The Kobayashi Maru of Sunday Sermons

courageous communicators
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Are you a Star Trek fan? If not, perhaps you’re not familiar with the term Kobayashi Maru.

The Kobayashi Maru is a training exercise in the fictional Start Trek universe designed to test the character of Starfleet Academy cadets in a no-win scenario.

What does that have to do with Sunday sermons?

I admire and respect senior pastors and teaching pastors who carry the weight of communicating to such a diverse crowd on Sunday mornings.

It doesn’t really matter if it’s 80 people, 800 people or 8,000.

It’s nearly impossible to teach in such a way to reach the entire congregation right where they live.

Consider this list:

  1. The generational differences
  2. The cultural and ethnic diversity
  3. The varying levels of spiritual maturity
  4. The theological differences
  5. The individual life situations

This can feel like a no-win situation, but courageous communicators go for it every Sunday and make it work.

But there is ONE factor that in my observation appears like the un-winnable situation.

For more than 30 years I’ve heard this phrase from church attendees all over the country: “The sermon isn’t deep enough.”

The right amount of “depth” is the Kobayashi Maru of any Sunday morning sermon.  

  • Too deep for who?
  • Not deep enough for who?
  • What is “deep?”
  • What is the purpose of depth?

These questions are part of the Kobayashi Maru scenario.

4 ways to beat the Kobayashi Maru, without cheating!

1) Pick a lane and stay in it.

You can’t let 80 or 800 or 8,000 people vote on this. You’ll go crazy trying to make everyone happy. And yet people have a right to their own opinions.

The communication lane you choose will entirely define the ministry of your church.

What is your aim?

Do you aim toward the evangelistic side? Do you want to lean more toward those that are far from God? That may contain a little less depth. However, keep in mind, there is absolutely nothing shallow about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Dan Reiland
Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together.

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