The September 2008 issue just arrived. On page 5, Gregory Alan Tidwell writes a column on content analysis, making the point that you can tell a lot about anyone by looking at the topics they discuss. And it’s true.
A simple exercise is to list all the church activities mentioned in a congregational bulletin. When times of worship and Bible study begin to be crowded out by things that are not worship or Bible study, a disturbing trend is uncovered.
Hmm … why would worship and Bible study be the only proper subjects of a church bulletin? Is that all a church is supposed to be about?
Well, I thought I’d check out my own church’s bulletin and see how we measure up. I sure wouldn’t want any disturbing trends at my church!
Last Sunday, our bulletin had 12 pages (small pages). The cover is just the cover, leaving 11 for content.
* One page listing prayer requests.
* One page listing the order of worship
* One page for people to turn in with comments, prayer requests, and an attendance record
* Two pages with an outline of the sermon with blanks to fill in
* One page asking for volunteers for the food book
* One page dealing with the upcoming Fall Festival
* One page asking for support for a home for the adult mentally disabled, for volunteers for our Wednesday evening meals, and reminders for upcoming community outreach events — Fall Festival, Marriage Matters, and Breakfast with Santa
* One page recruiting for the children’s ministry, announcing the marriage of a former elder, and listing the elders and ministers
* One page announcing a get together (at my house) for cradle roll parents, babies, and teachers, three trips for our High Tiders group (people older than me), recruiting for Celebrate Recovery, and giving worship and class times and guidance for visitors
* One page announcing several events for the next few months and giving attendance and contribution statistics
You know, our times of worship and Bible study are very nearly crowded entirely out of the bulletin. They’re there, but they are pretty much lost amidst all the other stuff.
Well, we sure seem to have a disturbing trend. We might even be a disturbed church. Actually, I’m a little embarrassed, because these bulletins are normally filled with solicitations for help for those outside the church — but we just finished several such events — a giveaway for international students at the University of Alabama, a school supply drive for children of those we provide with groceries and others, and rebuilding a house destroyed by fire. Or information about our missionaries.
Except, you know, helping those people this way is neither worship nor Bible study, so I suppose we’d still be suffering from a disturbing trend.
And so, judging our bulletin by the Gospel Advocate, we’re pretty disturbed. It’s true. But measure us by these verses, and see how we do –
(Heb 10:24-25) And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Do we encourage one another to love and good works? Do we try to encourage each other?
So I thought I’d see what the Bible says about being disturbing –
(Acts 4:2) They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.
(Acts 19:23) About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way.
And so it seems we’re supposed be disturbing. And so I’m glad we have a disturbing trend! I think I’ll discuss with my fellow elders how we might be even more disturbing. Maybe we’ll take the order of worship out altogether and replace it with a disturbing update from our missionaries. Or a disturbing report on hurricane relief efforts … something that disturbs.
May God produce a disturbing trend in all our churches. And may we be more disturbing every year.