Monday, March 5, 2007

My Pew!

I don't know how universal this experience is... but in churches I've been to, people tend to sit in the same place every Sunday. They may have a "Sunday morning spot" and a "Sunday Night spot" and even a "Wednesday night spot", but by and large, they sit in the same "spot" every time. I suppose it is partly just human nature to be comfortable and get established in a routine. We even joke from time to time that the pew has our name on it, because we always sit there.

I think this is a pretty universal experience too: when the rare occasion comes for people to move, we are remarkably reluctant to do so. Sometimes it may be the random visitor who happened to get there before we do and they take "my pew", so I am forced to sit elsewhere. I'm pretty gracious about that, after all, they are visitors and didn't know any better.

The reason I'm writing this though, is not the occasional visitor who sits in my spot on Sundays. I'm writing because of a pet peeve. Think back to that Wednesday where, because of weather or a holiday, the attendance is lower than usual. The preacher or song leader asks everyone to move in a little closer. Stand up, move down, gather up front, huddle for warmth, it sounds better for singing when we're close together and not all spread out... I've heard all the pleas for movement. A few courageous souls stand up and move down. A couple of husbands are goaded into action from their wive's elbows. But a good number of people cross their arms and refuse to budge. The pleas for togetherness fall on deaf ears.

You've seen it happen haven't you? Why do people act like that? What possible valid reason could they have for not moving up? Let's pretend for just a minute that the person has a broken foot. "C'mon, Jeff, " you say, "he's got a broken foot, give him a break." How did he get to church? How much effort did it take for him to get there in the first place? Sure, it might be a little inconvenient, but I submit that it is more unwillingness than inability to get up and move.

Now, I'm not trying to judge people's hearts or motives here, but I am trying to make you think about this. After all, the job of a good preacher is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted. I told this pet peeve to a friend of mine one time and he laughed and said, "I know what you mean! I think that if Jesus Christ himself stood at the front of the room and invited everyone to move closer, he'd get the same reaction." We laughed at that, but later I thought about it and it was a pretty sobering thought. In a very real way, our relationship with Christ is just like that. We get so comfortable with where we're at while Jesus is standing in front of us, begging us to move forward. We make all kinds of excuses why we are unable/unwilling to get up from where we're at. After all, I'm already at church... what more does he want from me? I'm here when most others aren't. Why can't he be satisfied with that? I can see him and hear him from here, why should I move closer? I like this pew just fine, why should I give up my comfortable spot and have to adjust to something new? This pew is no different from the pew down front, it is just a little further back. All the while, Jesus is pleading with us to move down. We may not know all of his reasons, but it seems to be important to him, just not very important to us.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that if you don't move forward when the preacher asks that you are going to hell. I'm just saying that we might want to stop and consider our motives. Are we at a point in our lives that we are so comfortable with our relationship with Jesus that we have stopped moving toward him? Is it reflected in our attitudes and actions? I personally believe that if you ever stop growing toward Christ, you'd better be dead and in his presence already. So, the next time you're at church and you're asked to move closer, do so with a joyful heart. Not only will you have overcome a behavorial barrier, but you'll probably make the songleader happy, too.

in Him,


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