July 2nd, 2010
07:59 AM ET

Guest post: The sermon through a child's eyes

Editor's note: Logan Keck is an assistant pastor at Christ the King in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. You can hear long sermons by him and others at www.ctkboston.org or follow him onTwitter.

By Logan Keck, Special to CNN

One of my goals as a pastor is to make sure the people in the pews, no matter what their background, can relate to my sermon. It doesn’t always happen.

Above are the sermons notes taken by one of the kids in our church. The girl who wrote “Why are the sermons so long? Why? Why? Why?...” is only 8 years old, but if you ask the average church-goer what they think of their weekly service, you will probably hear a similar remark.

The truth is, what makes so many Sunday morning messages unbearable often has more to do with relevancy than length.

I am still in my rookie season when it comes to preaching, but I have quickly learned that what keeps a crowd's attention is a pastor who can explain how the Bible, an ancient book written for a Mediterranean world, matters to them in their context.

I am not talking about the corny jokes or funny introductions many preachers use as a lead-in for 30 minutes of platitudes and abstractions, but honest truth from a person who believes what they are saying and has seen how it plays out in everyday life.

For me, that means being honest enough when I preach to share the truth of my shortcomings as a husband, father and pastor and helping people understand how even now we are all greatly in need of God's grace. Of course, it helps when most of the crowd is over 8 years old.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Logan Keck.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Sermon

soundoff (248 Responses)
  1. Willy

    If there's one thing in this world I cannot stand, it's people who think that because they believe in GOD, they're better than people who don't. As it so happens, churches are generally packed full of these people. What they fail to understand is that absolutely all of the evidence we have clearly indicates that GOD is just an imaginary tool that people use to control other peoples' lives.

    July 11, 2010 at 10:26 am |
    • HeIsGod

      @ Truth – Amen, Atheists always seem to demand proof. Even if God came down to show them that He is real, they will still disbelieve.

      July 11, 2010 at 11:53 pm |
  2. Shistar

    Bravo for trying interpret another collection of stories.....

    In my experiences w/ dealing w/ Sunday morning preaching.... here are my thoughts and the thoughts of my peers and friends........ "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz"

    July 10, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Well, yeah, Shistar, even the devil can make many people fall asleep during church service. That is why many are so lost!

      July 10, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
    • Willy

      @HelsGod, you need to double check who it is that's lost and who isn't. HINT: I, as an atheist, am not lost. 😉

      July 11, 2010 at 10:30 am |
  3. David Johnson


    Toby, you understood for over 25 years and snap out of it? It seems more like you backslide and return back to the world. I know that many do it and I don't know what you went through to make a terrible decision, but honestly, if you would have understood, you would still be with the God of Abraham, His son, Jesus Christ who was crucified for your sins.

    If Toby had written he had been a Muslim for 25 years and snapped out of it, you would have praised him. No mention of a terrible decision in that case.

    You have no more proof for your beliefs than the Muslims do for theirs, than the Hindus do for theirs, than the Jews do for theirs, than the Buddhists have for theirs, than any of the other Christian denominations have for theirs.

    You would more than likely tell me you feel your god in your heart. You feel him smiling at you and dusting your room in heaven.
    All the followers of the religions feel the same way. If they didn't, they wouldn't be members.

    You don't know anymore about what happens when we die, than I do. We are just guessing.

    You are trusting in a book, that you can't prove was written by god. You have no proof of this god, other than this book. Your reasoning is circular. You are using god to prove the book. You are using the book to prove the god.

    July 10, 2010 at 10:21 am |
    • Toby

      David Johnson- That is an outstanding point from which there is absolutely no wiggle room for the believer-THANKS!

      July 10, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      LOL, David, how do you know what I feel? How do you know that the God I serve isn't the Almighty God? You have no guidance or direction in you spiritual life, you can't possibly understand what I posted for Toby, so, I will not waist must my time with an unbeliever!

      July 10, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
  4. Mark

    I'll paraphrase god by quoting Michael Scott: "I want them to love me and fear me. I want them to love me so much that they're afraid of it".

    July 9, 2010 at 3:40 pm |
  5. PillarOfSalt

    Exodus 35:2
    For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death.

    -Looks like the NFL is in big trouble!! Smite them Lord, smite them all!!!

