Soul people – All they need is a sunny day and a stained glass window, and they will say “I felt God today.” They love silence in worship and love it when the bands turn it down a notch to bring people into prayer.
Strength people – Are often hard on the sermon, responding with, “So what, when are we going to the soup kitchen?” They love to worship with a hammer in their hands. They can’t sit still.
Rawle said that Disney gets it right with the Magic Kingdom for heart people, Epcot for mind people, Hollywood Studios for soul people and the Animal Kingdom for strength people. Most churches don’t have four different worship experiences, though, so it’s important, albeit challenging, to offer something for each type of person in each service.
Rawle’s spoke primarily on the sermon, and how it is necessary to prepare a sermon in a way that people will be able to relate to it. He is the lead pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church in Bossier City, Louisiana and a graduate from the LSU School of Music and Duke Divinity School. This is the common theme in the four books he has written, The Faith of a Mockingbird, Hollywood Jesus, The Salvation of Doctor Who and The Redemption of Scrooge.
The key is the narrative.
Rawle said sometimes we’re called to over-accept the culture to continue God’s story. Doing so can be an exercise in learning new language.
“You wouldn’t try to plant an English-speaking church in the middle of France,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to talk about Jesus in a language that is not our own.”
Rawle said we must find places in our culture where our stories of faith can find a new, holy meaning.