I read an article last night encouraging pastors to make sure their Christmas service is done with excellence because there will likely be several people in attendance who don’t regularly gather with the church. Among other things, the article encouraged me to preach an extra special good sermon on Christmas day. The rationale was basically that we want to leave a great impression on our guests so that they’ll want to come back again.
I don’t necessarily disagree with the motive, but I think the article generally gave bad advice.
I often need to fight (in my own heart) the tendency toward professionalism in the church. Yes, we want to do all things with excellence, but if that means telling someone they can’t sing a special because they don’t have a good voice, we’re defining excellence wrong. Excellence in the church is not about doing things in such a way that we can all nod in approval and say, “Yes, good song” or “Yes, good sermon.” Excellence is worshiping with the mindset that we have an audience of One: God Himself.
If that’s our goal in worship, then the day of the year and/or the presence of guests makes little difference. We should always seek to do everything with excellence. That should be the norm in church. That should be our “average.”
Whenever I prepare a sermon, I study the Scripture text, wrestle with it, and once I feel like I’m beginning to adequately understand it, I prepare the message that I feel God wants me to preach from that particular text at that particular time. And I don’t stop preparing until I feel like it’s perfect (or at least as perfect as I can possibly comprehend and state it. I often have to go to bed Saturday night and pray, “God, I’ve done all I can possibly do; please speak through this broken vessel.”)
My sermon preparation leaves no room for attempting to preach a more excellent sermon. I’m not saying I can’t improve in my preaching. I definitely can. I’m not saying I shouldn’t give it all I’ve got on Christmas morning. Of course I should. But I give it all I’ve got every Sunday. That’s my normal. That’s my average. Because that’s what my Audience deserves.
So if you come to Grace Baptist Church to worship with us this Christmas morning, know that everything said and done is how we normally worship God week after week. It’s not flashy. It’s not professional. We’re a real family worshiping a real God, who always deserves our very best.