Because of a recent relocation, my family has been visiting different churches, something we haven't done for many, many years. It's been quite a jolt, especially over the past two Sundays.
Last Sunday, I heard a little about heaven. I heard that it's a place I definitely want to go -- it's better than any party I've ever been to here on earth. It's one big party, one big feast. In fact, the pastor pointed out that the word feast appeared four times in the passage and encouraged us to research its meaning on our own time. I heard that anyone can go to heaven, "even Calvinists" (whew!).
I heard that there are certain foods that won't be included in heaven's feast: neither baby food, Spam, Snackwells, nor beef jerky will be part of the Lord's table. The pastor so earnestly desired that we would all want to go to heaven that he encouraged everyone present to sample a taste of the feast waiting for us there by partaking of the Lord's Table that day. Everyone.
This Sunday, I heard a little about hell. I learned that it's a place I definitely do not want to go -- it causes thirst worse than mowing a lawn in July in Georgia. It's full of torment and anguish, anguish worse than what University of Georgia felt during a recent loss. In fact, the pastor pointed out that the words torment and anguish appeared four times in the passage, but didn't have time to explain their meaning beyond the UGA illustration. The pastor so earnestly desired that none of us would go to hell that he encouraged us to come up to the front and pray... something.
I'm not kidding when I tell you that this pretty well sums up those two sermons, other than that both sermons included admonitions for the church to do more for the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, those of other races.
Here's the odd thing. These were two different pastors, in two different churches, in two different towns. Both of these men have doctorates; both pastor good-sized churches with multiple services, multiple staff members, and hundreds of attendees. Yet, other than the music (and I won't even go into this week's electric guitar riff intro to When I Survey the Wondrous Cross), they easily could have been the same church.
I left hungry. And sad. And wondering what all those people keep coming back for, week after week. I mean, what are they taking away from those sermons? If they are to be Bereans, what is there for them to study on? What example of unpacking the Scripture do these pastors provide? In an effort to be seeker-friendly (I suppose that was the goal), both of these messages trivialized the topic, as well as Scripture as a whole.
There have been some positives to all of this, though.
- I'm more certain than ever of the value of expository preaching on a regular basis.
- I'm more thankful than ever for faithful pastors who have placed a high priority on studying Scripture to bring God's Word to the church family each week.
- I'm more convicted than ever to pray for those pastors to stay the course.
- I'm more aware than ever of the value of Scripture over man's wisdom for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
- I'm more mindful than ever of the power of Scripture over man's cleverness to provide us with us all things that pertain to life and godliness.
- And I'm more excited than ever to hear my favorite expositor (who happens to be my husband) preach this coming Sunday, Lord willing.