Excuse Me, You're Sitting in My Chair

Church people are notorious for claiming ownership of their preferred seats in a church building. Maybe you’ve heard someone say to a fellow worshipper, “That’s my seat” as he hovered over the intruder.

Once, I witnessed one worshipper huff and puff out of the building, mumbling and stomping toward the parking lot because his seat was occupied. There is a measure of humor in the scene if you can get pass the lunacy, I mean, fleshliness. You drove to the building expecting to worship God and found someone sitting in YOUR seat. Instead of greeting the brother and his family warmly and amending your routine by simply finding a different seat, you walked out. I wonder how that car ride home was when the Mrs. turned on the local Christian radio station only to hear, “Years I spent in vanity and pride…”

The problem of church pews was so significant in 1844 that lawyer John Coke Fowler published Church Pews, Their Origin and Legal Incidents as a resource for how the Church of England might address their troubles. Did you snicker at the title, especially the Legal Incidents part? I guess the churches in Britain during the Victorian Era missed that part of the Bible where Paul told other Christians not to take each other to court (1 Corinthians 6:6-7).

How do you determine where you sit in worship? Does it even matter? From my perspective as a pastor, it matters more than you might think. Off the top of our heads, I’d suspect most pastors in churches less than 500 can easily pass a quiz on who sits where for worship. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

With the normal disclaimers for medical issues, expectant moms or pragmatic matters like having to excuse yourself because you are the on call employee this weekend, here is one idea you might consider when you choose where to sit when you gather with God’s people: choose to sit WITH other worshippers.

It’s seems so obvious, doesn’t it. But for many, sitting with people stopped in high school. The normative behavior now is to sit in isolation in the same spot occupied week after week. That’s a wasted opportunity both to receive a blessing and to give one.

On any given Sunday morning, multiple hurting people enter a church auditorium. The childless couple sits by themselves. They give and receive friendly greetings, but who sits next to them as they watch family after family pour in the room wondering if God will give them one?

Middle age men, single again because of divorce or death, leave their empty homes and lonely apartments where they enter a church building and sit alone because no one chooses to sit with them or invite them to occupy an open seat with their family.

Too many in their 20s and 30s have never heard the crusty voice of a 73-year-old man sing historic songs of the church and new hymns because they’ve never sat close enough to him to receive the blessing of hearing him make a joyful noise to the Lord. I’m telling you, you’re missing out if you’ve never heard that.

New attendees to the worship of the church might know the wonder of the church’s love for others if the members of the church would choose to sit with them. Young professional singles might find it far less awkward to be in a church of married people if the married people would stop sitting in the exact same seats week after week and choose to sit with someone not like them.

What might it do for your young children to sit next to an older or even elderly Christian and watch that Christian receive God’s Word?

“Mom, did you see Mr. Jim’s Bible? He has writing all over it.”

“Well, son, Mr. Jim has been a faithful follower of Jesus for a long time. He loves Jesus, and he loves the Bible. We are blessed to have him in our church.”

What would it do for a person or family of color if you sat your lily white family next to theirs or invited their family to sit with you?

How much more likely might you be to engage actively in every aspect of worship if you sat next to someone different next week? Would you sing more joyfully? Would you stay awake during the sermon?

I don’t know. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong, but it seems to me that a simple act like choosing to sit with another Christian during worship has potential to do much good.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.