There is an old pastor joke that tells of a pastor that preached a sermon one Sunday and then preached the same sermon the next Sunday. The people in the congregation spoke amongst themselves and figured that he was very busy and just ended up preaching the same thing twice. The next Sunday the pastor again preached the same sermon. This time on the way out of the church one of the elders mentioned to the pastor that he had preached the same sermon three times in a row. The pastor calmly responded, “When the congregation learns the lesson from that sermon then I’ll preach something else.”
Every pastor gets that joke, unfortunately not everybody in the congregation gets it. I am reminded of that joke whenever I have put forth clear teaching and yet things do not change.
I say all that to get to my subject for this edition of The Beacon. Last time I wrote about the first part of our worship service, namely the prelude. Pay attention during the next prelude and see how we are changing (growing) in our worship as a congregation. Remember the prelude is a time to prepare our hearts, not a time to chat and catch up. The next thing after the prelude is the “Welcome and Announcements”. Many people would ask what do announcements have to do with worship? Well, we will seek to answer that question right now.
We will start with the welcome. If you pay attention you will notice that we always begin the welcome with a word from Scripture. This way the first thing you hear from the pulpit is the word of God. The welcome is important because we want it to do two things. First, we want the gathered congregation to recognize that we are not just a collection of individuals that will be going through the motions of the service all at the same time. We want the congregation to recognize that indeed they are to worship God as the gathered body of Christ. This is something we do together in unity. Secondly, there is an outreach aspect to the welcome. We want visitors to our worship to feel welcome and to invite them to be part of the gathered body of worshippers with us. We also want them to take the time to fill out a visitor card so we can follow-up with them.
If you have ever been to summer camp you probably are familiar with some version of an announcement song sung to the tune of “the farmer in the dell” that goes something like this: “Announcements, announcements, announcements, a terrible way to die, a terrible way to die, a terrible thing to be talked to death, a terrible way to die.” I will spare you the rest. Announcements are kind of universally understood as the time when you can tune out. So, we are left with a question. How can the mundane announcements of what is going on in the life of the church be a significant part of worship? Well, think about that question. It answers itself. What is more important than the life of the church? Therefore, announcements are important because they tell us what is going on so that we can participate in the body of Christ of which we are a part. Corporate worship on Sunday cannot give you all you need to be a growing, productive member of Christ’s body. You need more than that and you find out about growth opportunities beyond the Sunday worship service, in that service, during the announcements.
So what am I asking you to do with all of this? I am asking you to be in the sanctuary for the prelude and focus during that time on preparing your heart for worship. Then pay attention as we go through the welcome and announcements so you can know what is going on in the life of our church. Then you will be participating and better equipped to participate as we grow together in Christ.