In a recent article, I suggested that people sometimes feel like they aren’t fed in church because it is like raw, bloodied meat, substantial but unappetising. Others feel unfed because the meal is all sauce and no meat. So I thought I’d double down on that imagery!
I want to suggest to you that whilst the preacher, pastor or elder plays a huge part in ensuring that the meal is prepared, it is not just down to them. My food analogy was that the raw bloodied meat was like solid doctrine without an accompanying culture of love and grace.
Now, the preacher themselves can work on making the meal more attractive. I’m not one for wall to wall anecdotes but humour, warmth and story telling have their part to play. The preacher should not be dry and devoid of emotion or expression. Furthermore, pastors and elders should be modelling by their own example what it means to be loving, welcoming, given to hospitality. However, others have their part to paly in ensuring that the table is laid out beautifully, the meat is cooked to perfection and that the sauce is delicious too.
First of all, think about those responsible for the whole service. Now, in my case whilst there are going to be some stories to illustrate and maybe even some attempts at humour, I am not a story teller or comedian. I’m there to proclaim what Scripture says. So, people can expect a straight down the line, fairly intensive preach for about 30 minutes. Given that this is what I’m preparing for, I have two bug bears.
- When someone leads the service and they clearly have no idea where things are going and so the first part of the service is completely out of tune with what is coming up
- When the person leading has got hold of the topic and decided that they are going to preach their own mini sermon to set things up.
Leading a service where expository preaching is coming up is really quite simple. Pick lots of great songs with a relevant theme, pray, get others to pray, read Scripture. Don’t over complicate things, don’t front load with talk because this will create an intellectual feel and it will be harder for the preacher then to speak to hearts.
However, the sauce is about much more than what is happening up front. It is no good us sending a message from the front that we are loving, welcoming and joyful if the whole congregation including its leaders send out the message by how they interact that they are not joyful, welcoming or loving. So every church member has a part to play in preparing this delicious meal. Are we naturally welcoming? Do we talk to new people? Are we showing a genuine interest in each others’ lives.? Are there meaningful relationships in the week between Sundays?
Others will pick on these things and will get a feel for whether or not the church is a loving, joyful family. This will help them to decide whether or not the spiritual food on offer is appetising.