Vin Sculley or Tommy Lasorda?

The Dodgers are perhaps my second or third favorite major league basball team. I especially enjoyed watching them in the 1980s. (Maybe more because they beat Reggie Jackson and the Yankees when my KC Royals didn’t)  

Two of the greatest Dodger personalities of all time were Vin Sculley and Tommy Lasorda. Sculley was the Shakespeare of Baseball commentary calling Dodger games for over 50 years.  Lasorda, a hall of fame coach with multiple World Series wins. How do these two men relate to my blog today on preaching?  Keep these two men in mind as I explain. 

As a preacher I want to be open to discovery and improvement. Honestly if I don’t occasionally experience some improvement in my preaching my ministry becomes stale. 

Today as I was studying for my Sunday morning message, I realized a weakness I have in sermon formatting and composition. I shy away from offending my hearers by presenting truth in a sterile format. I use the third person instead of the first or second person. This permits the listener to remain on the outside as an observer rather than forcing them to step inside the message as a participant. 

It’s the difference between a Sculley and a Lasorda. Sculley sits in the booth and talks to the fans about the game, the players, the strategies, the rules, etc. He may be considered an expert but he is distant and removed from the game. He works to be objective and report on the game as a third person. Sculley uses words like “they and he.”  “He was behind the pitch.” “They need to play harder.” The Sculley, as good as he is, is still outside the game.  

But Lasorda was in the game.  He cared more about the outcome of the game than Sculley.   His job security and future negotiating leverage was at stake. So he addressed players directly.  He used “you” more than the Scully did. “Here’s what YOU need to do.”  Here’s how YOU can inprove.”  Lasorda got personal. And sometimes offended players. 
And that’s why I avoid the Lasorda approach and favor the Sculley approach. I want to explain truth without becoming offensive.  But I’m learning that this approach creates fans who know the game, can discuss strategies, and watch victories;  it does not develop players who are playing the game, living out the life, experiencing victory. 

So in order to become more effective in my preaching, and develop players instead of just fans, I will need to change my pronouns, get more personal and think more like Tommy Lasorda. 


Sunday Synchronicity

For many years it seemed that my activities and experiences on Sunday were out of synch with my life the remainder of the week. Sunday life means attendance at church where we sing hymns, receive communion, give an offering and hear a sermon.  Since these are strictly Sunday activities it  felt as if  my spiritial life  didn’t fit with or was foreign to “normal” life. But is this accurate?  I’ve begun to challenge that notion. 

Just because Sunday activities are different than Monday thru Saturday activities doesn’t make Sunday life out of synch with the rest of our week. In fact, a very strong case can be made that worship activities on the Lord’s day contributes to a more synchronized life rhythm. Worship without labor becomes irrelevant or at least unproductive; but labor without worship deteriorates into a chasing of the wind. We need both work and worship to be balanced. In fact, a truly Christian worldview attaches spiritual value to every mundane task-even that of eating and drinking. 

With that said, most days my heart prefers the rhythm of Sunday. 

I Miss Old Fashioned Church

I’m a sentimental traditionalist. There aren’t many of us left anymore in the church. But I really do miss what I remember to be “Old -Fashioned” Christianity. 

I understand that old doesn’t mean better. After all I’m using my high tech smart phone to write this blog. But there are some things about Christianity which are no longer extant but I miss them. 

I miss the sacredness of Sunday. Today, Sunday’s sacredness seems to be limited to an hour or at the most two hours in the morning while the rest of the day is spent  like a second Saturday. But as a child growing up Sundays were special. Sundays meant dressing up, seeing friends and hearing the gospel story. It meant small churches, big dinners, family gatherings and peaceful naps. Sundays were special and different all day long. 

I remember the rays of the Sunday morning sun splashing red, gold and blue light on the pews and wood floors  through the multi-colored stained glass windows. Modern church architecture has exchanged the stained glass windows for dark theatre walls and spotlights.  The stained glass windows made my sanctuary a refuge within which I found the  beauty, majesty and wonder of God.  

I miss the simple preaching of the simple gospel. Contemporary sermons must frequently address the complex, sophisticated issues of modern culture.  My pastor’s education was minimal but his walk with God made up for that and his messages were inspiring, and sometimes humorous. Children’s church was called VBS and only lasted a week each year. Pastor’s messages were simple enough for a child’s mind but stout enough for adult digestion too. 

I miss Sunday School.  Oh, I still teach a small Sunday school class but I miss the prominence Sunday School programs once played in the life and growth of the Church. Today’s model of discipleship may be better suited to the busy schedules and specialized demands of today’s Christian adult. And unfortunately Sunday School classes were (are) often prone to digress into heated debates, but done right, Sunday School can be an affective table-setter for morning worship since it engages the mind in the Word of God. 

I miss the testimony part of old fashioned church. Modern worship has become so group-focused that the individual believer is muted in corporate worship.  Admittedly as a teen I thought testimony time was a waste of time. But looking back, the colorful stories and quaint, familiar expressions of individual saints sometime moved us to tears and at other times incited thunderous laughter. 

Finally, I miss the time-tested hymns and songs of our faith. We had no pipe organ but granny could still pound out the rhythm of How Firm a Foundation. And we sang with such gusto!  Most hymns and songs were written with poetic beauty.    Every true classic song weaved a story of salvation from sin’s pit, through daiy struggles of life and ended with a verse on heaven’s hope and splendor. 

The Old Fashioned Church isn’t entirely extinct. I co-pastor one in northeastern Oklahoma that would still identify as Old Fashioned in many ways.  But sadly, the church is moving away from  simple and personal worship which served us so well for so long. Will today’s form eventually be labeled Old Fashioned and be traded for something newer?