What would Christianity look like in America if captured in 100 sermons by 100 different pastors across denominations?
That is the question author Scott H. Lewis is attempting to examine through his upcoming book, One Certain Sunday: A Snapshot in Time From America’s Pulpits.
Calling on pastors across the United States to contribute their sermons delivered specifically on Dec. 4 for inclusion in his book, Lewis is looking to capture a moment in the country’s spiritual life through the anthology of sermons.
“My goal is to create an interesting tapestry of American Christian ideas as expressed on one certain Sunday,” Lewis told The Christian Post in an email.
The book marks the first step toward completion of his 100 Sermons project, where he hopes to eventually gather 100 sermons preached on Dec. 4, 2011.
Though he is aware that the actual finished work might contain fewer sermons, he does not mind. He simply wants to shine a light on the nation’s spiritual life through the variety of sermons preached.
Dec. 4 was chosen as the designated day for no reason in particular besides the fact that it did not coincide with any Christian holiday or national special event. He was interested in what was being preached on a “normal” Sunday, not in special Easter or Lent sermons.
The idea for his project was sparked by a piece featured in Life magazine decades ago, Lewis explained, where the publication sent photographers out across the country to take photos on the same ordinary day. What resulted was “A Day in the Life of America,” an impressive photo essay which showed the diversity of the American people and their different lifestyles.
“I thought that if we could draw attention to the diversity of sermons delivered on a certain Sunday –different styles and topics, across denominations, from churches rich and poor, mega- and mini-, rural and urban – it might say something interesting,” the American public relations executive shared. “It certainly would be a ‘poll’ of what messages ministers felt important on the same day.”
Additionally, the author, who currently resides in Ukraine, aims to bring attention to the pastors who worked hard to write thought-provoking, insightful and moving sermons which were “worth more than the fleeting attention they [received] on any given Sunday.”
“An effective sermon is an art form – part literary and part dramatic,” Lewis detailed. As a prolific writer, he had never realized that sermon writing was another form of writing until he read the book Craddock on the Craft of Preaching, which opened his eyes to the richness of sermons. “A good sermon is literature, the product of inspiration and craftsmanship and creativity.”
“Here was a form of written storytelling that was practiced by thousands of men and women across the country, but ... received very little attention outside the congregation to which it was delivered. It was read aloud one or two times, [and] then lost to the vapors of time. What a waste!”
Wanting to share the literary talent of the pastors with a wider audience and prolong the lifespan and effects of each sermon delivered, Lewis created his 100 Sermons project.
“Most ministers are humble people who believe that their sermons are good, but not worth publishing,” he said in a statement. “That’s what makes this project so exciting. We really want to hear the messages that these salt-of-the-Earth preachers deliver. They represent the fabric of Christianity as well as their better-known colleagues.”
“Not every sermon will appeal to every taste, and some may arouse strong disagreement,” he noted. “Others, though, could expose us to thoughts and insights that, though not of our particular denomination, strengthen our faith, enrich our understanding, or challenge our preconceptions.”
Though a few pastors have shown interest in the idea so far, Lewis believes that it will be hard to get some pastors involved in the project.
“Megachuches with active TV and radio ministries won’t participate for contractual reasons,” he shared, while everyday pastors do not want to get involved because they do not see what they did as “special or even especially noteworthy.”
He thinks they are wrong of course, seeing “everyday pastors” as modest, hardworking people, who hid their “homiletic light under the proverbial bushel.”
“I’d hope that [our] stories in the media might coax them out,” Lewis expressed.
Pastors whose sermons are included in the book will receive credit for their work and will also be asked to provide brief information about their church and background.
“Participation in the book project will bring your ministry to readers across the nation – and beyond,” he concluded.
Ralph, Harland & Co., a small press publisher, will publish One Certain Sunday. Lewis, the author, has lived and worked in Kyiv, Ukraine, since 2000. He has authored three books, including The Kindness Cure: 52 Weeks to a More Fulfilling Life.