Monday, February 23, 2009

Church Is Not A Chair (part 1)

When I was growing up in church, our family had a place that we sat for service every Sunday morning: right side of the sanctuary, second row, second seat from the end, right behind where the worship team would sit. That was my chair. That was the spot for the Maywards. My dad typically sat to the left of me on the aisle, with my mom and sister to my right. (Mayward family, you can confirm the truth to this memory).

Every so often, a visiting family would come and sit in our chairs. I distinctly remember as a child being quite annoyed that an outsider would invade our space. Did they not know that the Maywards sat in these chairs every week? Could they not tell that the seats bore the sacred imprints of four Mayward heinies, that the very row was defined by our Maywardian presence? We usually ended up sitting in the third row, directly behind the intruders, staring at the back of their heads with disdain. Sitting eighteen inches farther back from the stage was quite uncomfortable. 

Now as a pastor who weekly stands on a stage to share about Jesus, I see that I'm not the only one with "my chair." I can tell if a student or staff is missing from attendance by simply glancing at the seat they usually inhabit. I even tried an experiment this week by writing down where the students sat prior to Sunday, then calling out their location to see if my prediction was correct. You'd be surprised at how many were in the exact spot--or perhaps not so surprised, if you're a creature of habit.

If we're not careful, church can become a chair. Church becomes a Sunday morning habit of showing up at a certain service, sitting in a certain row, singing many of the same songs, filling in the blanks on a sermon outline, chatting with the same acquaintances, then going home. We live life for the rest of the week, only to do it all over again next Sunday. 

Is this what God had in mind when He formed the church? Was church ever meant to be routine? When Jesus called his followers to go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Trinity and teaching people everything Jesus had revealed, did he mean "sit around in a chair every week and pray that the pastors can make more disciples." The Great Commission is filled with verbs--words of action, motion, energy, initiative. Church is not a building. It's not a weekly event. And it was never, ever intended to be boring or uninteresting.

Church is not a chair. So what is it? I'll unpack some Biblical images and metaphors for the church over the next few days. 

(The above thoughts are notes from a teaching series I'm going through with our junior high students)


  1. My chair was one of the ones I was tripping over during Fishbowl Ball.

    In all seriousness though, I didn't have a favorite chair at OSBC. I think I sat somewhere different every service. Not sure how this would have been if I had gone to church with my family as a child.

  2. Cam, I miss Fishbowl Ball! That was one of the best games we ever created. I may have to find a way to bring that game to every church I work at.

    My chair location at OSBC changed as soon as I hit high school. I moved to the back row with Brian Humphreys to write notes and play games on the bulletin, if we even went to service at all. Thankfully I've matured since then...though I still doodle and write notes on the bulletins.

  3. When our church changed pastors and the new pastor realized people were sitting in the same seat every week. So one week he changed the sanctuary around (we have movable chairs)and have the seats arranged differently. That forced the people to go and sit somewhere they usually wouldn't and sit with other people they usually wouldn't next to. It only caused one problem we have a blind man that was used to the old way and had every step memorized. Now after years people actually move around and not sit in the same spots anymore.

  4. Oooohhh yes! The Mayward seats. And Joel, I can relate to the annoyed confusion of the seat invaders..I mean visitors. As I read your blog, I got really excited about the fact that I tend to be more of a nomadic person now with my seat choice during service. Then...I realized that Jesse and I have started sitting in the front row every Sunday so we actually pay attention...Dang. Oh well. Maybe for fun we'll start sitting where the pastors normally sit. Hehehehehe...Good thing they are wonderful Christian men and love me.

    The Fishbowl room now has window curtains! Can you believe it!?!