The mysteries of congregational response
Back in my teenage years we used to travel as a youth group once a year to an old outdoor centre in Yorkshire called the Golden Lion. It was decidedly past its best, and the decor was fading with age. Nothing bore the signs of its age more than the old snooker table in the former bar. Its green baize was fading to an off-yellow the colour of dried grass. Its cushions were so worn that instead of bouncing off them, the ball would resound with a dull “thunk”, and stay right where it was. There are times when it feels like that when preaching, don’t you think? You feel that your words fly out from the pulpit full of purpose and intent – like the snooker ball hurtling towards the cushion. Like the ball in the Golden Lion, though, they seem to stop when they get there, with no apparent response.
Don’t be fooled, though. Preachers can be notoriously bad at reading their congregation’s response – I speak as an expert! When I published the script of Sunday’s sermon (see Slice of Life II), it not only provoked a response to the script itself, but also revealed that people had been helped by it when preached. What do I know?
I had hours of fun on that old snooker table with its faded cloth and dull cushions. Maybe I shouldn’t be so ‘precious’ about anticipating a response. If the ‘ball’ seems to die on the cushions, it does not mean the cushions have not felt its impact. God will do what God will do, and He doesn’t have to tell me about it.