Are you serving junk food at your Sunday gatherings?

  • Angus Martin
  • 3 February 2020

Can you smell the roast? The lamb sizzling away, inundated with herbs and spices? As it comes out of the oven, steam goes everywhere and a delightful aroma fills the room. When it’s served up, the first juicy mouthful is even more delicious than you thought possible. You drizzle a little bit of homemade mint sauce over the next mouthful and it’s even better!

Then you stick your fork into the side-dish: greasy, oil-dripping, salty french fries. Did someone really just go to McDonalds and buy a large chips to serve with this delicious roast lamb? They might taste good while you’re eating them, but there is a reason why they’re known as junk food: they provide no lasting nutrition, they make your tummy feel grumpy, and they’re just not that good for you in the end.

If we aren’t careful, our Sunday church gatherings can be very similar.

The Bible reading and the sermon probably equate to the lamb roast. The readings are carefully selected. The sermon has been cooking all week. The preacher has used his juicy knowledge of Greek to look at the original text and has applied delicious biblical theology to understand how the text fits into the rest of Scripture. He’s come up with a mint-sauce application to really bring home the sermon. You can just smell it, right? A Sunday meal ready to be devoured.

But what about those junk-food greasy chips? Is that what the other stuff in your Sunday gathering looks like? As the service/meeting leader, are your words like seasoned roast potatoes? Do your interviews feed God’s people with a nutritious green salad? Are the songs you have chosen like a deliciously healthy pasta salad? Is your whole gathering a satisfying meal, or is the Bible reading and sermon the only truly satisfying part?

I know I sometimes find myself running out of time to prepare and so default to the quick options. It’s easy to be someone who merely gets up and says what is happening next, who picks regular popular songs instead of spending the time reflecting on what songs would fit best. It’s easier not to practise reading the passage and just hope there aren’t any tricky names that come up.

It’s easier to be that person, but it’s not healthy—for anyone.

In which areas can you improve your Sunday gathering and be sure your church feasts when together? What ingredients can you swap out to make your service healthier? How could you infuse the gospel into every part? In what ways can you marinate your time with Scripture?

I have a simple, helpful recipe to follow to stop myself serving take-away:

Before Sunday

  1. Read and re-read the passage being preached.
  2. Ask the preacher for their main point and sermon outline.
  3. Reflect on which songs your church knows well that resonate with the passage.
  4. Reflect on how to best shape the flow and mood of your gathering to reflect the main point of the sermon.
  5. Prepare a script and run sheet.

On Sunday

  1. Pray with those serving and help them catch your vision of the flow and mood of the gathering.
  2. Make sure those serving know what they’re doing and when they need to do it.
  3. Be sure not to undermine and change the emphasis of the sermon.
  4. Make sure you emphasize and reflect the main point of the sermon (this means listening to it!).
  5. Smile!

For more ideas on running church gatherings, see Tony Payne’s article ‘Better church: The why and how of running Sunday meetings’ in The Tony Payne Collection.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:19-25)