Tim Keller wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition in which he outlines 5 reasons why churches should host a Q&A right after the worship service.
Mark Jones said that the article left him “disappointed,” and he responded with an article of his own. You can read his response here.
In the comments section of Keller’s original article, Keller responds to each of Jones’ remarks.
They say blog comments are dead. But apparently not.
— Matt Smethurst (@MattSmethurst) July 28, 2016
You can read all of Tim Keller’s responses below:
1. The first is that he might be simply too drained by the service and the preaching to do it. If that is the case, and I can certainly understand that, then indeed the Q&A would not be a good idea in that circumstance.
2. A second reason given against doing a Q&A is that perhaps, if he is drained by the preaching, the minister is more likely to get into a disagreement and say something he will regret. In that circumstance, again, I wouldn’t do a Q&A, because one of its main purposes is to exhibit Christian character in general and especially in the face of hostility in particular.
3. A third reason not to do a Q&A is if the minister elects to spend pastoral time with members after the service. Again, I see how that could be part of a congregation’s weekly rhythms. I know congregations in which the people travel long distances and Sunday is not just a time for worship but for pastoral connection as well. In my case, it worked better for me to do the evangelistic connections on Sunday and do pastoral connections during the week. So I affirm the decision to make the Sunday time exclusively pastoral though I hope if Sunday isn’t the place to do it, the minister finds a place to proclaim the gospel to non-believers some other time.
4. The fourth reason given to not do a Q&A I don’t think I can agree with. It has to do with “spiritual psychology”. The implication is that if people experience real conviction they will not or (is the post saying?) should not talk about it immediately but rather they should go home and reflect on it. Of course that is often the case–but often people do want to talk about what they heard. I don’t how this point (namely, that people should go home and reflect on the sermon) fits with the practice that the minister should spend time talking with his members in fellowship after the service. If spiritual psychology dictates that it is not right to talk about the sermon immediately, does this mean that in the fellowship time mentioned they are not to talk to the pastor about the sermon topic?
5.The fifth reason given not to do a Q&A was that it elevates the sermon over the rest of the worship. But in the article I pointed out that people were encouraged to ask questions and discuss the worship service, not just the sermon. We talked about baptism, about the Lord’s Supper, about the way we prayed and many other things. I’d go so far as to say the majority of the questions and discussion did not have to do with the sermon or the sermon topic. So the Q&A we practiced did not glorify the sermon.
6. The sixth reason not to do a Q&A seems to be that it is unhelpful to create a forum where the sermon’s imperfections are pointed out. If the sermon’s flaws are pointed out, it is said, then the usefulness of the whole sermon might be called into question. But if there is someone out there who thinks the sermon has a major flaw, I would much rather they told me about it rather then going home with it settled in their mind. If they tell me about it in a public forum, I can respond in three ways: (a) I can help them see that they misunderstood, and that is always a huge help to them and others who may have been confused too. (b) I can conclude that there is a theological difference of opinion, and that gives me the opportunity to kindly yet clearly tell them about the Biblical basis for the doctrine of our church. Again, that is helpful for everyone present. (c) Thirdly, if the flaw is something genuine–an exaggeration, an intemperate remark, an ungracious cheap shot, or just a culpable lack of clarity—then I can agree with them, and humbly accept the public criticism. This is something the book of Proverbs constantly says we should do. I can’t tell you how much more credibility you will have as a preacher in the eyes of people to whom you have admitted a mistake. None of these good things can happen in a worship service alone. So obviously, I don’t agree with this reason for not doing a Q&A.
7. The seventh reason given not to do a Q&A is that the sermon is a sermon, not a lecture. We are seeking not just to impart information, but to encounter God. With all this I heartily concur. But even Dr Lloyd-Jones, who was most famously insistent that the sermon was not a lecture, still had calling hours immediately after the worship service to take people’s question. There is a teaching aspect to a sermon as well as an exhortational aspect. There will be doctrinal instruction going on in any good sermon, even if the sermon does not remain in instructional mode. Nevertheless, I agree that Reformed preaching tends to be too “lecture-like.” I agree with this caution.
8. The eighth reason given to not to do a Q&A is that for most churches, non-believers will not be present. So–the objection goes–if you don’t have non-Christians coming, then there is no need to do Q&A, right? Perhaps. But then again, in our church I knew Christians who brought non-Christians to services because they knew that they would have time after the service to ask questions and discuss what they had heard. The Q&A gave them the courage to bring friends because they knew it would give nonbelievers help in understanding the worship service they had just experienced. Also, the Q&A gave Christians “on the job” training in how to field difficult questions and treat people warmly as you do it. So you may not have non-believers, but the Q&A can encourage people to bring them.
9. The ninth reason given for not doing the Q&A is that it (or the reasons for it) “smack of effectiveness”. Actually, this reason is also given at the beginning of the blog post too, where it says that the Q&A is more interested in “results” rather than “the bodies and souls of the people who find themselves in the worship context.” This gets a bit into motives, and it’s not easy to respond to that kind of critique. All I can say is that, in our understanding, the Q&A is a primarily an additional way to lift Christ up so he can draw people, as he says he will. That happens (a) partly through explaining the Biblical text more than you had time to do in worship (b) partly through declaring the gospel very directly and evangelistically, and (c) partly through minister’s directly exemplifying how a Christian conducts relationships. These things can happen in ways that can’t happen in the service, because in the Q&A there is dialogue between people. I’m not sure how lifting Christ up in the Q&A is motivated by results but lifting him up in the worship is not.
10. The last reason given to not do a Q&A seems to be, in the last paragraph, that we shouldn’t be doing evangelism on the Lord’s Day. Therefore the Q&A is “in the wrong context”, namely Sunday. It is true that the purpose of worship on the Lord’s Day is for the people of God, not primarily for unbelievers. But “unbelievers and inquirers” (1 Cor 14:23-25) are expected in worship. The folks that came to the Q&A were generally not people who were yet in Bible studies or in other fellowships, nor were they coming to prayer meetings, etc. The only way to begin to interact with them was to do the Q&A. So if non-believers are present to hear the Word of God preached in your worship services–and who does not hope for that?–then I suggest doing a public Q&A.
Over to You
What do you think? Maybe this is something for you and your church to further consider. In the end, there is no one answer, and this is probably more of a contextual and personal preference. Still, churches would do well to consider what Jones and Keller both have to say.
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