A young couple invited their older pastor for Sunday dinner. While they were in the kitchen preparing the meal, the minister asked their son what they were having. “Goat!” the little boy replied. “Goat?” said the pastor with a hint of surprise in his voice. “Are you sure about that?” “Yep,” answered the kid. “I heard Pa say to Ma, ‘Might as well have the old goat for dinner today as any other day.'”
I recently heard one of our elders jokingly refer to “having roast pastor” for Sunday lunch. He was talking about the habit of some churchgoers to analyze and criticize the sermon or service afterwards. He was saying that, as a kid, his dad wouldn’t allow negative comments at the Sunday lunch table. If someone started to do it (even innocently so), they were reminded, “we’re not having roast pastor” for lunch. I had never heard that before, but as you can imagine, I like that rule.
Sure, there is a time to discuss, debate, or even disagree about something the preacher says or some issue from the service. But if it happens every week, something is wrong (either with the church or your own heart). Instead, we ought to leave the gathering encouraged, built up, challenged, and renewed in our love for Christ.
This tendency is not unique to the church. We have become conditioned by the culture around us. Think about it. We live in a world that feels entitled to constantly rate and review our user experience. We give stars, thumbs, hearts, and comments to everything. Restaurants. Stores. Products. Apps. Podcasts. Posts. Tweets. We live and die by likes and loves.
I recently read about a local start-up business that had to close its doors because of the ripple effect from a few bad Yelp reviews. Maybe they deserved it. Maybe not. Either way, the customers spoke, and the business collapsed.
Capitalism and consumerism are powerful forces. What’s good for our economy, though, may not be so good for our ecclesiology. I am increasingly concerned by those who seem to go to church like they go to the movies. They show up, give a few bucks, sit back, enjoy (or don’t enjoy) the “show” and walk out thinking, “I’d give it 3 ½ stars. It was a bit too long. The atmosphere was interrupted by a crying baby. I didn’t like half the music either.” Their first impulse is to rate, review, and critique. (To be clear, we do have several Google and Facebook reviews online, but I’m not referring to anything specific.)
May I remind you, in the Sunday gathering we are not consumers. We are not shoppers. We are not customers. We are brothers and sisters in God’s family. We need to hear from our Father’s word. We need to feast around His table. We need to pick each other up. Dust each other off. Cry together. Laugh together. Pray together. We need to build each other up for a new week to live as pilgrims and strangers in our world.
Church is not about you. It’s not about me. If anything, it is supremely about Him and corporately about us. Dare I say, the people sitting in the seats are not the audience; Jesus is! The music and preaching do not happen from a stage but a platform. Church is not about individualism but community. We gather together to sing, give, pray, listen, read, and make much of Him. Is it always perfect? No. Is it always to our liking? No. But is it what we need? Yes. It is, even more than we realize.
To help us get out of this mindset, here’s a list of post-service questions to ask each week. These go beyond the “what did I like or not like” approach. Discuss these as a family. Talk about them with your spouse. Text one or two to a friend. Review them in your Monday morning quiet time. It may not be as succulent as “having roast pastor” for lunch but it will nourish you more.
What did I get from the sermon?
The sermon is one of the most important parts of our gathering. If I do my job as the Pastor-Teacher, I will both pastor and teach you through it. Peter commanded the elders “shepherd the flock of God among you.” (1 Peter 5:2). The main way I pastor or shepherd you, is by feeding you God’s word in the sermon.
Each week, ask yourself: what truth challenged me? What did I learn about God? What areas of my life do I need to change or adjust? Are there sins to repent of? What Bible dots were connected that now help me read Scripture better?
What did I learn from Sunday School?
If I may say so, our main worship gatherings are a terrible place to build deep, meaningful relationships. There’s no time. There’s limited opportunity. At FBC, the best place to do that is in Sunday School.
In most of our Sunday School classes, you will learn the Bible. But if you pay close attention, you will learn much more. You will learn about people. While you’re sitting in class, listen as others share, pray, or speak. You will soon learn about their needs, burdens, questions, and struggles. You will learn about the family of God.
Who did I meet?
Church is not a social club. But it should include socializing. It should include handshakes, hugs, high-fives, smiles, and pats on the back. (Until the flu season is over, maybe more smiles than handshakes.) Acts 2:42 reminds us that the early church “devoted themselves” to fellowship. That includes friendship, talking, and comforting.
A person sitting by themselves on Sunday morning should constitute an emergency. A person who walks in and out with no one speaking to them should be a big problem. We should aim to meet, greet, and look for others. Instead of sitting back and waiting for people to come to you, why not go meet someone? Introduce yourself.
Who did I encourage or build up today?
In 1 Cor 14:26, Paul writes, “when you assemble (for church), each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”
We can debate the meaning of “revelation” and “tongue” in that text, but what I want you to notice is the last sentence. “Let all things (when you assemble) be done for edification.” The goal of our Sunday gathering is not primarily evangelism, but edification (though evangelism should happen.) The goal of Sunday worship is not reaching people, as much as it is building up one another. I can guarantee this: there is nobody sitting around you, right now, who is overencouraged. So, lift someone up.
Instead of a “rate and review” approach to church, let’s strive for a “reflect and renew” mindset and see what God does in our minds and in our midst.