To begin with, I want to assert that celebration is a good thing, but can too much of a good thing become a bad thing? I answer emphatically, yes!!! Celebration is the portion of the sermon in which the preacher engages the congregation in an internalization and experience with the gospel as presented in the sermon. Celebration is necessary because it conveys that there must be singing when we experience the timeless truth of God’s way. In addition, it appeals to what homiliticians call the intuitive domain of consciousness, which is where our core beliefs are stored. Celebration can transpire in a multitude of ways but it often occurs as a whoop.
How We Can Take Celebration Too Far
While I understand the necessity of celebration, and admittedly, I am a fan of it, I must say that celebration can be taken too far. When is Celebration taken too far?
- When People are led to forget the message and remember the messenger – How preposterous is that, who remembers the mail carrier and forgets the package?
- Whenever we as ministers abandon the Gospel claim in an effort to attach some arbitrary lyric to a song or un-warranted trip to Calvary. – Yes, Jesus’ death is important, but it is not proclaimed in every periscope of the scripture so going to Golgotha can in fact be a distraction and detract from a message. Often this urge to go to the cross comes from an inner ego driven desire to get a rise from people.
- Whenever we begin to cater to the crowd. – Celebration is invigorating and thus it ignites the congregation when done well, however, the stewardship of our gifts as preachers is what separates us from entertainers. Our aim is for people to leave talking about God, not what the preacher did. We are not the main attraction or the culmination of a worship experience God is. We are not entertainers or athletes. (If getting people to scream your name in adoration is your kick try another field and don’t call what you’re doing to rile up the saints preaching. Call your “preaching” religious entertainment, but have some integrity do not call it preaching.)We are not performing for the applause of the audience but rather for the hand clap of the Almighty, and this calls for us to be vulnerable. This vulnerability demands we take risks which may culminate in leaving the pulpit and walking through the congregation, or it may call for us to abandon our trademark slogans, gimmicks, and antics such as walking on pews.”
Celebration with Integrity
By no means am I suggesting that we should stop celebrating. I know I plan to keep on celebrating, but I will do so with integrity and intentionality! Let us remember that to be vulnerable to the Spirit is both the essence of celebrative preaching and the key to the Holy Spirit’s presence in our preaching. Above all, let us remember that on our best day we are no more than the packaging around a wonderful gift. Let us not let what should be an impetus to want the gift become a hindrance to receiving the gift. After all, when celebration is overdone the focus is shifted from a great and enormous God to an egocentric preacher.