How would most church members describe the announcement portion of their church’s worship service?
Too often, churches treat announcements in three main ways.
First is the news update. The bare facts are presented with little to no emotion or biblical context. Consequently, the spiritual weight of what congregants can participate in isn’t communicated fully or at all.
The second treatment is the salesman/telethon manner of repeated pleas for assistance or attendance over a multi-week period. Social incentives such as “It’s a great way to get involved and feel a part of something,” or “This is an excellent way to meet people,” or “This is going to be a fun opportunity” are oft-repeated. With this method, joyful and Christlike volunteerism is replaced by communal or emotional enticements.
The third treatment is the presentation as a commercial. Whether live or pre-recorded, the announcements are given in an entertaining fashion so the congregation pays attention and “buys” what’s being sold—as either worth their time or a financial donation. Churches may also use slick production techniques as an attention-grabber.
The problem with these delivery styles is that the stated motivations don’t match the glory and weight of what the congregation is being asked to participate in. The magnificent blessing of the event or service opportunity is masked by the mediocre delivery system. Churches shouldn’t take an event intended to display the truth of God and serve it on a platter of mediocrity.
We can do better.
A DIFFERENT APPROACH
Shortly, after he began pastoring a new church, David Prince—professor of preaching and pastoral ministry at Southern Seminary—was discussing with his fellow church leaders their upcoming vacation Bible school event. They expressed a desire to cancel VBS, noting the difficulty of attracting children and recruiting volunteers. Though the congregation used to staff the event sufficiently, numbers had dwindled in recent years. Prince said that if he made the announcement, he could guarantee their biggest VBS in years. The staff protested with their doubts, but he asserted if he made the announcement they would have plenty of volunteers.
On Sunday, Prince began the announcement by pointing out all of the children he saw while driving to church. He then said, “I know something about every single one of those children, including my own: Satan hates them and wants to destroy their lives and souls.” VBS is not something to keep the kids busy in the summer. It is missions and spiritual warfare. “At what other time,” he asked, “do lost people call our church and ask when an event is taking place so they can send their children to us?”
Prince concluded by observing how often we complain about the culture and its devastatingly harmful influences on children. He then asked, “What are we going to do about it?” VBS exists because of the gospel—the only hope for children to be saved and transformed in a lost world. He then asked the church to join in the fight for these young souls and their families.
Sure enough, the church had more volunteers that summer than positions available—and the largest VBS attendance the church had ever seen.
Prince elevated an announcement from a mere informational plea to a theologically constructed call-to-action. His basic framework elicited a biblical response.
First, he framed the issue biblically. He stated the truth about the world’s condition by discussing the presence of Satan—the enemy of goodness in God’s creation. He spoke of Satan’s goal of destroying children’s earthly existences and eternal hope. This directness mirrors biblical language describing our adversary, who prowls like a lion “seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). In addition, Prince’s mention of harmful cultural influence alludes to the world’s destructive lusts (1 John 2:16–17).
Second, Prince called on the congregation to act—not because of self-interest, but because young lives are at stake. He made a plea for children to be “saved” from this dire situation. In one announcement, he incorporated theological truth from the doctrines of Satan, sin, man, and Scripture.
The same framework can be used for every announcement. Begin by providing a clear picture of reality that includes the biblical reason for the situation. Next, declare what is at stake. Explain what happens if action is taken or inaction occurs. Finally, summon the congregation to action for the sake of pleasing God, serving others, and magnifying Christ.
In theologically-rooted announcements, doctrine takes the place of marketing techniques, guilt trips, or social inducements. This form of announcements also elevates an event or service opportunity from a moment of seeming ordinariness to a joyous practical application of the truth in a pastor’s sermons. Finally, they call the Church, saved by Selflessness, to participate in church life for selfless reasons, not out of self-interest.
Article was originally published by The Gospel Coalition.