Sometimes pastors have to go to church when you are not preaching or leading. If you are a travelling minister you have to go to church when you are not travelling, or you are setting a terrible example to people. In these situations I have seen some terrible behaviour from people, who are just terrible guests! In a conference, you should be in the sessions you are not speaking in if you can, and you should be behaving during that time.
So, here are some guidelines for leaders going to services they are maybe not leading, so we can help build the church and behave in the house of God.
- Turn up on time. That is basic respect, you are showing that you regard the other minister and the other service as important. It amazes me that as soon as someone gets a little experience in ministry, they suddenly disrespect other ministers, rocking up half-way through the worship, making a scene when they come in, even talking during the sermon. That’s not behaving well. And people notice and people talk!
- Dress appropriately for where you are going. Different churches have different dress codes. They are really formal but if you do not follow them you stand out. I am a jeans and shirt kind of person, but if I go to a jacket and tie kind of church, I will dust off the jacket and put it on. I don’t want to stand out in the church, I don’t want to call attention to myself, I want to enjoy the worship, the Word and the ministration.
- Take part in the service. I mean you get involved in the worship, you lift your hands and you clap and you join in. When the preacher is preaching, get your amen in, receive the Word with eagerness.
- Bring your Bible and notebook. Take notes even if you know the subject. Encourage the preacher. Do not go to sleep during the service!
- Don’t get up and walk out during the service.
- Do not be aloof, be part of what is going on.
- The Bible tells preachers not to be afraid of people’s faces (Jer. 1.8). Don’t give the preacher a face to be afraid of. Don’t sit there and give your north wind face to the preacher!
- If you are asked to minister unexpectedly during a service you are attending:
- Do not suddenly change the purpose and direction of the meeting.
- Keep to the time limit you have been given rigidly without fail.
- This is where arriving on time and being part of the service helps, because you then have a feel for the flow of the service. If you do not have a feel for the flow, you are not going to be able to flow with the service.
We had a guest speaker at one of our churches a number of years ago. They preached a good message and people were blessed. The next Sunday this same guest speaker was on social media with pictures of themselves walking on a beach. They posted some critical remarks about “stupid Christians” (their words) who feel they should be in church every week, when you can walk on a beach and meet God. Think about that – the same Christians who came to hear them preach first week were good and holy, but they come the second week when the guest speaker is not there, faithful, servant, loyal saints who set up the meeting, made teas and coffees, ushered, played in the band are now stupid. Why? Because the guest speaker clearly only valued their ministry rather than God’s kingdom. They were incapable of going to church, sitting down and learning something. That is someone who has not and will not be invited back!
I have had to take ministers out for lunch and say “do not do that in my church”, “don’t talk all the way through the sermon”, “don’t hand out your prayer letters to people leaving the church”, “don’t grab the mic and suddenly turn a teaching service into a healing meeting”, “don’t preach 1 hour when I asked you to speak 10 minutes”, “don’t attack my people from the pulpit”. Why? Because sadly not every minister knows how to behave in church. We can do better.