Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Response

Those that have completed a seminary degree often share in common this lament: It is difficult to listen to a sermon without critiquing it. This can include either positive or negative observations. They can range from "Christ wasn't preached" to "I would have used this word instead of that". But the nature of the comments really isn't the problem. The issue at hand is that in so doing, we remove ourselves from under the teaching of the elder we are critiquing. We make the message for others, but not for ourselves.

Now, don't get me wrong, we should evaluate the truthfulness of what we hear. We should not listen uncritically, believing anything that is said. But in a faithful church, with a faithful pastor, such scrutiny should not require our every energy in worship.

As hearers in worship on Sunday we are not passive during the sermon, but instead are called to make application to our lives and should, at the conclusion of worship, be encouraged, exhorted, repentant, overjoyed, full of hope, and renewed. I have never quite felt this way when my thoughts following worship were about what the pastor did well and what he could have done better. That's not the participation that should be mine in the preaching of the word.

To this end, I am endeavoring to make this Sunday Refrain a weekly element here on the blog. Each week I want to try and record not what was done well or poorly in the sermon, but how I need to apply it. What was my challenge walking out? Why was I repentant? Why was I renewed, full of hope, and overjoyed?

So, without further ado, here is this week's offering. I'll keep it brief (since this is already a long post!).

This morning Mark Davis preached at PCPC. Following the text of Acts 2:22-41 he explained a bit about preaching; what it is meant to accomplish; how it should be done (generally); but more importantly, the desired effect when it is attended by the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those listening.

I was most moved and challenged by a brief statement that came near the end of his sermon. Mark pleaded with the congregation to communicate their needs to the pastors. He reminded us that they are our shepherds and that they really want to minister to us in this way. I was humbled by the reminder that this is what we are to be as pastors. I love the imagery of the pastor as shepherd. In fact, it is my primary model and nearly sufficient in itself for keeping me focused in ministry. Despite this, I am still caught off guard occasionally by the insights it affords and the power of the imagery. Praying for our flock is (or should be) a much cherished part of our ministry as under-shepherds.

As members of the covenant community, placed by God under the care of these elders, we (the congregation) should avail ourselves of their ministry, allowing them to labor on our behalf, not in order to increase the value of our shares in the company (whatever that looks like in your context), but to stand with us in this life, encouraging us, lifting us up before the Father, and pointing us always to Christ and the grace that is ours in Him.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Hey Matt, I totally know what you mean. I can find myself easily pulled out of worship if there are any production elements (even just a microphone for the preacher) that are not done perfectly. "Needs more highs, sounds tinny, hurts my ears, cant hear the choir over the instruments, etc". I find myself drawn more and more to worship that involves no production elements what-so-ever.