Sunday, December 4, 2011

Why are we smart people so stupid sometimes...

If we are half as smart as we think we are, then why do we act so stupidly when it comes to Church on Sunday morning?  I do not only mean the people in the pew, I mean the Pastor as well...

  • Why do acolytes wear flip flops when they serve at the altar?  Why do their parents let them leave the house with flip flops on when they know they are scheduled to serve?  For that matter, why wear flip flops to Church at all?  Casual shoes are worn because we act casually about the place where we are going.  Worship is not casual.  Our encounter with God at the font, table, and pulpit is not a casual moment but the same kind of holy ground experience we read about in Exodus 3:5.  We are here because God has bidden us but that does not change the fact that we are standing on holy ground when we stand before Him.
  • Why do dress so casually when we come to Church?  No, there is NO dress code and if that is the best you have, fine and dandy.  But why would we choose to wear something so casual when we do have better clothing in the closet or in the dresser?  This is not really about the clothing.  This is merely an extension of the first point.  If you dress to make a statement, what statement are we making when we dress down for God? And again, what does this teach our children?
  • Why do we act so surprised when our cell phones go off in Church?  It should not be a shock since we did not turn them off (we never do).  We do have options.  If our accessibility is so important, put the phone on vibrate, when you feel it vibrate, get up and leave BEFORE answering it.  But, come on now, are we really that important that we have to have the phone on in Church?  Do I really need to talk about texting during the service?  Yeah, right, the texts we send are the salient points of the sermon.  You betcha!
  • Why do we need to be so loud just before the service begins?  We have wide hallways, a generous entryway and narthex, and a fellowship hall -- why do we shout half way across the nave to get somebody's attention on Sunday morning?  It makes it almost impossible to pray before the start of the service.  If we must talk, can we talk quietly?  Can we be a bit more discrete?
  • Why do we need to talk throughout the whole service?  What is so important that it cannot wait until after the service is over?  Or do we think that we need to get equal time with Scripture and the sermon?  I know of people who move around in the service to get away from the constant talkers.  And what does that teach to the children we are trying so hard to quiet down?
  • Why do we look so surprised when we go to the altar rail for the Sacrament?  If we belong there, we should not have that deer in the headlights look.  If we are visitors, we need to talk to somebody (like the Pastor -- or at least read the clear communion statement in the bulletin).  If we have guests with us, we need to talk to them beforehand about communing.  Even members sometimes look and act if they were not sure what was going on at the rail.
  • Why do we seem to be always late for everything at Church?  If we cannot avoid being late, could we at least be discrete?  Enter and leave only during a hymn or sung part of the liturgy - NEVER during prayers or the reading of Scripture.  It is rude to the people who got there on time and it is offensive to be fashionably late and make our entrance into the Church.
  • Why do Pastors sometimes act as if they are oblivious to what is going on in the service?  What are we doing?  Writing the sermon?  Making a shopping or to do list?  If the Pastor is not paying attention to what is going on, singing the hymns, praying, etc., why should he expect the folks in the pew to be doing these things?
  • Why do Pastors act so casual about the chancel area?  It is not the clergy family room.  Don't use the altar as a side table to put your notes or hymnal or glass of water.  Don't lean on the lectern or the pulpit or altar like its job is to hold you up when you are tired of standing?
  • Why do Pastors have to comment or direct every part of the service?  Do we constantly need to hear the page numbers called out?  Do we need to have everything introduced (now let us pray the Lord's Prayer... now the choir will sing... now we will take an offering... now receive the benediction, etc.)?  Put it in a well crafted bulletin if it is so difficult to keep up with things.  Pastor does not mean MC and the liturgy is not your monologue.
  • Why do Pastors act surprised at what is happening in the liturgy?  Did the Pastor not plan it out in the first place?  This is not like an audition for a part where you get to see the script for the first time.  The Pastor knows what is unfolding on Sunday morning.  Get with the program.
  • Why would a Pastor apologize for his sermon before hand?  So you have a dozen funerals, several dozen hospital calls, a wedding, and a thousand other things happen last week.  It is Sunday morning and you better be ready.  If you are not all that ready, don't warn people ahead of time that you did not have time to prepare adequately -- it is like saying "pay no more attention.... starting NOW."
  • If you mess up a reading, don't say "Excuse me" or make a joke about how hard those Hebrew names are to pronounce.  Just correct the mistake and keep on reading.  It is not your word, it is God's (and it might not hurt to read it before hand just to prepare).

Okay, I will turn off the sarcasm and the rant for the day... I am sure I have offended Pastors and people in the pew.  But, it is amazing to me how smart, how well read, and how intuitive people are  -- except about their behavior at Church.  It really is like checking the brain at the door when we come to God's House.  We know better.  We are not stupid.  We just need to think about what we are doing -- and I say this to those on both sides of the altar rail!

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I composed an Kantor's list of grievances and this is almost exactly what I had! I couldnt agree with you more. However, I disagree with leaving during sung parts of the service. It is just as rude and distracting. Especially getting up to leave during the last hymn. Either way, if pastors and parishioners would take these things to heart....

Jeremy Loesch said...

Pastor Peters, thank you for holding up a mirror for me to peer into.

Jeremy

Anonymous said...

I would also add for parishioners to wait until the music stops playing during the last hymn before gathering stuff up and getting coats, etc. on. Let everyone enjoy the final moments of worship before hurrying off to the rest of the day.

Anonymous said...

I agree with almost everything you mentioned.

