Forgotten in the Church Pew

Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone except God – Billy Graham

I used to be bothered by the story in  Matthew 18 about the shepherd leaving the flock of 99 to find the one lost sheep. I had understood over the many times it was taught that this shows us how important it is to Christ that not one person would be left behind. He wants everyone to have the opportunity to know Him and to live in eternity with Him.

I had always understood I am one of the 99. But my fret came from the feeling that the 99 were being ignored for the 1. It was through a teaching by Fawn Brents of Unfolding The Truth that I realized as one of the 99 I was not ignored, I was first fed, cared for and tucked safely in bed with the heavenly hosts standing watch over me before the shepherd left.

I feel that churches today are modeling seeking the one, but they are ignoring the 99. Consider my thoughts then share, respectfully, your thoughts. I am always interested in how several people see differently the same picture.

Over the past several years the focus of the church has undergone a series of sensitivity changes in an effort to become more seeker sensitive, not wanting to offend unchurched Sam and Sue.

Many churches no longer ask you to follow along in the Bible, because some may people not have one. As one pastor said to me we’ll just put up the verses on the screen that we want them to see. We don’t want to make them think they need a bible of their own.

No more altar calls because we don’t want to embarrass anyone by asking them to come forward. 

Instead of leading a congregation in a suit and pounding on the podium shouting fire, brimstone and the threat of hell, we now stand in shorts on the main floor to be among the people and tell light hearted stories so we can appear less intimidating.

Communion, in some churches, moved to Wednesday nights because usually visitors don’t come to that service and we won’t embarrass them by having it on Sunday.

I agree we are to be sensitive, show Christ to the unchurched. This is what Jesus did.It is good to be sensitive, to help, to lovingly show everyone that God loves them. I wonder though, in seeking the 1, have we ignored and left the rest of the flock unprotected?  Have we become so focused on  serving unchurched Sue and Sam that we no longer see the needs of churched Carla and Charles as they sit crying in our own pews?

Pastors in the past had the burden of knowing everyone in the congregation turning to him for guidance. This was his flock and he, their shepherd. Many were overwhelmed with the magnitude of this, and rightfully so! Exodus tell us that Moses was overwhelmed with the charge of all the Israelites and he delegated duties. To help him from being overwhelmed the model of Moses was used. Now the congregation is divided among several good men who help with the burden. Unfortunately, there are some pot holes in the arrangement.  With the pastor there is the sense of confidentiality, not so with these good people. Too many times all is shared with spouse and in earshot of family, spreading words spoken in confidence like a rumor weed.

Small groups are very common now, hoping to offer up a chance at relationships with others. While this setting may be good for learning, it is not always healthy for someone in need. Too often people in the group try to be armchair psychologists instead of prayer warriors, leading the person deeper in silent tears.

No longer does the pastor sit with the family while the loved one undergoes surgery. Instead we say a prayer at the church with them on Sunday morning to get them through.

I feel like these changes are an attempt to avoid the possibility of offending anyone, however, I believe we are offending the very people closest to us. Because churched Carla and Charles are inside the door, we continue the sensitivity by not getting too close. If they suddenly aren’t in church, no calls or visits are made to ask if they are okay because we don’t want to be pushy.

A long time ago I had a pastor that had everyone sign in each Sunday. If you missed, a letter was sent saying you were missed and asking if everything was okay. The more you missed the firmer the letter was worded. Another church had volunteers calling a list of members asking if there was something they could pray about for the family. Both ideas can work IF a relationship has been established. I don’t believe this relationship is  encouraged in today’s pews.

During service we are told we are family, shake hands with those around you then lets get started. There is no honest answer to the ‘hi, how are you’ gauntlet. No more care is given to that person than one you pass by in the mall.

What about churched Carla and Charles?  They come to church each Sunday, stand for 20 minutes listening to the music, occasionally joining in. They listen quietly as the service is given, then they get generic nods from those around them as they walk out the door.

The pastor says someone is up here if you want prayer but this was preceded by we don’t have an altar call, we don’t want to embarrass anyone by asking them to come forward. Churched Charles looks at Carla and says, if it would be embarrassing to come forward and acknowledge God, how can it be less so to step forward and pour out my heart where these people can see me? Besides, look at them, they are busy putting everything away so they can go home. This isn’t the right time.

So churched Carla and Charles continue each week to sit in the pew, silently crying, desiring spiritual guidance and feel as if they are being pushed aside so nothing said or done would be offensive.

My questions, then include, how can we offer the same caring for the churched as for the unchurched? How can we keep the weight of the stress of caring for so many off the shoulders of the pastor, yet offer confidence and caring to the people?  How can the person in the pews feel as desired and sought after as the person on the street.

I don’t know the answers. I understand the many difficulties experienced by the leadership, but I wonder if we are being so super sensitive that we are looking past needs in our own pews.

What do you think?

1 thought on “Forgotten in the Church Pew”

  1. What a thought-provoking & challenging article. Thank you for it. I am still digesting your thoughts but I know that this Sunday I will definitely be more in tune to those around me in the pew. Thanks again

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