Posted by: sailingspirit | April 30, 2011

C’mon In, Don’t Have a Seat!

I read a newspaper article about a local Christian group that is renovating a church building, and were trying to decide whether they should keep the old pews or put in theatre seating.  This struck me as the dumbest question, I couldn’t believe it got space in the newspaper.

Both are horribly wrong!  Where does the scripture tell us God requested congregational seating in His temple?  Nowhere!  The only seat in the Temple was the Mercy Seat!  God’s own seat!  Worship is NOT passive, it is active!  The word rejoice does not mean feel happy, or sound happy, it means to jump and leap around!  Jump and leap, people!

To borrow a term from Jamal, I am fed up with the spiritually murderous tradition that both the church leadership and membership have lazily collaborated and perpetuated down through the centuries: the utterly passive spectatorship that has replaced worship.  Our improper beliefs caused it, our power-hungry leadership strengthened it, our context-ignoring and guilt-pushing elders manipulated us into it, and our lazy selfishness has gone right along with it.  There is no requirement for seating in a worship space!  None!  For millenia sacred temples, altars, and the like all over the world have not had the expectation for people to “make themselves comfortable.”  Just who are we worshipping, ourselves???  Why are you sitting down, anyway?

I already know most of the questions you’re going to ask, because you’ve not taken the time to critically examine this assumption, so let’s get them out of the way so we can move on:

Q: Do you really expect us to stand during the sermon and scripture readings?

A: No, because there needn’t be sermons and unusually lengthy scripture readings during worship.  Traditional scripture readings and sermons are teaching tools.  Biblical teaching can, and should, be done as a daily task like school and would be done far more efficiently if done in a regular classroom setup like we rightfully apply to every other type of teaching.  Proper tables or desks to write on instead of balancing things on our laps, proper lighting by which to see, notes pages larger than parking tickets because we expect more than just “a nugget,” visual aids, participatory discussions, etc.  If you look at education methodology and retention stats it’s painfully obvious that merely sitting and listening to someone else talk and wave their hands is almost entirely a waste of time; even on your best day less than 20% sticks.  As evidenced by the fact that most western Christians don’t in any way behave like believers.  They’ve forgotten what was said by the time they pay the bill at Denny’s.  If merely sitting and listening were so great, why don’t our children’s schools use that method exclusively?  This hypocritical dichotomy comes from people who don’t want to change.  They’re self-serving and lazy.

Q: Well our members don’t come every day, so isn’t it better to seize the opportunity to teach them a little while we do have them here?

A: No!  You’re acting out of fear, not faith, because you’re afraid you won’t get another shot.  You’re catering to the least common denominator.  You’re letting the least devout determine how much worship time GOD gets!  How do you ever expect new believers to act better when no precedent is set?  Current believers need to be showing where the bar is set and what the expectations are.  Others can either join in or not.  God never does anything “halfsies.”

Q: Our church has children’s Sunday school classes.  The kids come into worship later on in the service.  Isn’t that what you’re talking about?

A: No.  The mixed and true messages you’re sending there are awful.  Why should children study the bible in an organized way but not the adults?  That’s age discrimination.  In secular schooling it’s assumed the adults have already done the study and have mastered it, but in Biblical study it’s so obvious the adults don’t have a clue.  So why would children take Sunday school seriously when they fully realize by the time they’re bigger, it’s not important knowledge anymore?  They’re no fools!  They want to spend more time figuring out your Blackberry because they see you looking at it far more than your Bible.  Furthermore, by missing most of worship you’re sending the message worship isn’t a high priority, or that it’s something only grown-ups do and children aren’t welcome before God.  What a horrible thing to tell them!  It’s not the least bit Biblical–in fact, Jesus himself told us to become believers like little children.  So you’ve got it backwards!   And you’re destroying the concept of unified community worship–note the base word of community is unity.

Q: Our church has both children’s and adults’ bible study classes outside of worship, yet we still have sermons on Sundays.  What’s wrong with that?

A: I refer you back to the first answer, the fact that a sermon (a good one, that is) is a teaching tool.  If you’ve already done study, why are you interrupting worship with it?  Do you require a “sermon” to coach you along in your worship?  If so, you need to go back and study some more.  If you understood the Gospel, you’d have plenty to celebrate!  Have you not noticed that when a sermon begins, worship distinctly ends?  You cannot “take in” and “give” at the same time.  Furthermore, you’re in the habit of expecting to receive from the pastor/priest, not from God.  Which is why people develop an unhealthy affinity for/expectation of/unsatisfied distaste for the pastor which takes their focus entirely off God!  Worship is all about giving of yourself to God, NOT God (or other people) serving you.  Your pastor can have plenty of input into the teaching curricula of each of the classes, and if you’d like can teach a joint community class focused on body-wide topics.  But do that outside of worship.  The only priest you need to hear from during worship is the High Priest, Jesus.

