Sunday, November 24, 2013
When a seat is not just a seat. . .
So says one of many preachers whose churches are trading the ambiance of the holy of holies for comfort and less threatening space of a family or great room. "Aren't they awesome? God has allowed us to sit in these big soft comfortable chairs," Pastor LaCombe said from the pulpit on Sept. 22, the first Sunday with the new chairs. . . or so I read about it in the Wall Street Journal.
What people find uncomfortable about church is not the pews (which, by my own experience can be much more comfortable that some of the chairs used in these multipurpose spaces). It is the idea of God the holy and man the sinner that is offensive to folks. People will come to sit in the pews just fine as long as we comply with their standards of taste and decorum and refrain from mentioning their unmentionables (not sex, mind you, you can talk about that, but not about sin or death or repentance).
I read about those churches who are getting rid of holy space for comfortable multi-use settings as if this were something new. It is as old as time itself. Holy ground, a righteous God, a sense of sin, and the need for repentance are all uncomfortable because we were wired that way. Even sin cannot quiet the upset in the conscience. Avoiding talk of it all does not make the uncomfortableness go away -- only the Gospel can do this. So I have a novel solution. Don't waste your money turning the traditional sanctuaries into modified family rooms (about as inviting as the rooms in the funeral home). Instead ditch the message and tell people what they want to hear. It won't matter what kind of decor they have around them as long as they can hear what they want to hear, the lies we tell ourselves --- we are okay, sin is no big deal, death is natural, you can have your best life now, you deserve it. . .
Ah, what do I know. I am just an out of date, out of touch old coot anyway... I guess I will be there to turn out the lights when the last of the traditionals bites the dust... but at least I know I will be on the right side of the line when judgement day rears its ugly head and we find out the truth we told ourselves was a lie and the truth that dare not speak its voice was the word that saves...