I had only been with this congregation for a short time. A woman came to my office and wanted to visit. She sat down, looked at me and said, “I hope you don’t think we (at this church) have a lot of problems.”
“Well actually, I think people at this church do have a lot of problems,” I responded. “Every church I know anything about has people with many problems and issues because that is just people. People are broken.”
I then said to her, “I am a lot more concerned about a church that pretends they really don’t have problems.”
On Sunday mornings, preachers need to occasionally think about what might have happened the night before (Saturday night in the lives of the people to whom they are speaking.)
- The night before, one woman wondered how she would get up the nerve to go to church by herself. She feared walking into that church building and not having anyone to talk with or sit with. What if I go to church and just feel more alone?
- The night before, a mom and a dad were screaming at one another in their house, while the younger children went to their big sister’s bedroom until the yelling stopped.
- The night before, a widow thought about how lonely she was ever since her husband passed away.
- The night before, parents went to the county jail where their son was released to them after being arrested for public drunkenness.
- The night before, the young couple talked about visiting the congregation again. They did not grow up in Christian homes but they really appreciate the values of the people in this church.
- The night before, a mother hung up the telephone, hurt by the complete disrespect from her adult son. She is tired of being insulted on the telephone.
- The night before, a middle-aged man tosses and turns in bed as he worries about the cancer that has invaded his body.
- The night before, a college student had been drinking at a club and then had sex with another student. She wonders what will become of her life.
Now imagine all of these people in an assembly on a Sunday morning. Far-fetched? Hardly! Most assemblies are full of people with situations like these.
I suspect if preachers considered what was at stake on a Sunday morning, this might change the tone of some sermons.
This is no time to tinker with the Gospel.
This is no time to be casual and cool.
This is no time to treat a Sunday morning as if it were a forum for experimentation.
There is far too much at stake in our broken world. This is a time to be earnest. This is a time to pray for the Holy Spirit’s conviction and power. For a people who have been given a mission, the cause is too great to act as if we had plenty of time, resources, and opportunities. The cause and the Gospel itself ought to even inspire some sense of urgency about what we are doing.
Thinking about what went on in homes across the city Saturday night, might just make a difference in the kind of sermon you may hear on Sunday. (It might even make a difference in the one you will preach.)