Let me blow the dust off of some former things…
Hey, it’s not easy dusting off ancient history; sometimes it blows back at you, covers your face with shame, makes your throat itch. But, as the old skin cells begin to settle around your feet, the air clears, along with the brain, and you see a little more clearly…
I suppose we had reason to feel insecure. When your church is the talk of the town, that chatter tends to settle between joints and creates an irritating tension between what one believes they are doing and what others perceive. It was like that.
We were the church with the rainbow painted in the sanctuary…
We were the church voted most likely to handle snakes…
We were the untethered upstarts who did not barricade beneath traditional keeps…
We were Charismatic — an anathema to any small city serviced by the First, the Second, and the Free (but still) Baptists…
(No insult intended; that’s just how it was.)
The truth? The rainbow had long been exchanged for a lovely tree mural; we did not handle snakes or drink poison (for the record), we chose to make God the Head rather than to seek after an institutionalized and denominational ‘king’; but, yes, we were definitely and unapologetically Charismatic: I can’t erase that fact.
The mood music will begin shortly. The words are going up on the screen. The worship team is jostling into place, smiling and nodding like they weren’t fighting over who got the mic last Tuesday during practice.
The Pastor gets up, greets everyone, and opens with a word of prayer. Bright light is spilling in from the back sanctuary window that extends from floor to ceiling — the building itself often being accused of looking more like a car dealership than a church. But warmer.
Nostalgia just walked in and swept me off my feet. (He’s REALLY good at that.)
Whoa… I can almost smell the sanctuary again. I can almost remember your lovely faces. I can almost see the room swell — the unseen aching to blow the walls of the seen out-of-sight, as the praises begin…
Have you ever entered a service where people were excited and expecting to see THE King? Where parading emotions, hopeful pleas riding the train of shouts of joy, and unabashed dancing like King David cast aside every fear, every wary glance of those visiting, and every hinderance to the Throne?
Praise. Worship. Lingering. Then, the offering plate is passed. A sermon. An altar call (sometimes). Pretty straight-forward.
Afterwards, an immediate B-line to the visitors in the room with one burning question.
You know what that question is, don’t you?
Of course you do.
It’s the one we all ask when we desperately want to be understood and appreciated and accepted:
“So… what did you think of the service today?”
I’ve asked that question, in the past, many times to many visitors. The wide array of potential responses can be terrifying, though most stick to the code of niceness when answering.
My face is windswept into a smile by nostalgia again…
“What did you think?”
“I’m concerned; this might be a cult.”
Okay, I’m paraphrasing (it’s hard to remember the exact words of twenty yesteryears), but I did get that basic response once… from a coworker who had visited our church.
What would you say next?
Yeah, I didn’t know what to say either. Deer crushed. And a lot of anxiety walking back into work the next day.
Changing The Question
Since leaving the pastoral limelight of church business, I’ve come to believe that we need to change the question. Instead of asking “What did you think?”, shouldn’t we be asking “How did God meet you today?” ? Wouldn’t that be a more beneficial question?
The first question asks for a reflection upon ourselves…
The second pulls for a reflection of the Spirit…
Whether we garner a different set of responses by changing the question isn’t really my point. It is merely our hearts in the asking that I want to check.
Because anyone who serves wants to be appreciated and understood in that service, as with any work. However, as Christians, our validation, all of our approval and worth, our sense of pleasing One audience (our King), must be tethered to what God thinks about what we’re doing…
In fact, He’s the only one we should be putting that question to after ministering the Gospel of Christ.
Beloved, rest in His approval.
(And, if you’re not sure you have it… Ask, seek, knock.…)
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.Galatians 1:10