Saturday, July 29, 2006

Oh be careful little mouth what you say... in church!

Last weekend I was at my sister’s wedding in North Carolina. On Sunday morning my family set out to find a place to worship—something we rarely do apart from our beloved JPBC. We turned into a Baptist church off the main road near our hotel in an affluent suburban area near Charlotte. We attended the third of three morning worship service in the "worship center" which also doubles as a gym. According to the bulletin the church has c. 450 in Sunday School and c. 700 in its combined worship services. There were lots of well dressed young adults and families present. The third service was supposed to be the "traditional" one, which meant there was a choir and we sang two hymns along with the praise songs that were projected on the screen. The church children (not ours) abruptly left the service about midway through. The Pastor had a shaved head and wore a sleeveless sport shirt. The guest speaker, a former athlete who now has an evangelism ministry, was also dressed casually and had a shaved head. He was speaking in the morning and then doing evangelism training in the evening. The message was topical. I did appreciate this brother’s zeal for evangelism and his challenge to the worshippers to be more evangelistic.

What struck me were the conversations we heard before and after the service. First, no one spoke to us or greeted us or asked who we were. On one hand the anonymity was nice. On the other hand, my guess is no one was sure whether we were members, visitors, or regular attendees. Before the service one older man greeted another near us with a snide remark about the music chosen for the service. My guess is the older man was not happy with the lack of hymns. After the service, one woman in the line to leave complained to her friend that the preacher spoke so fast that she really could not understand him. The other woman shared that she was not planning to come back to the evening service herself, but she might invite her younger neighbors to attend! I thought of the children’s song: "Oh, be careful little mouth what you say!"

Of course, I began to wonder what guests hear when they visit our church. Mature believers know that everything we do and say is part of our witness. This is particularly true of what we do and say in church. Others are watching and listening. They may be guests visiting our church, or immature Christians, or children, or non-believing attendees. Do our words in church and life edify and bear witness to mature faith in Christ?

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