Yesterday, a popular speaker was the guest speaker at my friend’s church. When I asked him about it, he said that it was good he had gotten to church early because it was standing room only. Word had gotten out that the speaker was going to be there and the church’s average attendance ballooned with people coming to see him.
I don’t know for sure, but it’s probably safe to assume some people ditched out on their own churches in order to hear the guest speaker.
And I’m not sure what to think about that.
Part of me is fine with people skipping out on their own church for one week to go and hear another pastor. If Billy Graham had been speaking at a nearby church yesterday, I might have excused myself from my church to see him – and I was giving announcements.
There’s another part of me, though, with which ditching church to hear another speaker doesn’t sit right.
That part of me thinks that someone is embracing one aspect of church while abandoning everything else.
I’m going to go hear an awesome speaker, but I won’t connect with my community.
I’m going to go hear an awesome speaker, but I won’t invest into those at my church.
I’m going to go hear an awesome speaker, but I won’t worship with my local body.
I love hearing sermons and I really love hearing good sermons. In our western context, though, we seem to have elevated the sermon over and above community, worship and the Lord’s Table. That mentality allows us to think that hearing a really good speaker more than makes up for what we miss when we’re not worshipping with our own communities.
And when that happens, we often miss more than we thought we would.
I’m all for ditching church once in a while. When we do, though, we need to understand what we’re giving up and whether or not it’s worth it.
Maybe everyone who went to my friend’s church went through that process, found other ways to be in community this week and simply enjoyed a really good sermon.
There is something to be said, though, for not hearing a homerun of a sermon, yet still gathering with your community and worshipping together. If the community is really good, the sermon can go long or the guitar can be off key, and nobody would even notice or care.
How has church been more than just a sermon to you?