    July 9, 2010 at 3:36 pm |
    • peace2all

      @PillarOfSalt.........I have used that example of punishment by working on the sabbath.....but, the big g....goes even further, and says that the breaking of...ANY commandments is punishable by death....

      Looks like a lot of us....including me are in trouble....G-d damn it..!


      July 10, 2010 at 2:53 am |
    • Willy

      Naaa, just smite the people who actually believe that baloney. Then the rest can live in peace. =D

      July 11, 2010 at 10:28 am |
  6. PillarOfSalt

    Lebron James wrote the bible? That guy is so cool!

    July 9, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  7. A Child of the King

    Praising the Lord for his Saving Grace. I do not practice a "RELIGION". I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a born again believer. He's saved me from this world, myself, my sins and has made me whole. My life was a major mess. I've known Jesus now for 30 years. (55 now) He has blessed me everyday since.

    If you die today to you know where you will spend eternity? Yes, everyone has a choice and you are the only one who can make that choice. Today is the day of Salvation. Repent, ask for forgiveness tell the Lord you want him in your life, if you are sincere YOU WILL KNOW HIM. I made my choice and I'm very thankful that I did. As Paul wrote – I was the chief of sinners, how could anyone love me. Now I'm a sinner saved by grace and The Lord Jesus Christ is teaching me things every day. You only need to open your mind and heart to Him.

    My home will be in heaven, He has made me a mansion there. Not a room, not a house, not a cave – a mansion – streets of gold – a crystal sea. Light all the time.

    Have you ever thought about what Hell will be like? Not a joke, not a party. It will be black with smoke from fire, tormenting and burning you night and day, wailing of others in pain for eternity. You have a mind and heart – Just think about it.

    For those of you who say you don't believe – how come when you cuss, you use my Savior's name in vain, if you don't believe, use someone elses name. Everyone has faith of somekind.

    When there is a tragedy, Why do you either hate God or ask Him for Help? See you believe something.

    Simple as – sitting in a chair – are you confident that the chair will hold you – we don't even think about that, but it is faith none-the-less.

    God Bless you All! I encourage you to read the bible. Yes, I do read the King James Version 1611 text. I look forward to seeing some of you there. Praise Him, Praise Him, Jesus our Blessed Redeemer!

    No I will not argue with anyone, I know the Truth and it has made me free.

    July 9, 2010 at 2:51 pm |
    • Toby

      A Child of the King-"Have you ever thought about what Hell will be like? Not a joke, not a party. It will be black with smoke from fire, tormenting and burning you night and day, wailing of others in pain for eternity. You have a mind and heart – Just think about it."

      This is precisely what I am talking about when I say that religion is cohersive and manipulative toward children. There is not an iota of evidence for the existence of heaven, hell, Jesus, god, or any afterlife whatsoever. But those who claim to know and be certain that there is all of this are indoctrinating innocent children with these horrors. These things simply do not exist in our natural world-they do not. If you see these things and they are real to you it is because they are a product of your mind; your imagination, if you will. Teach children what you DO know, what you CAN demonstrate. Teach children that they are beautiful in their own ways and that they have great potential to change this world for the better. If Jesus had taught these things (instead of introducing the idea of eternal torture and damnation) we would all have been much better off.

      July 9, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
    • Mark

      How can you even compare sitting in a chair to having faith an an invisible being

      July 9, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
    • Mark

      Do you know how suicide bombers are trained? They're taken as kids and taught about the glories of heaven, that if they follow Islam and kill for their god that they'll live in a land of eternal paradise with green grass and blue skies and live in mansions. But just because someone tells them that, doesn't mean it's true.

      To me, the bible is like a horoscope or fortune cookie. It only has meaning that humans assign to it, it doesn't contain any factual truth in of itself.

      You grew up in a christian environment, and that's why you chose your religion. If you grew up in roman times you would probably believe in zeus with all your heart.

      July 9, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
    • peace2all

      @ A Child of the King...... While we couldn't be anymore farther apart in our beliefs/models of reality and the future, etc....

      I must congratulate you on finding something that has brought peace to your heart and soul. Who knows....maybe you're right..? I don't think so.....but as you and we all are saying, I guess we'll find out after we die.. But, I gotta tell ya' I don't believe it......and I sure hope that you are wrong......otherwise.....I guess, according to your opinion from the bible, I will not be real happy where I will be going.....

