Preaching and the Expectation to be Fed: Moving Past Self-Feeding to the Heart of the Issue

Once upon a time, there was a land filled with banquet halls. Each banquet hall was different, but one thing they all had in common was that the manager of each hall would invite all the people in the area to come to a banquet each weekend.

“Everyone should attend a banquet each week,” the managers would say. “People are starving out there and they don’t even know it. Invite them to our banquet hall so they can be fed.”

Eventually, some people began to abandon banquet halls, not because they didn’t want to eat, but because they discovered other ways to get a good meal.

The managers would say, “There’s so much more to the banquet hall than just the weekend meal, though. It’s not about whether or not you get fed each weekend. It’s about living and eating healthy all the time.”

And then the former banquet goers replied, “If the banquet hall isn’t all about the meal each weekend, why do you only seem to talk about the weekend menu? Why is the whole banquet hall organized around the meal?”

People will expect to be fed as long as we continue to make dinner the main focus.

——-

We have chosen a specific model for “doing church.” Our weekly rhythm, our staffing, our facilities, our communication materials, and our programs all sound a single message: the sermon is what matters most.

We promote our next sermon series as the reason for people to come back or the reason for our regular attenders to invite friends. We place a unique sermon series graphic on the cover of the weekend bulletin and project it onto the large screens in our sanctuaries. We devote more than 50% of our weekend services to the sermon. Many times, the songs we sing are selected because of their connection to the sermon.

And then, we seem surprised when people choose a church based on the quality of the preaching. “People need to feed themselves!” That’s true. They do. But we shouldn’t be surprised that people expect to get something out of the sermon when we structure all of our activities around it. If we don’t expect them to get something out of it … maybe we should stop treating it as the most important thing.

If church is more about fellowship, or serving our community, or growing together spiritually in small groups (“because that’s the best environment for real growth” we say), we should structure our activities around that. Let’s shape everything we do around the thing that’s most important (if it’s not really the sermon). Or, if we think a combination of those things are necessary, then treat them all as necessary, including the sermon.

We can’t let ourselves off the hook by calling people to feed themselves when we’re providing a meal every week. Instead, let’s take the responsibility to make the meal something good, something that satisfies, something meaningful.

No matter what we do, let’s be aware of—and take responsibility for—the model we’ve chosen and everything that goes with it.

 

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Steve Finkill

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Mr. Steven Finkill — 04/07/14 12:58 pm

That's exactly what I was thinking, Joel. The sermon hasn't always been the central element of the weekly gathering of Christians throughout the centuries, but that's the model almost all of us subscribe to today. I'm not necessarily saying that the model should change, just that the expectation people have that they should "get something out of the message" comes from the fact that we've made it the central element of our gatherings.

Joel Sprenger — 04/07/14 12:28 pm

With apologies to Marshall McLuhan, whom I don't claim to understand, this article raises a 'the medium is the message' point. Something along the lines of 'by making the sermon the center of the service we are changing peoples perception of content of the medium (the sermon)'. Perhaps our concept Christianity is influence merely by making the sermon central versus for instance making the Eucharist central. Or perhaps I have no idea of what I'm talking about.

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Worship Leading Tips: 3 Questions You Must Answer in Every Worship Service

Imagine going to a new friend’s home for dinner and experiencing this:

    • your host simply opened the door and said, “Welcome! Come on in!” and then turned and walked away
    • person after person in their family walked into the room and simply started a conversation without introducing themselves
    • everyone in the host family seemed busy with tasks, but you were unsure of what you were supposed to do

You’d probably feel a little disoriented and vaguely uncomfortable. As a worship leader, you are usually the initial host for the worship service each weekend. I’m consistently astounded as I attend churches around the country that many worship leaders don’t consider these simple ways to make people feel at home in the worship service.

There are three basic questions people are subconsciously asking that you should answer within the first few minutes of worship.  They are:

    • who are you?
    • what’s going to happen?
    • why are we here?

Let’s examine these questions together.

Who are you?

Please don’t just have the band kick in and start singing the first song. I know you don’t want the service to feel like it’s focused on you, but welcoming people and introducing yourself is really a way to serve the people, to make them feel at home.

Yes, I know that many people will know who you are—the people that come regularly. But the people that are new have no idea who you are and may not even understand your role. If your church uses IMAG (stands for image magnification where a camera projects your image onto the screen), you can use this to introduce yourself. No matter how you do it, you should welcome people, tell them your name, and give them some context for your role in the service.

What’s going to happen?

Give people just a sentence or two to give them a clue as to what’s going to happen next. Many people (myself included) find it hard to engage in any experience if I don’t have some understanding of where we’re going. It’s like asking people to board a train with you when you haven’t told them where the train is going.

Something as simple as: “Join us as we sing a few songs of worship to our Creator” can be all we need to engage for the next few minutes. Just tell me what’s going to happen.

Why are we here?

This question needs to be answered for both the guest and the regular attender. The guest needs to hear from you about the “why” behind what we’re doing. Why are we singing? The regular attender needs to be reminded about the “why” as well. Otherwise, they may engage in the service only at a surface level. A surface service will never be meaningful or transformative.

Here are some sample “why” statements that can inform guests and remind regular attenders about the purpose of our gathering … and of our worship.

“As we sing together, we will be reminded of how big God is, how good God is, and how strong God is. And the best thing for us to remember today … is how close God is. He is here, with us and in us. I don’t know about you, but there are many times that I forget that. Let’s remind each other as we sing.”

“For thousands of years, followers of Jesus have spent time praising Him in song. Something happens in our hearts through music that is right and good—we are reminded of God’s goodness and His faithfulness to us—giving us renewed strength for each day.”

“We’re going to spend time singing together this morning because God is worthy of our worship. We are tempted to give our time, attention, and honor to all sorts of things, but there is only One who is truly worthy of our worship. Let’s reset our hearts toward Him as we sing together.”

This is also a chance to connect the weekly worship experience to your church’s specific strategy. (Imagine that!) You could say something like this:

“As followers of Christ, we believe that we need to engage on a regular basis in 3 key environments—a place of worship, a place of belonging, and a place of service. (I’m guessing at what your strategy might be, of course.) These three environments work together to help us experience the fullness of life that Jesus offers to us. Let’s worship God together.”

However you do it, you must answer these three questions in every worship service. Get creative!  You don’t have to answer them the same way every time, but you should answer them. When you do, you’ll make people feel at home so that they can more fully engage in the entire worship experience. And isn’t that what you really want?

 

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Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Environments >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Finkill

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Mr. Steven Finkill — 03/13/13 8:12 am

Thanks, Paul ... aka the Path Finder.

The Path Finder — 03/13/13 7:52 am

Nice article friend ...

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.