An interesting question regarding how congregation’s celebrate a sermon came in that I want to address. The writer asked:
Trying to find help. I’m not an emotional person, but I am an emotional preacher. I call it “getting happy.” The problem I find is my congregation doesn’t get emotional or excited with me (though they tell me they like how i preach). How do I let this not get me discouraged, and is there anything i can do to get the people more excited or involved?
This question really resonates with me in that I sometimes feel the urge to push myself harder or do other things when the people do not celebrate the sermon as I normally expect. However, this mindset, I believe, is counterproductive. Let me tell you what I mean.
We must realize that not all people celebrate a sermon the same way. I remember in a Black Preaching Course back at Vanderbilt Divinity School where Dr. Brad Braxton played a sermon that he preached in an Urban Chicago African American Church. He then played a sermon he preached in a Suburban predominantly Caucasian Dallas Texas Church. He noted that when you celebrate in your sermon that the people may react differently. the urban African American Church was vocal. The Texas church demonstrated that they were feeling the message by the smiles on their faces and the body language.
There are white churches that are very vocal and some black churches that are not. And let us not even get into other ethnicities, denominations, and nationalities and the many different ways of expressing concepts such as joy, fear, hope, and love. The key is not to put them down as I see some preachers do. Don’t succumb to the temptation to attempt to change the way other folk express their joy.
The key is not to make them think they must celebrate the sermon in a particular way. The key is that you note some kind of response that demonstrates to you that they are hearing, understanding, and experiencing the truth of the message, if they are, then all is well even if no one is shouting.
To reiterate, a shout is not the point. Jumping is not the point. The point is for the people to hear, understand, and experience the truth. This experiencing the truth will look different depending on the congregation. Over time you will realize how your congregation demonstrates its experiencing of the truth. Go head on and shout…but recognize that for some folks a big broad smile is the way they celebrate the good news as demonstrated in your sermon, and that’s all right.