Q: So you’re saying we shouldn’t sit at all?  Well what about the elderly?

A: Fine, have a few seats along the walls for the elderly and infirm.  But keep it reserved for them only.  Put the little handicap symbol on them if need be.  If we can respect that concept on busses and in parking lots, I don’t see why this should be a problem in churches.  Remember, the point is not to wimp out and look for a way to beat the system, the point of worship is to be so excited you can’t wait to jump up and praise God!  It should be the desired thing, not the undesired thing.  If you’re really not that excited about God, why do you bother to even go?  God isn’t fooled, and the Bible distinctly tells us He hates empty acts like that.  So you’d actually be better staying home.  Look, if you can’t manage to remain standing for 30-45 minutes straight, you need to be at the doctor’s office.  If you can, you need to stop whining.  The bible makes clear that we will be edified (strengthened) through our worship.  If you would study your bible, you would know this.  That’s why I said in my opening it’s improper beliefs causing this habit.

Q: Our church can’t afford two separate buildings for teaching and worship, so we have to have pews or chairs in order to make use of the building for both purposes, right?

A: No.  First of all, what your thinking tells me is that you don’t believe in the God who supplies and multiplies.  If you don’t have enough to expand, it’s not God’s fault!  Ever stop to think how much you would have toward a new building if you didn’t spend it all on cushy theatre seats or rows of interlocking chairs and the respective employees to unstack and restack them all?  Secondly, there are mosques all over the world that are multi-use spaces without endless rows of chairs.  They sit on the carpet.  If it works for people all over the world–and in Jesus’ time, they sat on the floor plenty–it should work for you as well.  Stop focusing on what you’re there to get (comfortable) and focus instead on what you’re there to do (grow beyond your comfort zones).

Q: Are you saying there should be no structure at all?  Just one giant free-for-all?

A: If I was, does that frighten you?  Do you feel the same compulsion to control everyone’s actions at wedding recpetions, birthday parties, New Year’s Eve celebrations, etc.?  Just what horrible disaster are you so convinced will happen if people are allowed to freely thank God for what He’s done in their lives?  Please cite examples of other church congregations’ unrecoverable disasters because they celebrated too much.  None?  Really?  Well, then where does this unsubstantiated fear come from?  Why do you not trust God enough that in His presence, we can truly lose ourselves and it will not get out of (His) hand?  This is a spirit of control and fear, not of trust and faith, which means it is not a spirit from God.  I’m not saying we can’t have any gentle leadership, what I’m saying is that we don’t need any.  If you’ve ever taken part in free-style group worship you would know that there are naturally ebbs and flows where prayers, scripture quotes and the like can be spoken and where people reqest or suggest certain songs/movements as they are inspired.  The Holy Spirit is not only able, He does string us all together as we go.  It gets more unified, not more chaotic, as we yield to Him.

Can we move on now?

In the time of David’s Tabernacle, groups of people would cycle in and out maintaining nearly constant worship to God.  Some played musical instruments, some sang, some danced–it was a party!  A polished party, I suppose, because David wouldn’t send complete hacks in there, but nevertheless his parade bringing the arc home illustrates very clearly that his was an attitude of unrestrained celebration.  If David was a man after God’s own heart, we ought follow suit.  God has stated that He is restoring David’s Tabernacle in this day.  God wants us to get over ourselves and let loose!  To let ourselves out of the box as well as let Him out of the box of necessary control, to celebrate Him the way it’s supposed to be so He can bless us the way He wants to!

Once again I direct you to the scriptures: wherever a description of heaven is found, and multitudes of any kind, do you read about balconies and ushers?  No!  How are the worshippers praising God?  Are they sitting and listening?  No!  Do you ever see “Please be seated”??  No!  The only seat mentioned is, once again, the Throne!  The multitudes of angels and the saved of humanity are not in cushy theater seating watching a giant screen.  Ask anybody who has seen a glimpse of heaven.  Were they corralled by row and by section, animals being penned before the slaughter?  No!  What’s the point of being made free if we can’t be free to celebrate our freedom?!?

So what I’m saying is this: I refuse to be a brainless lemming any longer, allowing the institutional church’s architecture, design, order of worship, worship leaders, power-hungry pastors, biblically unaware elders or fearful fellows to restrain my gratitude to my Savior.  I’m having a Jesus party!  The Wedding Feast is near and I’m gonna rock it like it’s eternity-ninety-nine!  You can either get off your ass and join in, or get out of the way.

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