Scholars and authors say the church does not often present the topic of heaven anymore, and they wonder why.
Despite the recent popularity of books revealing near-death experiences — such as Proof of Heaven, which has spent the last 27 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and 90 Minutes in Heaven which sold 5 million copies — scholars and some pastors told the CNN Belief Blog this week that churches don’t preach on heaven much anymore. Some said heaven is hardly talked about in seminaries at all, and few high-profile pastors spend much time on the subject.
“People say that the only time they hear about heaven is when they go to a funeral,” said Gary Scott Smith, author of Heaven in the American Imagination and a history professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.
Talk of heaven answers a universal question: What happens when we die, says the Rev. John Price, author of Revealing Heaven, a book offering a Christian perspective of near-death experiences. “Ever since people started dying, people have wondered, where did they go? Where are they now? Is this what happens to me?” said Price.
Price said his stories of near-death have helped people, and those who’ve had similar experiences of heaven should “shout them from the rooftops.”
“I’ve gone around to many churches to talk about this, and the venue they give me is just stuffed,” he said. “People are really hungry for it.”
“It’s a tough topic for a pastor,” said Lisa Miller, a former religion columnist for the Washington Post. “If you get too literal, you can risk sounding too silly. If you don’t talk about it, you’re evading one of the most important questions about theology and why people come to church.”
How often do you preach on heaven? What Scripture passages do you use? What themes do you present about it? What challenges do you experience in preaching on the topic? Give your insights to others in the Comment section below.