The moments after Sunday morning service often involve determining where to eat, when to take a nap, perhaps watching a favorite sport or show. Perhaps in the car or over lunch, the question of “So, how was church?” or “What did you get out of church today?” comes out. These are the questions that I have asked others and found myself responding to for many years. I believe, however, these are the wrong questions to ask. We frequently ask these questions without a thought about what we are asking. There may be stimulating conversations that spring from the following questions but perhaps there are more stimulating and reflective questions that we could ask one another.
Below are two explanations of how our common expressions about the church service expose our understand of the church.
“How was…” is what we ask about dinner, a movie, school, work, and countless other activities. People ask because it is the polite thing to do. The custom is to reply, “It is was fine.” “It was a little boring but overall pretty good.” “I had a good time with the people that were there.” The problem is that this type of answer is accepted and can be inserted into many of the scenarios above (Note: If your spouse cooks the meal, then it is never “boring”!). The language of “How was…” is too commonplace to discover the depths of God’s activity amongst His gathered people for worship.
“What did you get out of church today?” sounds like vending machine language not the question in response to the gathering of God’s people. It can represent a sense of entitlement. In all honesty, Sunday mornings are challenging! People often get up early when they want to sleep in, the kids are grumpy, the house is a mess, etc. If someone makes the effort despite all of the challenges with Sunday morning, then there can be a sense that the church “owes” them something or “it better be good” as justification for their effort. After all, I got dressed up for this (or at least not in my pajamas). Amazon with its Prime Now service can deliver my purchase in 1-2 hours and we may also expect this type of “service” from the church.
Please hear me: I find myself still asking these questions of my spouse, family, and friends. This is not me sitting from a perch condemning others.
Rather, the way I speak about the gathering of God’s people is often common and consumeristic.
My purpose (in this post and the following one) is to help us examine our questions and provide us with some questions that reflect the purpose of the church in its gathering. The gathering of God’s people should produce transformation by God’s grace through the Holy Spirit. People attend church for a variety of reasons and talk about their experience in a variety of ways. Next week, I will lay out a few questions that may help us to converse in a manner more reflective of God’s intent for His people.