Four things focusing on Sunday sermons in midweek groups achieves

One of our practices as a church is to revisit the teaching we have heard on Sunday in order to dig into it more midweek. We read a passage of scripture on Sunday, we hear it preached, we pray in response to it, sing some songs to remind us of the key truths we have heard from the Word, we open the floor to testimony that is responding to the Word, have notices that are how we will live out what we have heard and then share communion together as a reminder of how the Word binds us together. But having done all that on a Sunday, we take that same Word in our midweek groups and dig into it further.

There are several advantages to this setup of the Word on Sunday being revisited in midweek groups. In no particular order, these are some of them.

Repeating helps us remember

It doesn’t really matter how brilliant a preacher we think we are – or that you actually are – we all have to acknowledge that people will not remember every word of what we said from every sermon we preach. Even if people remember the key ideas later on, there is every reason to believe those ideas are soon forgotten. That is not because people are unspiritual or lacking care for the Word, it is because they are human and such is how we are built.

One of the ways we overcome this issue is to repeat those truths. We do it throughout the service on Sunday, so that every element of the service at least has something to do with what is being preached. But we also do it midweek too, re-reading the passage and considering the applications afresh. If nothing else, it makes us more likely to hear and remember the key lessons the passage has to say to us.

Clarifies misunderstandings

Almost every preacher I have ever met can tell a story of somebody coming up to them at the end of the service, thanking them for their message and proceeding to relay how grateful they were for a point that was made which turns out – on this re-telling – to be the exact opposite of the one the preacher was actually making! Sometimes that is because people don’t listen carefully. Sometimes it is because people are (legitimately or understandably) distracted at a key moment. Sometimes it is because the preacher has been painfully unclear. But whatever the reason, misunderstandings inevitably arise.

For many of us, those misunderstandings simply get filed away. They aren’t important enough to raise as a point of concern, but there is nowhere to raise the question ‘is that what you were saying?’ Having a midweek group with the opening question ‘does anybody have any observations or questions about what we heard on Sunday?’ provides that opportunity. But also, even if people don’t because they have misheard/misunderstood, as we dig into the applications it may later become clear that misunderstandings have arisen. A midweek group focusing on the Sunday preaching offers that chance to clarify misunderstandings.

More pointedly applies the text

I am a fan of pointed application in sermons. I think broad and general application is, very often, not that helpful. If it is so broad that it could apply to anybody, anywhere, you probably haven’t done enough work as a preacher in actually applying the text to the people in front of you. Asking how does this apply to the asylum seeker sat in front of me, the nurse going on strike, the guy going to work in an office, or the dude who has struggled to get a job, will change how you apply things. I think sermons do best when they actively apply the text to specific people in front of you.

But with all the will in the world, we can’t always apply pointedly to everyone in equal measure. We can find general applications that apply to everyone and some exemplars that will apply to specific someones. But even in those specific cases, revisiting the same passage midweek allows a smaller group of people to dig into those applications further. Having heard what the passage means for everyone, and having heard how it was applied to everyone broadly and some people specifically, we are equipped to ask the question of each other: what does this mean for me in particular, perhaps even in the areas the preacher could not possibly know about.

Encourages better attendance on a Sunday

The way our groups are setup, there really isn’t much point coming midweek if you were not there on Sunday. At least, if you haven’t watched back the live stream if you missed it. If you never hear the sermon, digging into the applications of the sermon midweek is going to be hard to get behind. It will be difficult to keep up with what is going on. Unless you engage on a Sunday, you are going to find it really hard to engage midweek.

This is a good thing. The only meeting scripture seems to pattern for us in particular is the weekly gathering of the church. Midweek meetings and home groups – great and helpful as they may be – are not required of us in the Bible. Which is to say, they are helpful and beneficial, but they are extras. Given that pattern, I want to encourage people to do what the Bible demands – meeting with the church on Sunday – over stuff, even helpful stuff I want to encourage, that the Bible doesn’t demand. I am uncomfortable with people coming regularly midweek without any engagement with us on a Sunday. Making midweek serve the Sunday ministry encourages and models this priority.