Liturgical Bribery

Liturgical Bribery August 28, 2006

Over the past two years I’ve been involved with a program called the Lewis Fellows, a program of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary that trains and nurtures young leaders in the church.

(I don’t know how much longer I will be considered a “young leader” so I think I should mention this fact a lot until such time . . . .)

This program draws a group of young leaders from several Christian denominations from all over the country together several times a year to learn from practitioners in the field of ministry who can teach us about leadership. I’ve learned quite a bit from these practitioners over these past two years, but I have to say my biggest learning and most helpful experiences have come from meeting the colleagues with whom I’ve been studying.

One of these is Rev. Todd Adams, pastor of Memorial Drive Christian Church in Houston, Texas. Todd has done quite a bit of D.Min. work on stewardship so I regularly turn to him for advice on the subject and have long thought it would be great to have him at Calvary.

We finally got Todd here this weekend for several classes on stewardship and a sermon in worship Sunday morning.

I was celebrating what a great decision it was to bring Todd here as I listened to him review the spiritual groundwork for stewardship; the nuts and bolts of a successful stewardship campaign; and the steps churches should take in planning capital campaigns. I knew the information he had to share would be very helpful for our leadership, especially as we go into the fall.

It was when he got to the sermon on Sunday that I wondered about the full effects of his visit.

And the reason I started to wonder was that the man brought m&ms with him. 18 pounds. On the airplane. All the way from Texas.

Todd had m&ms for everyone. He passed them out in worship. He displayed a huge bowl of them on the altar. He had individual bags for every worshipper to take home.

Granted, his point was a good one. Todd talked about the different colors in the bowl of m&ms and how they represented the abundance of blessings our lives reflect. Then he dropped a few–three or four–into another bowl to demonstrate our stingy response to God’s abundant blessings. Ouch.

And he had a name for this response to God’s goodness: sin.

It was a message we all needed to hear, but my question for Todd is a professional question related to the very serious issue of . . . liturgical bribery, because all I heard at the door were questions about what I’d be passing out next week!

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