“Getting on your soapbox” is not exactly a term of endearment. Most of us at some time or another have been accosted by the sound of a bull-horned voice erupting from atop on a wooden box proclaiming a pending apocalypse. The message is usually religious or political in nature.
Once upon a time, however, we relied upon these impromptu platforms. Without public address systems, phone lines, and the internet, we relied on the impact of a skilled orator and a wooden box on a busy downtown intersection. Churches civilized things a bit by designating a special person (clergy) and even a special place (a pulpit). Like the conductor of an orchestra, we read from the shared script (the Bible) and the conductor assures us we interpreted the score (text) as the composer (author) intended.
Times have changed, however, and our relationships with authority figures have changed. Authority figures held power based on information and special training in interpreting the information. Lawyers interpreted law, doctors interpreted maladies, bankers interpreted numbers, and clergy interpreted sacred texts. But, no longer. We purchase legal forms online. We seek second opinions and alternative medicine. We manage our own retirement accounts. We interpret the Bible on our own and even ask friends to marry and bury us.
We still need “trained professionals,” mind you. I certainly want an “expert” to perform my heart surgery, should I ever need it. But, we need something different from these “trained professionals.” We need these trained professionals to convene “communities of interpretation.” Put another way, we need more soapboxes.
Churches now have a unique opportunity to become “communities of interpretation,” where the Bible and the world can be interpreted as a community, not simply by the “professionals.” In this type of church, soapboxes are brought inside and multiple voices can be heard as an expression of Christian faithfulness. In this setting, creedal confessions of faith can still be useful and honored. Though Christian identity is not defined by what we assent to verbally, but how we live together. How we live together becomes the objective and the measure of our faith.
It is in this spirit that we offer Soapbox Sundays. Earlier this year, we beta-tested the idea by inviting almost a dozen people to choose and share about a “Beatitude” from the Sermon on the Mount. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
Each Sunday this August will be a Soapbox Sunday. You (yes, you) are encouraged to share for 8-12 minutes on a topic and Bible passage of your choice. Share a story from your life, make an argument for something you are passionate about, offer a response to a passage which inspires you or irritates you, or tell us about your long wonderful or harrowing history with the God and church.
A disclaimer: by the end of the month, you will be offended by something someone says or the way they say it. Count on it and welcome it. During these trying times, I can think of few more meaningful things for us to do than to celebrate one another by encountering our uniqueness as individuals in the caring context of our Sunday morning time together. At First Baptist Church, “getting on your soapbox” will be a term of endearment reserved for those willing to get up and get real.
If you are interested in giving a Soapbox Sermon, email Sean (email@example.com).