Thursday, January 23, 2014
Sit close... it makes a difference
Jesus employed the lecture effectively but some in the back neither heard nor were impacted by His lecture style presentation. Paul had the same problem. In the painting, those in front are engaged. Only the folks in the back are not. Is is the fault of the lecture, the lecturer, where they sit, or the students themselves? Many have suggested that those who sit in the back come not to be noticed and to avoid noticing what is happening in the classroom. It is an astute observation. When I go to a conference and want to type away on my laptop or read some other material, I always sit in the back (neither to be noticed by nor to be interrupted by the speaker). When I am genuinely interested, I always sit near the front.
The lecture or even the lecturer are not the issues or the problems (well, not usually) but the student or the hearer. Truth to be told, we sit in the back because we do not want to be engaged, because we judge something else more important to our attention, and because we want to be on the outside looking in.
The same thing happens in church. I have never understood why people sit as far away from the chancel as possible. But almost certainly these seats fill up before those front and center. Sure, there may be other things involved (HVAC issues, sound issues, different comfort levels to the seating itself, etc...) but most of the time the people sitting far on the fringes of each side and the back are deliberately trying to be far from what is happening. Why?
Parents who take their children to the back so as to avoid distracting others, end up giving their children a bird's eye view of the read ends of the folks ahead of them --- all the way to the altar. They see nothing at all and inevitably are a bigger handful than those who can see. Adults who sit in the back or all the way to the sides, are further from the altar and pulpit by choice. I can only assume they do not want to be engaged by what they hear or see. Like the students who chose the back so they can focus on something else, could it be that people sit on the far sides and back to distance themselves from what is going on Sunday morning?
Again, I do not get it. You pay the big money to sit on the 50 yard line, in the seats on the floor in the concert hall or basketball arena, near the ice for hockey, etc... why? Because you see more and how you see it changes the closer you are to what is happening. So, either our people in church think nothing is happening, nothing is happening that is all that significant, or nothing is happening that is worth their full attention, or... well, they would sit up front.
Let me say it one more time. Sit up close. It makes a difference. Not just in the stadium. In the sanctuary as well. Try it. Try it for 8-10 weeks. Then go back and see the difference from where you were sitting on the far edge or read of the nave.