03 November 2010

Professional Sermon Writers and 40 Under 40

In the Monday NY Times was the obituary of Theodore C. Sorensen, the former speech writer of President Kennedy.

In the past I have imagined, comically, of course, about the implications of pre-written or ghost written sermons. I have often wondered what it would be like if pastors actually had folk on staff who wrote sermon for them. I hope folk would not appreciate them, but I am not a 100% sure on that.

I take pride in the fact that I write every sermon I preach. I feel that each piece I deliver has the marks of my interest, curiosity, love, and life all over it.

Nevertheless I have to admit was intrigued by a line in Sorensen's obituary.

He spent most of the next four years working to make his boss the president of the United States. “We traveled together to all 50 states,” Mr. Sorensen wrote in his book “Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History,” a memoir published in 2008, “most of them more than once, initially just the two of us.” There was no entourage until Kennedy won the Democratic nomination in 1960. It was not clear at the outset that he could do that, much less capture the White House.

“It was only after we had crisscrossed the country and began to build support at the grass roots, largely unrecognized in Washington, where Kennedy was dismissed as being too young, too Catholic, too little known, too inexperienced,” Mr. Sorensen said in the interview.

In those travels, Mr. Sorensen found his own voice as well as Kennedy’s. “Everything evolved during those three-plus years that we were traveling the country together,” he said. “He became a much better speaker. I became much more equipped to write speeches for him. Day after day after day after day, he’s up there on the platform speaking, and I’m sitting in the audience listening, and I find out what works and what doesn’t, what fits his style.

The last sentence in particular caught my attention. I am not advocating ghost sermon writers but what if a select group of people in a congregation was asked by the preacher to listen with critical and appreciative ears to sermons for a month of Sundays with the charged to discover what work and what doesn't, what fits the style of the particular preacher. I think that would be a worthwhile project.
40 under 40 Last night I attended a reception, as an honoree, for the Gambit's 40 under 40. I was the only pastor in the group. Folk were slightly intrigued by my presence there. My running joke every time I go into a new store or make a large purchase is to ask, 'do i get a t-shirt with this?' 99.9% of the time folk usually smile. Only one time did someone actually give me a t-shirt. I was at an auto repair shop when i asked and the lady behind the desk replied, 'did paul tell you to ask? sure, what size do you wear?' Last night the 40 of us were awarded with a fantastic write-up, picture, reception, a certificate and you guessed it: a t-shirt. I was on cloud 9, I love getting new t-shirts!

As for the significance of the award I am happy that Gambit recognized the importance of an attempt to revive the soul of one congregation in this great city. The church is coming along well but there is still much to do before we reach critical mass (250), till then we will have to keep up the drumbeat of invitation and do whatever we can to get our name out there in the minds and hearts of people. I hope after folk read the article that when someone goes to bed on a Saturday night and they roll over to their spouse or partner and say I think I'm going to church tomorrow and the spouse or partner responds but you don't know where to go they respond yes I do. I'm going to try out St. Charles Avenue Baptist.

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