As a creative director and a coach/teacher, I am interested in both the creative product and the process by which it is achieved. This is the first in a series of posts outlining each sermon series as it is developed at Peachtree. I will post behind the scenes ideas, final creative elements, and some of the process we used in between.
The first sermon series I developed at Peachtree was based on the Summer 2012 Olympics. It ran from July 8 – August 12. The teaching team had previously decided on the theme but, mainly since it was designed to fill a summer gap, had not identified a core message. I called a meeting of the pastoral staff shortly after arriving and we tried a first draft of a creative process. The discussion was generative, yet as with any new creative team, we have a developmental journey ahead. At this point, ideas for creative application far exceed capacity. Our set of deliverable elements primarily consisted of a compelling core image with a felt-need-focused tagline and a few videos and elements in sermons. Considering it is our first series together, the primary concern at this stage of development is not creative bells and whistles, but creating team consensus on the core message.
Subject: The character of the Christian life.
Main Idea: The victory is in the training.
Series Scripture: Hebrew 12
Felt Need: Achievement and its dark counterpart perfectionism, or the feeling of inadequacy.
Take Away: A focus on the spiritual disciplines.
Overview: Our congregation is full of “A” personalities – achievers who are used to operating at a high level. At one level, Olympians are people to whom our folks can relate: athletes who have set high personal goals for and worked hard to achieve them. We have to be careful, however, to bring a prophetic word through this imagery, lest we play into pre-existing behavior and fail to enact life change. Our goal is to name the counter-culture nature of being a disciple of Jesus. So, we want to avoid creating a rah-rah atmosphere. Instead, we focus on the hard work of training. The regimen of training, not the glory of victory, marks the true life of the athlete, and the disciple.
Series copy (for the bulletin and the website):
Why do we love the Olympics?
In a world of competing demands and responsibilities, maybe we love the idea of the distraction free pursuit of a dream. The athlete’s singular focus is a form of purity.
Yet the Olympian reminds us that purpose comes not at race’s end. Away from the laurel wreath, victory comes in the training.
So, the athlete trains, and finds joy in the regimen. Citius, Altius, Fortius—Faster, Higher, Stronger.
Our faith life could use such purity. What does it look like to train our faith? Explore what it means to focus, to fail and start again, and to look to Jesus as we run our race with endurance.
Gold. Achieve the faith life you’ve always wanted.
Week 1. The Victory is in the Training.
Scripture: Hebrews 12; also possibly 1 Timothy 4:8
Metaphor: The Olympic athlete
Main Idea: The winning athlete focuses on a lifestyle of training rather than preparation for a single competitive victory. Similarly, the believer does well to focus on a life of training and spiritual development through a regimen of spiritual disciplines, rather than a momentary rush toward God in a time of need or crisis.
Take Away: Introduce the spiritual disciplines
Week 2. Training.
Scripture: Hebrews 4:12
Main Idea: Scripture is a two-edged sword. Rather than a sword that injures or kills, though, an encounter with scripture allows God to work on us. It is a sword that heals and strengthens.
Take Away: Focus on the discipline of scripture and study
Week 3. Team.
Scripture: Hebrews 11-12 (the cloud of witnesses)
Main Idea: A relay athlete depends on the fitness and well-being of an entire team. If one player goes down, the entire team loses.
Take Away: Focus on the discipline of community.
Week 4. Depletion.
Scripture: 1 Kings 19:1-13
Metaphor: Marathon Running
Main Idea: Utter exhaustion and the euphoria of a runner’s high are the foci of training for long distance runners. The spiritual life also has such extremes. How do we train for these moments?
Take Away: Focus on the discipline of solitude.
Week 5. Coaching.
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Main Idea: Great boxers have great trainers, coaches who provide healthy doses of accountability, encouragement, challenge and support.
Take Away: Focus on the discipline of guidance and mentorship.
Week 6. Submission.
Scripture: Genesis 32:22-31
Main Idea: Honest engagement with God on matter of deep importance is a wrestling match that forces us to joyful submission.
Take Away: Focus on the spiritual discipline of prayer.