Saturday, August 19, 2006

Another View from the Back of the Church

Fundamentalist thought concerning the back row can sometimes be interpreted as, “Back row means backslidden.” Teasing about the “Back Row Baptist” is fairly common. We have all wondered where that person in the second to last row disappeared to before the end of the service.

The question is, why does the back row have such a bad rap? Why such stigma and stereotype?

As my fellow blogger humorously elaborated upon, there are multitudes of distractions when you sit in the back. You can see every sleepy head nodding. You can see every moment of a parent’s disciplining. You can see, and maybe hear, those two teen girls whispering and giggling.

And all of these things are taking place between you and the pulpit. According to Ephesians 4:11-12, God has given His church pastors to perfect the saints and edify the body. These ministries of the pastor are certainly going to be hindered if the saint cannot focus on Word of God that the pastor is faithfully proclaiming. If that believer cannot block out all the activity going on in front of him and sincerely pay attention, it will certainly limit his spiritual growth. This giving and receiving of the Word is part of true worship. Worship can become more like work when one chooses to sit in the back.

Speaking of worship, have you ever tried to sing in the back? It is terrible. You can only hear yourself. It seems like no one around is singing at all. And for me, that is a very bad thing. Put me on the third row, left hand side, aisle seat, and I can sing praise to God with the glorious sounds of a congregation that loves God surrounding me.

But wait, that beautiful sound comes from behind me. So herein lies the problem. Not everyone can sit in the front four pews. Someone, unfortunately, has to sit in the back. Right?

The stigma and stereotype come from the people who choose to sit in the back. Let’s be honest, when was the last time you saw young people goofing around in the second row of the church? No, the ones who want to cause trouble sit in the back. If you want to sneak out during the invitation, where are you going to sit? Fourth row by the window? Nope, the back. If you do not really want to hear what your pastor has to say, it is much easier to ignore him from the back of the room. Part of fundamentalism is that we believe the Bible teaches that what is going on in our soul, in our spiritual life, is going to reflect itself in our actions. One of the actions that just might be affected by our spiritual condition is where we choose to sit in church. Maybe we should each examine ourselves to see if we are in the right seat.

The solution to the problem of the back row is this: everyone in the whole church building should behave as if they are sitting in the front row, even if they are sitting in the very back. All, young and old alike, should join together in a joyful sobriety that would make all seats in the house equally desirable. And then maybe, just maybe, we could all change seats every once in a while. But then we might have to give up “our pew.” Horrors! What if someone steals it while I am away! I know some would think that way, but really, if the whole congregation, from front to back and side to side, had the same earnest spirit, no messing around, no passing notes, no slipping out early, there would be no problem with the back row. The stereotype and stigma could be cast off, and all pews would be regarded with equal status.

But, this will not be accomplished without organization. Therefore, I call for a committee to revolutionize seating in the fundamentalist world. It will not be easy, but the battle for Pew Rights must start somewhere. Let it start with me. I call for all serious fundamentalists to remove themselves from the third row, left side, aisle seat (Where all good fundamentalists sit. It is a myth that they sit in the front row.), and go sit in the back! Maybe not the very back, but venture towards the back. And when you do so, behave yourself. And sing. And pay attention. And encourage others to do the same. Let The Pew Revolution begin!


Nicole Drew said...

Time for my promised comment. This article is great... both serious and hilarious at the same time, just like you, Ricci. :-)

And I wasn't really sure if you were going to actually follow through with your "Pew Revolution", but you have! Way to go.

Keep writing!

The Lange Family said...

Great article. I like your idea of "the Pew Revolution."

The Lange Family said...

Great article. I like your idea of "The Pew Revolution." keep it coming... :)