What can pastors easily forget when preparing Sunday services?

The public gatherings of the church serve so many roles.  First and foremost, it is to act as the regular, weekly time for God’s people within a local church to come together to worship God.  It also serves as that time which God’s people are fed by God’s Word, sing in unison of the great truths of the gospel, fellowship with one another, and declare the truth of the gospel to those present who do not know Christ. 

There is, however, a role the local church plays in the lives of our people that full-time pastors can easily forget.  It is a role that those of us who spend much of our days immersed in God’s Word and caring for God’s people do not experience like most all our folks.  Here is a role of the weekly public gathering we as full time pastors can forget:

The public, weekly gathering of the church provides a place of refuge, strength, and encouragement to our people who spend 5 days a week immersed in the world, surrounded by those who hate God, and constantly challenge the truths of the gospel they believe. 

I was reminded afresh of this by one of our pastors who works a full time job in a very secular environment where the presence of Christian fellowship and conversation is virtuously non-existent.  Although the calling for Christians to be salt and light in the world can and is exciting, fruitful, and that which should drive us to share our faith, it can and is also draining, challenging, and can discourage Christians who find themselves solely in those environments 40+ hours a week. 

This among many other reasons is why we as pastors need to be cautious that our public gatherings do not resemble the world to the extent that it does not provide the refuge and encouragement that many of our people seek and need, to return Monday morning back in that environment invigorated to go and be salt and light in that dark place.

Do not misunderstand.  I am not proposing we plan our Sunday services not keeping in mind unbelievers who will attend.  It is one of the many reasons we want the gospel clearly made known when we gather.  But this opportunity to serve our people in this way should cause each of us as pastors to reconsider if our public gatherings are primarily geared for believers or unbelievers.  How you answer that question is of fundamental importance of what kind of public gathering you plan each week and consequently, whether your people leave filled up by the greatness of our God and the hope of the gospel.  

I easily forget this.  I am sure you do as well.  Pastors, do not feel bad that you spend the majority your days in God’s Word caring for God’s people.  Just do not forget that our people generally do not live there, so we must plan Sundays with this in mind.  This will challenge you to be clear and deliberate in your planning and your people will feel cared for by your efforts.

Posted in Oversight of Souls
5 comments on “What can pastors easily forget when preparing Sunday services?
  1. john says:

    This is one of the reasons I tend to lean towards Pastor’s having some type of vocation or job that puts them into places and positions where they rub shoulders with the real world. Pastor’s that escape to “the study”, that avoid real time, genuine, sustained contact with “sinners and publicans” have a difficult time convincing me that they understand the problems faced with confronting everyday situations with “the world”. Their encouragement seems academic rather than tried in the furnace. Luther Dorr wrote a book “The Bivocational Pastor” which strengthens the legitimacy of pastor’s employed in the ministry outside the church walls and the positive effect it can have on their ministry. Those in the church who work 40 plus hours in a world increasingly hostile to Christians NEED a time of refreshment, rest, and recharging. I have noticed in my own church the subtle change in the past few months from feeding the flock from God’s Word to an over-emphasis on a pleading with an effort to elicit decisions from the unsaved..and this in a sovereign grace church. (This tendency seems to also abandon expositional preaching.) I understand the need and desire to evangelise but the question remains what should be the identifying mark(s) of the gathered church? Thank you for this reminder to not only the pastors but for each of us to encourage and help one another in our Christian walk.

    • John Kuvakas says:

      I’m sorry but I have ti disagree withthe ideathatPastors should’ve bivocational. I can see the need for this in small chuch gettingon its feet but, in my experience, it ever works out for the benefit ofthe flock to have the primary shepherd engaged in another vocation other than tending to the sheep. If an appropriate amount of time is being spent preparing a sermon, binding wounds,visiting the sick, encouraging those who need it, discipling new believers, raising up leaders and spending quality time with his own family, the only thing another job would accomplish is to detract from one or more of those vital activities. Something is bound to suffer.

      • Tom says:

        John, the only issue would be if the pastor is so busy preparing a sermon, binding wounds, visiting the sick, encouraging those who need it, discipling new believers, raising up leaders, and spending q-time with his family that he actually doesn’t spend time interacting with the lost and personal evangelism himself.

        Honestly, the pastor should be equipping others in the church to do the majority of what you listed (e.g. visiting the sick, binding wounds, encouraging others, discipling others). That, I think, is the main reason pastors don’t spend time “in time world,” because they are doing the work of the ministry instead of equipping others to do the work of the ministry.

        Just a thought.

  2. Louis Tullo says:

    What an important post!

    One of the things I treasure so much about the church that I am in is that we set aside time following our service (which is at 4PM) to serve a meal and fellowship. Not only is a time where we can meet the physical needs of some members of the congregation who are served by not having to worry about buying and preparing one meal during their week, but it also provides a comforting and fun time for conversation and forming friendships.

  3. Sam Bierig says:

    1.) I really resonate with the last paragraph of Brian’s post. I often feel a small measure of guilt (for some reason!) becasue i get the blessed honor and gift to study the word of God intensely most everyday. Whether personal devo’s, family devo’s, preaching, or curriculum it is an amazing reality that God has set aside some to study the word with their time. I wonder if some of you more experienced pastor’s have some word’s of wisdom as how to (from the pulpit especially) articulate to your people the treasures in the Bible and how much it would benefit them temporally and eternally if they would carve out large blocks of time each day to let it burn in them with light and heat. Scripture has become the loudest voice in my head and therefore transformed my decisions and life trajectory. This is my desire for the people i shepherd.
    I often find myself saying “i can never fully tell you what all that God has done in my heart through this passage” or, “oh man, this here is just simply amazing”, “did you see that?” About half of the congregation sees it, and then a large portion seem to look at me as though they have no clue as to what i am talking about. It is as if i am trying to explain to them a distinct taste to the tongue that is altogether foreign to them. I know its a process and it is years in the making, but there have got to be some enticing ways to draw people in (more quickly!).
    2.) Also, what wise words are there for those in our congregations who feel as though they don’t hold a position in the church where they are responsible to teach the word on a scheduled basis? These beloved congregants tend to (probably accidentally) mentally excuse themselves from the rich benefits an intense study would bring to their lives?
    3.) I simply revel in the word of God and it is the delight of my soul to teach it and share it with other people! How can this beautiful infection be passed on to others, therefore enriching the Sunday and Wednesday meetings?

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  1. […] useful observation from Brian Croft that may not appeal to the ‘all of life is worship except for two hours on Sunday […]

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