      But again, I wish you nothing but Peace.....As....I have also found in my beliefs in my life....Hopefully we can have mutual respect for each other and wish each other well....


      July 10, 2010 at 3:19 am |
    • HeIsGod

      AMEN!!!! WONDERFUL COMMENT! We, who are no now born again Christians, have came from a messed up world that is full of hate and evil. We all need peace in our mind, heart, spirit, and soul. Without Christ, we are lost, damn to eternal hell.

      God bless you and thank you for your beautiful testimony!!!

      July 10, 2010 at 8:00 pm |
  8. shawbrooke

    Toby, please note that other parts of the child's life, like the schools, are not waiting until the child is older to get in there and coopt the child into their beliefs. Why should the church stay silent when no one else is? The child needs to know what the church thinks and believes and the church should not keep beliefs a secret from kids. it is okay to ask the child to identify with you, the parent, or you, the church. Be assured that much less healthy places are doing everything in their power to get the child to identify with them. Kids are freest when they have alternatives. The church is one of the many alternatives that kids are exposed to. When someone or group tells you that other groups should not influence children, recognize that as the conflict of interest that it is – they want others to abdicate and leave the field open to only them. Why go along with that?

    July 9, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
    • Toby

      A school isn't corrupting a child's mind when it teaches what we know about our natural world. Certainly, there have been times when science (natural and social) have been wrong about things. But science is adaptive and williing to change when hypothesis and theories no longer are valid. Religion is incapable of rejecting certain ideas that fly in the face of doctrinal positions. For example, we all know that evolution is a reliable scientific theory that no longer admits of intelligent dispute. Those who reject the idea (creationists) or want to amend the idea to show that their god is behind the whole evolutionary theory, are simply attempting to hold onto archaic ideas and beliefs because they don't coincide with what they wish to be true. This is indoctrination, not a school curriculum that teaches what the preponderance of respected science has discovered by falsification, demonstration, and peer review. I hope you can appreciate the difference here.

      July 9, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
    • peace2all

      @shawbrooke.....Also, in agreement with Toby on this one.....

      But.... I would also add to your posting....."the kids need to know what the church thinks and believes.." I kinda think that kinda is blurring the lines of the 'separation' of church and state. Whether or not the kids need to know what the church thinks and believes is also open for serious debate...but even so..... religious beliefs are about the supernatural and are very personal....so really should be a family discussion...AT HOME.

      Secondly, when you say...."the church"......I think there is an unspoken presupposition in those 2 words...meaning, and I am open to being wrong here, but I am getting that you mean YOUR CHURCH...the RIGHT ONE.......As opposed to other churches with varying beliefs.

      Thirdly, you mentioned allowing ..."alternatives".......I would hope that you mean....ALL religions represented.....Islam, Buddhism, Hindhuism, Taoism, metaphysics, scientology, etc.....?

      But the bottom-line is Toby's response to your posting is spot-on....and religion is indoctrination...any religion that tries to get pushed into our educational system....

      Peace to you.....

      July 10, 2010 at 3:32 am |
    • Toby

      Actually, the child doesn't need to know what the church thinks-he should only be told what the church can PROVE. There is a substantive difference here between what we wish to be true and what we can demonstrate to be true.

      "If a billion people believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing." -Bertrand Russell

      July 10, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
  9. soldier86

    we all should just agree to disagree. The non religious people and the religious people will find out who is right one day. Of course they will not be able to tell any of us but then we will not have to hear them argue like children. We all have the right to believe the way we want but when we try to push our believes on others it is just wrong. i grew up in a very religious family and I believed the hype. I do not believe the hype now but I do believe in God and that we should be good to others and help each other. This constant fighting about who is right and wrong gets us no where.

    July 9, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
    • Toby

      I don't feel that many non-religious people argue with the faithful because they enjoy "childish" argumentation and debate. The question of whether there is a god out there, and whose god it is, is driving our civilization toward terrifying and dangerous confrontations. Those who express no belief in the supernatural would be, I believe, content to let others believe whatever they want-however foolish it may appear to the non-believer. But when the religious attempt to shape public policy by interjecting their beliefs in the supernatural into legislation, then the voices of reason and mistrust must speak out loudly. This is not a "my dad can beat up your dad" argument-the forces of religious persuasion are actually at work to make all believers or will happily kill those who disagree. For my part, I wish to speak out against horrible, unprovable, untestable, unfalsifiable dogma.

