“Come and listen to my story ’bout a man named Jed…”

“Here’s the story of a lovely lady…”

“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…”

“Green Acres is the place to be…”

There’s a better than average chance that, in addition to reading the four quotations above, you also sang them in your head.  For many of us, these words are inextricably linked to the tunes of the theme songs for The Beverly Hillbillies, The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island, and Green Acres.   

There was a time when the theme song served a great purpose for a television show: it provided a sweeping overview and explained the basic premise of the program.  It succinctly answered the question of the new viewer who wondered, “What’s this show all about?”  You could jump right in on Episode 6 of Season 3 and have a pretty good idea of what was going on. 

I heard a radio interview last week led by NPR reporter Neda Ulaby.  She spoke with Jeff Richmond, composer of the theme song for the NBC show 30 Rock.   They discussed the demise and decline of extended television theme songs which, like the giant panda, are an endangered species these days.  Advertisers have sought ever-increasing amounts of programming time in which to pitch their good and services.  Writers and directors want to maximize every remaining minute and second to develop and complete the arc of the storyline.  As a result, the theme song has slid way down or completely off the priority list.  Tuning in to a show for the first time can now leave you feeling rather Lost

The discussion of tv theme songs led me to wonder how visitors in our churches hear sermons and other messages.  For the unchurched, I’m sure that it can be much like watching an unfamiliar television show for the first time.  Those without a significant spiritual background or knowledge of Scripture can understandably feel lost and confused. 

Despite my best efforts, I know that I still use a lot of “insider” language in my lessons: theological terms that make perfect sense if you know The Story, but that are quite confusing or entirely meaningless if you don’t.

Preaching is always an exercise in balance on a wide variety of fronts, not the least of which is trying to meaningfully connect with the full spectrum of spiritual development among those who hear, all the way from the unchurched to longtime disciples with a need to deepen an already mature faith.  I have mostly erred in favor of meat rather than milk in an effort not to mollycoddle the immaturity of the spiritually negligent or endlessly re-pour a foundation of first principles for those who are content to hear nothing else.  In doing this, I know that I have sometimes overlooked the legitimate needs of those who would truly benefit from a periodic, wide-angle view of the Big Picture:  Who is God, what’s so great about Jesus, and what’s my life supposed to be about as a Christian?

Yesterday at the Broken Arrow church, I stepped back from two recent series on the life of David and the fruits of the Spirit to lead the congregation in one of our Christian theme songs.  The lesson was entitled “WDJD – What Did Jesus Do?”  No, I didn’t sing it, but I hope that the message provided some answers for those who may be in the early stages of their spiritual journey and wondering, “What’s this all about?”  In my overall efforts to “press on to maturity,” I hope that I never forget the value and the need for spiritual theme songs.       

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