A genuine Third Way will get beyond the Sunday morning
sermon as the primary form of spiritual formation and education in a local
church, and neither Belcher nor Pagitt seem to approach preaching through the lens of a larger formational program with clearly defined outcomes. A genuine Third Way will form a well-rounded and adaptable formation
program that guides all sermons, all teaching, and all activities in the
church. Sermons will be seen as one part of the formational ministry of the church. In other words, Third Way preaching is rooted in the overall outcomes of the church.
If you want to read a book that will rock the pastor’s and church’s world, but which is very clear and will make all kinds of suggestions, I recommend Maryellen Weimer: Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice
. I have been suggesting for some time that the biggest shift will come in churches when they take education (especially for adults) seriously. We can tweak sermons and Sunday services all we want, but the only real substantive shift will occur when a larger vision for formation and education are shaped by outcomes.
What is most needed is a complete spiritual formation
approach to the entire church and for each person; outcomes need to be
formulated by the leaders and the church so that the whole approach is embraced.
Within the overall approach to realizing outcomes, which I would say are loving
God, loving others and a life of holiness, sermons play a role and sometimes an
important one. But serious formative changes occur when the individual and
the group participate in, activate, and integrate what is being taught. (By the way, that last sentence requires pages of discussion.) And
these formative changes take place within a set of outcomes. And, perhaps most
importantly, they take place with spiritual directors, pastors, teachers and
friends who come alongside to help a person.
The biggest issue here is not preaching; the biggest issue is the weight given to preaching in the overall mission of the local church. Emphasizing the weight of preaching is the Third Way.
All of this, of course, within the parameters of the work of
God’s Spirit through Word and Eucharist, which means respect for the
Great Tradition of the Church. There is no Third Way preaching until we get beyond the Sunday morning service as the primary form of education and formation in the church.