When I went to Korea the first time, I got up early to pray.  I went outside my son’s apartment and saw all the people hurrying to church.  I knew that was where they were headed because they had their Bibles and hymn books with them. I woke up my son and asked if I could go to church.  “Sure,” he said, through his sleepy-induced fog.

I quickly changed from my casual clothes and followed the stragglers to a small Presbyterian church.  Later, that day my son’s roommate asked if I’d gone to an English-speaking church.  “No, I wanted to attend a Korean church.”

“How did you understand the sermon?” he asked.

“Oh, I didn’t need to actually understand the sermon.  I’d probably heard that sermon a hundred times.”  My son laughed but the other people in the room looked puzzled at my remark.

By the time I visited Korea in the 1970’s I’d been to so many church services that I felt I’d heard every sermon on earth.  That didn’t mean that I was bored with church, just familiar with the form and function of the sermon. 

At Special Gathering, we have developed a pattern for our sermons.  The main variation from the “typical” sermon is that we have found that for our members who are mentally challenged three points are overkill.  Therefore, we use only one point, rather than three.  When I was cutting my teeth on sermons, the adage was that a sermon must have three points and a poem.  Not much has changed in the three-point requirement, even though the poem has fallen prey to the warm-fuzzy-make-them-laugh-make-them-cry antidote. 

There are two mistakes that people make that are deadly with our members.  First, they believe that our members are forever children and cannot learn.  Therefore, they placate them with a warm milk message that is pink, placid and pathetic.  The other mistake is the opposite.  They approach our members with the same attitude that they would attack any other congregation.  Regarding our need to hear the gospel, the mentally challenged community is the same as any other congregation.  In our ability to absorb, we are different.

Therefore, the one-point sermon is a vital necessity.  There is also a need to keep our sermons shorter than some pastors may want to teach or preach.  Fifteen minutes are the maximum amount of time that you will hold the attention of our members. 

Some pastors use an interactive approach with their teaching to keep the attention of our members.  Using this approach, their sermons may be longer out of necessity.  Allowing our members to enter into the discussion of the Scriptures is good and necessary.  However, we feel that interactivity is better left to the Bible study classes which reexamine the Bible lesson with a smaller group.

As seasoned preacher will attest, sticking with one point is often harder than it appears.  However, effective ministry to our population demands that a practitioner continually learn to simplify, simplify, simplify.

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