Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mr. Bob Ueker says... "I must be in the Front Row!"

Why is it that for a concert, performance or sporting event, we want to be on the front row.  Yet in the church, the most desired place is on the back rows?


Let me suggest a couple of reasons and their usually unintentional consequences.

  1. We Want to Watch - Not Be Watched

    We Want to Judge, not be Judged

    We want to see who is there. 
    We want to see who is late. 
    We want to see who's kids are behaving. 
    We want to see who is visiting and what they are wearing.

    Sitting in the Back helps us to see everyone else better.  We form opinions about people based on what we see.  We speculate about someone's job, family, marriage if they seem in a bad mood.  On the flip side, we don't want other people watching and forming opinions about us. 
  2. We don't Want the Responsibility of Being Examples in Worship

    Philippians 3:17--"Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us."

    Paul frequently tells his readers to look to him, his behavior and actions for an example of how they should be.  He's not asking them to do anything that he himself is not willing to do or practice.

    A church service can be confusing for people who haven't been to that congregation or to church at all in a while.  But when all the church members sit in the back, it forces the visitors to sit further in the front and they don't get to see what they should be doing.  This makes them more and more self-conscious, nervous and uncomfortable.

    They need to see what the expectations are.  What should they be doing?  Worship is not automatic knowledge--it is a learned behavior. Unbelievers and Visitors need to learn how to worship.  Visitors want to see if we're sincere in our worship, if we're genuine and passionate in seeking after Him.

    They need to see that from the regular attenders.  Visitors learn about the congregation by watching the members.  But if we only sit in the back, they have to sit in front of us and we are refusing to let out worship be their example.  We are refusing to lead them, instead we criticize them for not knowing what to do.
  3. We Want Distance from the Voice of God

    In Exodus and Deuteronomy, when the Glory of God descended on the mountain, the Israelites wanted to stay as far away as possible.  The Glory of the LORD is very intimidating.  It reveals His holiness and our sinfulness.  We don't want to be too close to that.. we don't want that kind of accountability. 

    And when the Word of God is preached... we don't want to get our toes stepped on.  When we sit so far away from the minister, it creates a distance that makes us more comfortable.  It allows us to think that he is talking to or about someone else.  We're able to glance around and see the other people who need to respond to what is being said, i.e. deflection.

    When God is speaking clearly and powerfully through the minister by the Word--it forces the hearers to consider it carefully and potentially make needed changes in order to grow as a disciple.  But we can avoid that and be out the door before we are expected to change.  Sitting in the back helps us do that more.
  4. Things Visitors Fear that keep them from Visiting Your Church

    Being Watched
    Being Judged
    Feeling Out of Place
    Not Knowing What to Do
    Not Having the Right Clothes

    All of these things are made worse for them when all of the church regulars take up the back rows.

    But We who are mature need to be Examples in Worship - to our children and for visitors

    We who are mature need to be seen passionately worshiping God - 1 Corinthians 14:23 assumes that unbelievers are attending our services and watching what we do.
  5. When mature believers all stay in the back we are saying by our actions... unintentionally, but sometimes intentionally...

    You're Not Welcome
    We Are Watching and Judging You
    We Don't Care whether you are comfortable or not
    We're not going to make it easy for you to be here
    We aren't interested in showing you how to Worship God

    You mature believers are in a place of familiarity and comfort.  Visitors are not.

    Regular attenders know what is going on.  Visitors do not.

    Making them sit in front of you increases their fears and insecurities.

    It also increases the likelihood that they won't come back. 
  6. So What should Mature Believers in Church do?

    Sit in the first 6-7 rows
    Lead in Worship
    Consider the Visitor's comfort more important than your own
    Serve them
    Allow the Word of God to mold and shape you



1 comment:

Shirley said...

Kelly, this is exactly what I've tried to articulate to my friends in our Church. At Wednesday's Ash service, Richard and I sat on the second row from the front, and would you believe it, everyone moved up! It was so special to be surrounded by Believers!