      July 9, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
  10. shawbrooke

    What works also is straight teaching from a Biblical text. People know remarkably little about the Bible. It's also useful for pastors to point out the nuances that translations from older and more reliable texts have compared to the erroneous meanings that some people take from some translations (like the word "meek"). Pastors must remember that something that is personal to them might be experienced as "too much information" by many in the pews. That's particularly true if the speaker talks about someone else, such as his/her kids. Relevancy is great, but it's difficult to be authentically relevant unless the level of knowledge of those in the pews has been recently confirmed. Provide some meat with the dessert.

    July 9, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
    • Mark

      That's very true, a lot of people don't read the bible and don't know what's in there. I have a religious friend at work and I blew his mind when I pointed out the bible starts out with two mutually exclusive creation stories that can't both be true.

      July 9, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  11. Toby

    Sorry about that. I think that children should be left alone from these ideas until they reach an age where they can clearly reason and think for themselves. To have a child proclaim that he/she believes these ideas is simply a parroting trick brought on by years of indoctrination. Further, to tell a child that non-belief in these ideas will earn him eternity in the horrors of hell is all the insurance you need that he will at least proclaim to believe. I think there are many, many believers out there who have never actually examined WHY they claim to believe these things. If they did, many (perhaps not all) might recognize that it all had its origin in early childhood fears. Anyway, that's my take on it.

    July 9, 2010 at 12:24 pm |
    • Mark

      That's pretty much the story of my life. I remember my first-grade teacher telling me every sin I make will put a permanent black spot on my heart, and god looks at my heart when I die and if there are too many black spots then I go to hell.

      The funny part is it's generally accepted that Jesus was Jewish, and Jews don't believe in hell.

      July 9, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
    • jersey

      Jesus was Jewish, and believed and taught a lot of things His fellow Jews didn't believe. that's part of the reason they hated Him so much.

      July 10, 2010 at 11:46 am |
    • David Johnson


      "Jesus was Jewish, and believed and taught a lot of things His fellow Jews didn't believe. that's part of the reason they hated Him so much."

      Jesus was Jewish and the reason the Jews demanded his death, was because he claimed to be the Messiah. Jesus didn't accomplish the things the Messiah was supposed to accomplish. The Christians believe Jesus will accomplish the undone tasks during his second coming. The Jews say the true Messiah will perform all the tasks the first time.

      July 10, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  12. Toby

    I think that

    July 9, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
  13. Brad

    Many on this page have commented that the teaching on hell is nothing more than a scare tactic. They're not far off. The Swiss psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg established six stages of moral development. At Kohlberg's lowest stage, we have something like this: the poorest reason for doing the right thing is fear of being punished if we don't do the right thing.
    A pretty big chunk of humanity operates at that low level. As for the actual existence of hell, well, as a Catholic I've been taught that hell exists, but that no particular person is in there. Said another way: the mercy of God is bigger than our sins.

    July 9, 2010 at 10:16 am |
  14. Sybaris

    Religion, any religion, should be given an X rating. At least there would be something that attempts to keep children from being influenced before they have the ability to exercise critical thinking.

    July 9, 2010 at 9:07 am |
  15. John Q. Public

    Gotta start the brainwashing when they're young.... That way they'll always have blind faith to believe any fairy tales you throw at them..... "if you don't believe in god Santa won't come" or "if you don't believe in god you will go to a bad place and burn forever" I'm so glad I didnt have to grow up with that crap...

    July 9, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  16. Jim

    Churches, Mosques, Synagogues and Temples have always served money and power over others through fear rather than serving God as they claim to do. God doesn't need anything from us. God is not a person with all our ego driven flaws and insecurities. God is all that there is, both seen and unseen. God is within everything that has been or ever will be created.

    If there is an "Original Sin" it is the mistaken belief that God, or whatever you want to call "the force, eternal life or source of creation" is somehow sitting separate from us, somewhere out there in some place. No one needs to pay for any organized religion to connect with God for you. God doesn't have an ego, humans do.

    It's time for people to cut off the parasite businesses selling salvation for your money in the basket. It is time to tax them all. Find God within yourself, within others and within all of creation. When you realize you are not separate from the whole your life will automatically change. You will not fear or hate diversity and in that there is love and salvation.