The only real disagreement I have is when you said "Why do Pastors have to comment or direct every part of the service? Do we constantly need to hear the page numbers called out? Do we need to have everything introduced (now let us pray the Lord's Prayer... now the choir will sing... now we will take an offering... now receive the benediction, etc.)? Put it in a well crafted bulletin if it is so difficult to keep up with things. Pastor does not mean MC and the liturgy is not your monologue."

A "well crafted bulletin" does not need to be 6 pages long (thereby nullifying the order of service printed in the front of the congregational hymnal) ... but if you're using a bulletin and a congregational hymnal, then telling people what's coming next can save in confusion, especially for visitors.

It's not that I feel the need to "monologue" ... I'm just doing my best to be a good steward of the time that God has given me, and trying to make sure that everyone is all on the same page... especially since some folks are easily distracted and lose track of what comes next.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters. On your point of 'dressing our best' for church. Some need to be reminded that also means modestly. Not that the guys aren't guilty of this too but a female parishioner doesn't need to be showing half of what God gave her.

Chris said...

Just from reading your list, I was wondering if you were commenting on the Liturgies at my church!

Anonymous said...

Why do some pastors have vanity
license plates on their car?

Why do some pastors boast about the
size of their TV screen?

Why do some pastors brag about their academic credentials?

Why do some pastors pride themselves on their sermon delivery?

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters, you wrote:

"Worship is not casual.  Our encounter with God at the font, table, and pulpit is not a casual moment but the same kind of holy ground experience we read about in Exodus 3:5.  We are here because God has bidden us but that does not change the fact that we are standing on holy ground when we stand before Him."

I remember experiencing such worship when my previous LCMS congregation used TLH and later, LW. My current LCMS congregation is a member of the Willow Creek Association. During the contemporary worship service, I find myself feeling at odds with the rest of the congregation.

I just cannot bring myself to lift my head high and sing the praise band words on the big screen during communion. Since when has communion ever been considered a time of joy at an LCMS Lutheran church? I want to hang my head in shame and sit in a humbled, contemplative state, as I used to do during the traditional service at my previous LCMS congregation, but I feel out of place.

When I give a musical offering, I cringe at the people clapping for me afterwards. I want to scream at them and say: "How dare you! I did not play my instrument for your enjoyment. This is not American Idol or America's Got Talent." The last time I remember struggling to worship differently than the rest of the congregation, I was visiting a non-denominational seeker-church.

There is a lot of Church Growth garbage at my church that I force myself to ignore. I want nothing to do with the latest all-church study on one of Rick Warren's latest books. I have heard of the term "Cafeteria Catholic". I have become a "Cafeteria Lutheran". My pastor already knows that I disagree with him, but he sees me as an impediment to his business plan, I mean: ministry.

As a Cafeteria Lutheran, I will politely and selectively ignore anything resembling the Theology of Glory. It is pretty sad when I find myself looking forward to Issues, Etc. and Pirate Christian Radio than going to my own church to hear a watered-down sermon. If not for confessional Lutheran podcasts, I would have already wandered into an Eastern Orthodox church.

Anonymous said...

Regarding "directing" the parts of the service: During my vicarage I started off simply motioning people to stand and to sit and trusting people to be able to follow the service from the hymnal and the bulletin. My supervising pastor corrected me, pointing out that there were quite a few people in the congregation -- and most of them sat in the back -- who were legally blind or almost so -- who would feel very embarrassed at not knowing what came next (or what instruction they just missed). Simply announcing the hymn name and number and saying "Please stand" and "You may be seated" was a way to show concern for them and help them in worship.

I suppose I should add that I believe when that kind of "directing" is done regularly and consistently, it simply becomes part of the "flow" of the service and is not much of a distraction, if any, to the worshipper.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Pastor. And what about pastors who can't read and add to the liturgy, such as, "We make our beginning in the name of the Father, and of the Son,..." This comes straight out of the Reformed liturgy. Good points you make, to be sure.

Kelly Klages said...

3 Anonymouses ago (it's kind of hard to address people without any monikers at all)...

My experience with Holy Communion, coming out of evangelicalism, is just the opposite of what you describe. As an evangelical, we'd do lots of peppy praise songs, but during the Lord's Supper we'd sit there all sullen and gloomy while we thought about our sins and took the crackers and juice. It was a mere ordinance, done in obedience, to remember something kind of sad that happened a long time ago. Joining a confessional Lutheran church was my first exposure to JOYFUL singing during the Supper. Contemplative, yes, but a real sense of receiving a gift-- something that is good news for us. I'm thinking of hymns like "O Lord, We Praise Thee" and "I Come, O Savior, To Thy Table."

Pastor Praetorius said...

I've been attempting to work on a usable bulletin in hopes of eliminating the senior pastor's love of the "MC liturgy". Do you have some examples of a well-crafted bulletin? I'd greatly appreciate it. schuldheisz4@hotmail.com

Carl Vehse said...

To the "Anonymous" rhetorical questioner - Why do some pastors brag about their honorific degree titles?

To the "Anonymous" Cafeteria Lutheran - If you can, skip the methobaptiscostal service and go to the liturgical service at your Lutheran church, even if it's at 6AM Sunday morning. (Here's a button design you can adjust to size, print, and wear on your lapel.)

Stay clear of the Eastern Unorthodox Church. It would be a frying pan/fire decision to swim the Bosporus.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I will wear this to the contemporary service:

http://worldvieweverlasting.spreadshirt.com/the-original-grandpa-s-church-A6258912/customize/color/1

~Cafeteria Lutheran

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