Our parents at Central are great about engaging their children in worship. A lot of times on the way home from church they’ll ask their children what they learned that day, and sometimes they’ll share their children’s responses with me.
Back in January we spent three weeks in worship talking about stewardship. During one sermon I said that we sacrifice what is less important on the altar of what is more important; so, we either sacrifice our money at God’s altar or we sacrifice God on the altar of money. On the way home that week a mother asked her daughter what she had learned in worship that day, and her daughter responded, “God is more important than money.”
The mom was proud and so was I. More often than not, our kids are more engaged in worship than we think.
A different parent got this response after another worship service: “We should love everyone because God loves us.”
About a month ago, I was talking in worship about defining moments in life. As part of that message I talked about where I was when the Braves won the World Series in 1995. Here’s what one of our children got from that sermon: “Pastor Matt had to watch the Braves win the World Series through the window of a sports bar because he wasn’t old enough to go inside!”
And he was right. My friends and I were scrambling to find somewhere to watch the end of the Series-clinching game, and we found ourselves on the outside looking in because we weren’t twenty-one yet.
That’s not exactly what I hoped everyone would go home remembering, but at least he was listening.
Two weeks ago in worship, I told a story in which I ultimately compared the way Alabama football coach Nick Saban defines team roles for his players to the way God defines our roles as Christians.
One of our children responded to that message by saying, “God is smarter than Nick Saban—but everybody already knows that!”
Children, of course, aren’t the only ones with perceptive and even generous responses to sermons. After telling a story about French priest and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, I arrived at work the next day to find a wonderful book about Father Teilhard propped up against my office door. The book tells about his work through collected photographs from his life. It’s a real treasure.
The book didn’t come with a note, and I haven’t yet found an inscription. I’m not sure who to thank for it, so if you’re reading this, “Thank you.”
As pastors, we stand in the pulpit each week with Fred Craddock’s admonition ringing in our ears, “Remember, about half of your congregation almost didn’t come this morning.” We know that you walk into church tired after long weeks at work and long Saturdays at the ballpark. We know that you carry heavy doubts, mountains of worry, and wheelbarrows full of stress into the sanctuary with you. We know this as pastors because we carry the same things into the sanctuary with us.
So I know that every week of worship won’t be a life-changing experience for you. But I also hope that when you choose to come to Central, you’ll go away with something—not something earth-shattering necessarily—just something.
God IS more important than money.
We SHOULD love everyone because God loves us.
God IS more capable than Nick Saban.
Spiritual formation is a cumulative process. Sometimes God is like a blinding light, but more often God is like a potter—patiently molding and shaping, slowly adding to and taking away, so that one day we will be perfectly conformed to the image of Christ.
Kids have the best responses to our Sunday services, and it all starts with asking the right question: What did you learn in worship this week?
See you Sunday.