    July 9, 2010 at 2:03 am |
    • David Johnson

      Amen Jim! Tax 'em till we pay off the deficit! Then tax 'em again!

      July 10, 2010 at 10:33 am |
  17. Wayne

    Terry: Despite what your saintly grandmother believed, there was no Bible when Jesus lived, especially not the King James Version. All of the books of the Bible, including those books that The Church deliberately refused to include in The Bible, were written 100 years or more after Jesus death. They were also written in several languages but mostly ancient Hebrew. The King James Version is an interpretation of what the Bible says that was done many hundreds of years after those books were written. I suspect the King James Version, like other versions, was slanted, maybe deliberately, maybe not, to reflect the beliefs of those people who did the interpretation. They also may not have had a clear understanding of some words or terms as they were meant at the time of the writing of the books. Interpreting long dead languages is a lot like interpreting slang, which changes it's meaning from generation to generation. Who's to say that some of those books that The Church left out of the collection that became The Bible were not more truthful and correct than some of the books that were included in The Bible. And last but not least, all of the books that were included in The Bible, and all of the books that were not included in The Bible, were written by the hand of man, some of who had direct connections to Jesus and some of whom probably worked from legends handed down for generations after his death.
    I'm not a scholar or a practicing christian, though I was raised as a Southern Baptist. I am inquisitive, I read a lot, I research and check everything I can. I do believe in God and try to live a good life as I think you'll be judged on how you live and what you do. I don't think religion is a hoax or magic but I think many people abuse the power of religion over others. I don't think the gaudy mega churches are any closer to God than the little old country church and maybe they're even further from God than the little old country church.

    July 8, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
  18. carl

    Mark not all people are Gods children for one thing and they will not be with Jesus in heaven cause he will not just take anyone, you have to beleive in him. You have free will to accept Jesus and be saved but you chose not to, If you read the bible and study then you would know Him but you rather say there is not a God. I know everyhing just happen one day and we are here. what will you do if there is a God and he says sorry mark i do not know you go away. If i came to you house would you let me live with you without you knowing me. If you never give yourself to Jesus then hell awaits you even if you thing he is not real. What if you are wrong in your thinking you will not have a chance to change your mind. But see i believe cause I have the holy spirit in me so i know there is a God but you will die and be blotted out, not burn but gone for ever. Look around you have a nice life cause God is good to you now but you just ignore him. I hope you find Jesus and you will maybe but it might be on your death bed and then what a sorry life you have had cause you could have rewards up in heaven. before saying bad things about the bible and God read it (understand what the words mean. You could die any time

    July 8, 2010 at 9:42 pm |
    • Mark

      "Not all people are god's children"....WOW that's a bold statement for someone who supposedly follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. I was a believer for 20 years dude and I don't think you're reading the same bible I did.

      July 9, 2010 at 9:50 am |
    • Mark

      Also, and this was taught to me by my high school theology teacher, the "sheep and the goats" parable is what lays out how you get into heaven. "Did you clothe me when I was sick, did you feed me when I was hungry, whatever you did to the least amoung you, you did unto me". Even if I believed in god, I would say getting into heaven depends on how you treat others in your life, not whether or not you believe in the right god. After all, it isn't really fair if kids go to hell by default if their parents indoctrinate them into the wrong religion.

      July 9, 2010 at 10:17 am |
    • David Johnson

      Sounds a little like you are a Calvanist? Heavy on the predestination are we? Just curious.

      July 10, 2010 at 10:38 am |
  19. TheRationale

    Kids are either too young to know better or don't believe any of this nonsense until you scare them with Hell or punish them for doubting.

    July 8, 2010 at 8:52 pm |
  20. Mark

    Scriptures say a lot of things. Like if your crops aren't doing good, you need to make animal sacrifices. Do you really believe everything scriptures say?

    July 8, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
    • Brad

      I don't believe everything in the Bible literally. And the Catholic church has never asked me to.
      I think that old "fairy tails", myths, legends are very significant whether found in the Bible or elsewhere. Seems to me that in their time, they were a sign of progress. At some point during its evolution, man stood up and asked "who am I" and "what is my place in the universe?" I see those old stories as man's early attempt to answer those questions. We're still trying today, only using microscopes, equations, and sometimes a psychiatrist's couch.

      July 9, 2010 at 9:59 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.