Criss-Crossing the Lug Nuts: A Balanced Approach to Moralistic vs. Christocentric Preaching
- April 29, 2023
- Steve Macias
At the gym we go to, the workouts are categorized into Endurance (longer cardio, more but lighter reps), Power (short bursts like sprints and plyometric exercises), and Strength (inclined runs, heavier weights). This categorization adds variety to our routine and gives some muscles rest days while cycling through different parts of the body. Some days are ESP and combine a bit of each.
I use a similar approach in my classroom teaching. New material is introduced on strength days (chunks of new reading, example problems worked together, new visuals or songs). Review days are like endurance days, when students quickly recall materials they can “already lift.” And then I test them for “power” by having them perform speed drills, recall memorized material, and take timed tests.
Now, I’m thinking of incorporating this approach into my chapel teaching routine, not just on technique but also on content. I challenge their endurance with the longest chapel talks on the west coast, but I’m considering addressing the perennial preaching struggle regarding moralistic vs. Christocentric preaching.
I like the idea of preaching a balanced set of emphases, like the criss-cross pattern of tightening lug nuts. I currently preach six days a week, with Sundays attached to the lectionary and limited in overlap to my five other sermons. One of these sermons is for the whole school plus parents, providing an opportunity to review the week and share with parents for edifying conversations, demonstrating value/orthodoxy to school parents, or even evangelism. The other four sermons are for lower and upper school.
Sometimes, my teaching is topical, often informed by the calendar, such as Lent or Christmas. Other times, I work through a book in a chapel series. Currently, I’m planning for the Fall and want to emphasize three areas: Christian character education (What/How does a Christian obey), Christian worldview (What/How does a Christian believe), and Christian worship (What/How does a Christian love).
For Christian character education, I’ll emphasize service, character traits, manners, and spiritual formation, as well as self-regulation. For Christian worldview, I’ll use Bible memory, expository lessons, and catechism work, as well as self-assessment. And for Christian worship, I’ll teach hymns, psalms, and postures of prayer, use biblical and historical examples/narratives about compassion and empathy, emphasize confession through prayer and journaling, and promote self-awareness.
In a foggy mental model, I imagine some sort of cycle of Believe, Obey, Love days for Chapel. A Believe day would introduce content such as a section of scripture, a catechism question, or a sermon. An Obey day would introduce character lessons, life skills, habit formation, or practical advice, similar to Adventures in Odyssey or the ATI Character Sketches. And a Love day would incorporate music, ritual, or silence, inviting students to write down thoughts, share prayer, or lead a song.