Why Great Preaching Does Not Impact the Work of #UMCGC

So far there has been excellent preaching at General Conference. I am not saying this as one might say to the preacher as they leave the sanctuary to get to lunch. There really has been great preaching here. Powerful words, images, stories and metaphors. Prophetic calls to actions and even pricking the hearts of the most dug in hearts. Even the great fire of preaching is not taking the chill off the cold spirit of compassion at GC.

Then I was reminded of this infamous study made popular by Malcolm Gladwell:

A study at Princeton Theological Seminary asked seminarians to prepare a short, extemporaneous talk on a given biblical theme, and then walk over to a nearby building to present it.

Along the way to the presentation, each student ran into a man slumped in an alley, head down, eyes closed, coughing and groaning. The question was, “who would stop and help?”

The researchers included three variables: (1) the background of the subject - whether they had entered seminary as a way of helping people or not, (2) which parable they were to prepare - several were given the Good Samaritan parable as their subject, and (3) a time context, saying either that they were running several minutes late and should hurry up, or that they were early and had some time to spare. The results were interesting.

The first two variables had no effect. Whether somebody had devoted their life in service to their fellow man, or even whether they had just been reminded of the value of altruism by preparing a speech on the Good Samaritan, had no effect on whether they stopped and helped. "The only thing that really mattered was whether the student was in a rush. Of the group that was rushed, 10% stopped to help. Of the group who knew they had a few minutes to spare, 63% stopped." In other words, all of one's attitudes and feelings are over-ridden by subtle clues in the environment, they were rushed and in a hurry.

With all the talk about the merits of the rules, we have less time. We are rushed. And we know what happens to our ability to show compassion to others when we are rushed.

Great preaching does not impact the work of GC because we rush ourselves. Or in the words of Shigera Miyamoto, "A delayed games is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad."