people sitting on gang chairs

The most revealing meeting at church

Martin Buber said: “All real meaning in life is in meeting”. What’s the most revealing meeting at church? 

– Sunday morning?

In almost every church I know, the best attended meeting is the Sunday morning service. That’s the “high” point, where most work is put in. That’s where we expect newcomers to show up; it’s what we put effort in to. We want it to be high quality. It’s a bit like dressing up to go on a first date. We’re trying to impress.

– Trustees meeting?

The budgets likewise can tell you a lot about a church. Actions speaks much louder than words. We can say x matters, but show me the money! How much money is being given to the church? What’s done with that money? How much money is being given by the church? Is this a generous church? Money is very telling. Where your treasure is there your heart is also. Why is giving to mission so low? Hmmm… what does that reveal? How much is being spent on “publicity”? 

– Sunday evening? 

In plenty of churches, this service no longer exists. The congregation voted with their feet, and the church leaders didn’t have the conviction that the Lord’s Day was holy, so it was abandoned. But when people come out for worship morning and evening, it says a lot. They will be the backbone of the church. The church that has a well-attended second service still has a good deal of fight left in it. 

– Elders meeting? 

I’m conscious that this meeting is invisible to most of the congregation, but it shouldn’t be! Even if you’re not an elder and you don’t regularly attend, it should be on your radar. A good case could be made for the elders’ meeting. It’s certainly critical. There’s a close connection between the health of an elders’ meeting and the health of a church. If an elders meeting is just admin and business, no surprise if that comes through to the church. Are they “shepherds” of the flock? 

– Prayer meeting?

But I’d argue that the church prayer meeting is the most revealing meeting of the church. It’s the place where you can take the “temperature”. What’s attendance like? Is it just a fraction of the Sunday morning congregation? What percentage of the church members attend the prayer meeting? What’s being prayed for? What prayer requests do people make? What desires are revealed? Is it freedom from suffering or freedom from sin? How much earnestness and zeal is on display?

Ultimately, it’s only Christ with his eyes like a flame of fire who can see what’s really going on at church. But these meetings can bring to the surface the desires of a church, and we’d do well to realise there’s more going on at them than meets the eye.