I have a bit of a background in retail – selling stuff. And as I used to spend long days with shirts and ties and socks (yes, gents outfitting), drummed into me was the little phrase, ‘The customer is always right.’
Meaning, whatever the objective facts of the case, the customer is your ultimate employer (no sales, no job), and so whatever she said, you said ‘Yes, madam.’
And actually, she was right more often than not.
And in any case, why take the risk? What have you got to lose by being defensive?
Now – important point to note before we leap across to church-world. Members of churches are not customers, no matter how much our consumerist culture tries to gets to treat everything as a transaction. We’re family, which is why we put up with one another’s weaknesses and foibles. We don’t get to choose who we’re in church with. We serve, rather than drumming our fingers, waiting to be served.
And we, as pastors, have to teach truth in churches with itching ears, prone to error and loving lies. Left alone, we Christians will always tend to prefer a sweet false-teaching.
I know all that.
But, having said all of which,
When people say that our sermons are too long, too dry, too technical, too difficult, too boring,
We could say,
- “That’s not boring – it’s teaching’
- ‘You think I’m long? You should have heard Lloyd Jones!’
- ‘But the Greek is essential to getting that verse right.’
- ‘But it’s good for you; like spiritual broccoli.’
Or, we could say, the customer is often right.
- ‘You know, you’re right. I’m sorry that I was boring.’
- ‘I’m sorry I was too long.’ (Hint – by and large you won’t be, if you’re interesting)
- ‘If you’re not learning anything from my sermons, that’s probably my fault. I’ll try harder.’
And then do just that. Work at the illustrations, the connections, the length. Try harder, raise the game. Push yourself. Why take the risk? What have you got to lose by being defensive?
It’s the old adage: if they’re not actually learning, then I’m not teaching – whatever else I think I’m doing. I’m just pushing words into the air for twenty minutes.
If a lazy pupil fails an exam, blame the pupil. If a hardworking student fails, then by all means let the student take some share of the blame, but did the teacher prepare them properly? But if a whole class fails…
They might be bored because they are spiritually cloth-eared dolts who wouldn’t understand the gospel if Billy Graham gave it to them on a plate with a sprig of parsley on top.
But they might be bored because they think we’re boring.
And the customer might be right.
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