I love the press-the-flesh line. After the service, when people flow out of the door, on their way to lunch, we get that quick second to make some sort of personal contact. The students often try to skip the line, but I don’t let them. I maneuver with the skill of a wide receiver (now my husband’s laughing at me for using a sports analogy), making sure no one gets away without a greeting.
Scott Black Johnston was my preaching professor in Seminary. He used to say that we preach, and then the congregation affirms if it was the Word. Capital W. As in the Word of the Lord.
“How does the congregation do that?” I asked.
“After the service,” he answered. He probably meant something deep, like as we go out and respond in our work in the world. But I thought of the meet-and-greet stream and wondered, Could it be true? Could I be more than a stewardess for those fifteen minutes?
We have an express line here in D.C. If people aren’t staying for the coffee hour, they’re all business. I don’t mean to make any unfair assumptions regarding gender, but I think it’s safe to say that women and men, on the whole, leave differently at my church.
“Good sermon,” the men say, furrowing their brow, with a staccato nod, and a perfunctory shake.
With the women, we hug, we ask about the kids and the parents. Then we look at the long line behind us and agree, “We’ll talk later….”
Here are the worst comments, receive when I preached in Texas and Louisiana (I was in my twenties). And even though it happened several times, I never could think of an appropriate response:
“Well, you’re a good preacher…and easy on the eyes.”
Of course, I couldn’t say the words that popped in my head at that moment (What the...), because it’s never good for the pastor to use an expletive when we’re going out to serve God. But what do you say on that awkward occasion?
Here are a couple of other classics:
“You know, I really appreciated your sermon today. It actually made sense this time. Not like the other ones.”
Then there was the one that sent me into a two-hour depression:
“Your sermons never move me like John’s (the HOS) do. Yours just don’t motivate me.”
I called the HOS “THE MOTIVATOR” for three weeks after that one.
Wimberly and I have two very different styles. He preaches in a very linear fashion. People describe his sermons “like lectures from your favorite professor.” I, on the other hand, am a narrative preacher. Less of a line, and more of a circle. Most people like the variety and differing points of view. But then there are those who are so used to hearing him and have a hard time making the transition.
Maybe it’s not quite fair to pick out the worst in a ten-year history (and why are they the ones that stick with me the most?). The best one to hear, because it leaves me a sense that the Spirit is moving somehow:
“Were you following me this week?”
Okay, so tell me, what was the best heard or overheard comment? What was the worst?
photo’s by oooh.oooh