The Sacred Sandwich



Churchgoers are notorious for not wanting to sit in the front row during worship service— at least in most of the churches I’ve attended in the past. I used to think it was because the attendees wanted a certain level of anonymity or perhaps the freedom to easily slip out of the room if they felt the need. But lately I’ve decided that some folks are sitting in the back row because they don’t want to hear anyone sitting behind them.

Have you ever been in the middle of a church service, trying to focus on singing a hymn or contemplating the sermon, when two people sitting behind you suddenly felt compelled to have a short, but apparently unavoidable discussion about the amazing absorption of the Sham Wow? Oh sure, they try to whisper politely, but they might as well use a bullhorn. Against the backdrop of dedicated corporate worship, such muted chatter can often sound like nails on a chalkboard.

After pondering this issue, I came up with a list of remarks that I really, really don’t want to hear behind me during church service. Here are just a few:

  • “Dude, I’m gonna hafta call you back. We’re about to pray or something.”
  • “Boo-oooo!”
  • “The pastor looks really cute today.”
  • “Mommy, my tummy doesn’t feel good. I think I’m gonna throw uh—erpleeeeeck!” (Accompanied by a splashing sound against my seat.)
  • “Hey there, ladies… nice bibles. You come here often?”
  • “Zzzzzzzzzz…”
  • “Sweet! I just scored the last Krispy Kreme at the snack table.”
  • “He’s good, but he’s no Joyce Meyer.”
  • “Dang it, I grabbed my Bhagavad-Gita by mistake. The Message Bible is still in the Prius next to my yoga mat.”
  • “You think they’ll mind if I use the offering basket to break a five?”
  • “Seven-day sex challenge? Now you’re talking, pastor!”
  • “I can’t see the pulpit. The guy in front of me has a melon that could show up on Google Earth.”

Okay, that last one was a little too close to home for me, but I’m sure the reader can come up with worse possibilities. The point I’m trying to make is that perhaps we have become a bit too casual during our services, and our churches have become more like coffeehouses and movie theaters instead of places of corporate worship.

Believe me, I’ve seen it happen before. One Sunday morning, back in the summer of 2001, my wife and I had entered into worship in a church where we formerly held membership. We had begun a sincere, heartfelt worship of God, singing praise to Him: fixing our heart and mind on our Lord and Savior, when instantly that focus was broken. The lights dimmed, a large screen came down from the ceiling, and a movie clip from Apollo 13 was projected above the pulpit as a dramatic lead-in to the sermon. Suddenly, we were no longer in a worship service, but in a theater watching the big screen. That’s when we heard a woman behind us whisper with delight, “I love this movie… Isn’t Tom Hanks great?”

Wow. All she was missing was the hot buttered popcorn.

So let’s not forget the focus and purpose of these worship gatherings, folks. I suggest you read Hebrews 12 which ends with the following summation: “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

And the people sitting behind us said… “Amen!’

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  • Comment by Sharon — September 4, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

    Someone commented years ago about an elderly man passing out in the first row. In my parent’s church they had an elderly retired preacher who would stand in when the regular minister was away. He had remarked to his son one day that he would like to go while preaching a really good sermon, and God honoured his request, probably because he was such a godly man. It certainly shook up the small congregation, but it was hard for my family to be upset as we were confident that he went straight into the presence of Jesus.

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