Every Sunday morning after the worship service is over I head out the back door of the sanctuary and go stand by the main entrance of the church. There I greet people as they leave, shaking hands with friends and introducing myself to new people. Almost every week, though, as I'm standing there people come up and tell me something like "Good sermon today, Pastor!" or something similar.
I wonder what the motivations are.
I think most people want to converse and this is a nice way of breaking the ice. It might also be that people genuinely enjoyed the sermons and want to give praise for it. There might also be a contingent that see the sermon as a performance and want to congratulate me on a job well done.
Don't get me wrong. I appreciate being told I did a good job. I am human so I, too, thrive on praise. But there has always been something unnerving to me about this practice of being told "Good sermon, today" after church.
Two weeks ago in giving the benediciton I thanked the congregation for their normal practice of telling me "good sermon" but asked them politely not to do that anymore. I asked, instead, for them to tell me what made a difference for them, what stood out as important, what they learned, what's going to change or be different, how they're going to respond.
The moments after this service were quite akward as many people didn't know what to say. Everyone left a bit faster than they normally do.
I want to get across that the sermon is not a performance and that they have a responsibility to hear the Word and it's interpretation, to integrate it into their lives, and for the proclamation to make a real difference.
But I didn't expect so much akwardness. Did I do the right thing? Am I expecting something I should not?