Sunday, July 20, 2008

If You're Here Today ...

It's one of those things preachers say.

Without thinking.

"If you're here today, and you haven't obeyed the gospel ...."
"If you're here today, and need the prayers of the church ...."
"If you're here today, and you wish you weren't ...."

Okay, I've never actually heard a preacher say the last one - but I've heard a hundred or more variations of the first two, even from preachers who are really good and who ought to know what they're doing.

"If you're here today"? In the days before recording sermons on cassette and then CD and then MP3 for podcasting, who was a preacher talking to when saying that? The folks who were there, of course. They already knew they were there. And if they weren't there, they weren't listening. So why say it?

And it's always a hanging "if," even today. If you're not here today, what do you do? Forget it? Sit there and feel suicidal? Shake it off and try to do better next time?

Well, that's my advice for preachers: ditch the phrase "If you're here today." Trust me. We are.

And if we aren't, and we're still listening, it's because we wanted to be there that day and ordered the cassette or the CD, or downloaded the MP3.

It's not world-class advice like the stuff at Milton Stanley's outstanding Transforming Sermons, but maybe it'll make a couple of you out there re-think the standard closer phrasing a bit.

That is, if you're here today ....

11 comments:

Milton Stanley said...

World-class or not, it's certainly got me re-thinking. Thanks, Keith.

laymond said...

Keith, I fail to see where there is anything improper with the following statements.
"If you're here today, and you haven't obeyed the gospel ...."
"If you're here today, and need the prayers of the church ...."

The first two are conditional invitations. Yes we know all who are here, hear, but do they meet the conditions set out by the invitation.
What would be wrong if you were to enter a hospital waiting room, and a nurse were to enter and say "If you are here today, for a flu shot, form a line to the left"?
(we know we are all here, but for what purpose, that is the question)

"If you're here today, and you wish you weren't ...."
Go home until you want to be here, you are not doing yourself, or anyone else any good.

Adam Gonnerman said...

That's been a pet-peeve of mine for years (I have many). Another one is when people keep saying "just" in their prayers. "Lord, we just want to thank you," "Jesus, we just ask...."

Keith Brenton said...

But, laymond, why not just say, "If you haven't obeyed the gospel ...?"

The nurse is asking people if they're there for a flu shot in your example. That's different from asking people who may/may not know why they're there or what they need or want to do ...

Either way, folks know they're already there and that it's today.

adam, that kind of prayer just happens when people just want to just ask a just God (or just thank Him) for just the things they just want to ask (or just thank) Him for.

Royce Ogle said...

What is even more absurd is asking people who are potentially spiritually dead, without a clue about coC terms, about "obeying the gospel". How in the world are they supposed to know what you are talking about? I know and you know and others who have been around for a while know but they (unsaved) sure don't.

His peace,
Royce

Royce Ogle said...

If you will indulge me, I meant to add this link to a post I had on this very subject. http://gracedigest.wordpress.com/2007/04/02/obey-the-gospel/

Thanks,
Royce

laymond said...

Keith and Adam, I tried hard not to comment on what was said about (pet-peeves)especially the one about praying. people sitting in the pews with your attitude, is exactly why it is hard to get anyone to lead a prayer before the congregation, they know there will be an (Adam) sitting in the congregation critiquing ever word. although God understands it all. Well I feel better, do you?

laymond said...

Royce, maybe the preacher had enough faith in his sermon, that he thought he might have gotten through to someone. If he didn't, he should have left it on his desk.

Adam Gonnerman said...

laymond,

I'm only part-time in the pew. The rest of the time I am "up in front." It isn't too much to ask for people to strive for excellence in the Lord's service. In Brazil I worked in evangelism and discipleship with a church plant. The men would meet for praying and teaching once a week in the evening, and in these gatherings we lovingly encouraged the men to put their best foot forward.

An example: One fellow was given to repeatedly saying the same phrase when he was speaking, so we pointed it out to him and gently helped him notice when he did it in normal conversation. We did it in the right attitude, he was appreciative and the church benefited.

No one is perfect, but what we do in congregational worship doesn't have to be shoddy or haphazard either.

Keith Brenton said...

Matthew 6:7 - I agree, laymond, we shouldn't judge ... but even Jesus encourages us to think before we pray in public, not splutter our way through it.

I think "stutter" what the word originally meant, translated variously as "vain repetitions" and "babbling," etc. I know stuttering is a neurological thing, and I don't think Jesus is making fun of people who stutter. He's just reminding us we're not heard for repeating words.

Royce, I remember that post! Thanks for the link to it. In fact the term "obey the gospel" is, I think, only used twice in the scriptures. It's not defined, and is used in the context of punishment for those who don't obey ... so obviously the folks Paul and Peter were talking to knew what they meant by it.

Royce Ogle said...

Thanks Keith.

Laymond,

Of course if the preacher had explained the gosped in good detail and the proper response to it then OK. However, when used just as a tradition at the end of any semon it is easily misunderstood.

I was once scolded gently because I did not "extend an invitation" after my lesson. My reply was that I had told them the truth and was quite confident that the Holy Spirit always working to draw men and women to repentance and faith in Christ.

I know a fine church in Texas which for many years never gave a formal invitation but depended on God to convict, convince and convert sinners. They baptised hundreds who sought out an elder, friend, preacher, etc to ask the question "what must I do?". There seemed to be more warnings than invitations in Bible sermons.

Royce