Thinking Out Loud

November 19, 2018

The Future of Reverence at Church

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:13 am

I arrived, admittedly, two minutes late.

I started to open the double door leading into the sanctuary/auditorium/big-room, and immediately realized the pastor was in the middle of the opening prayer. I quickly closed the door.

I started quietly talking to the woman at the door handing out bulletins in the lobby.

I was effectively blocking the door.

A young woman, who I know, walked up to the door.

“They’re praying;” I told her.

And then, the unthinkable.

She replied, “I don’t care about that.”

She opened the door which sent some noise from the lobby into the auditorium. Some people in the back two rows turned toward the door to see what was causing the distraction.

I looked at the woman I had been talking to.

“I don’t care about that?” I whispered.

…Telling my wife the story later I realized what she meant was basically, ‘The fact he’s praying does not affect me. I don’t mind walking in and heading to my seat in the third row. His praying will not inconvenience me, because I don’t plan to wait for him to finish.’

But this is church.

Waiting is exactly what we once did in these situations.

Not any more, I guess.

At least for her.

August 23, 2018

What Ever Happened to Reverence?

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:09 am

About ten minutes into the service the family arrived. They helped themselves to some seats in three different rows, with the necessary noise to indicate to their kids (children and teens, I think) where they should sit.

They did all this during a prayer.

You might ask how it came about the ushers allowed this to take place, but the ushers were at the front of the auditorium about to receive the offering. It was the offertory prayer.

Then, at the end of the service they quickly made their exit.

They did this right in the middle of the benediction…

…In the contemporary church, we need to ask ourselves how much we’re willing to throw away.

I’m all in with casual dress.

I’m all for contemporary music.

I’m willing to accept some relaxed banter during the announcements and to open the sermon.

This one, however crosses a line for me.

There was no respect for the moment.

There was no respect for those around them who wanted to focus.

There was, dare I say it, no respect for God.

I would even argue that there are dozen of semi-formal situations where this behavior would be completely unacceptable and these same people would — I hope — not do what they did. 

Either way, shouldn’t a church service be somehow, different?

I don’t know who they were or if they will ever be back.

I hope they heard or saw something in the short few minutes they were there which they can take with them.

I also hope that God will continue to develop an attitude of grace in me when these situations arise because, as he well knows, it’s not necessarily my default response.

May 17, 2015

The Worst Word

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:15 am

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The scene is etched rather clearly in my memory. We were driving on the freeway heading to a Christian conference grounds for a week of spiritual retreat. My parents were in the front of the car, and I was occupying a middle seat in the back, affording me a clear view of everything from the front window.

It was then I saw the word, spray-painted in black on the side of the bridge; a four-letter, one syllable word beginning with the sixth letter of the alphabet.

[Pausing while people count.]

With my mastery of Hooked on Phonics kicking in full steam, I blurted the word out.

The lecture kicked in immediately. “That is the worst word;” I was told. Now that I knew that, I was given a warning that using that word again would result in my mouth washed out with soap. Or worse.

“What word is that?” I asked.

Okay, I didn’t ask that.

As years went by I started to wonder if that word really is the worst word, especially now that it turns up occasionally in Christian books, purely for provocation of course. Maybe we’re all becoming desensitized.

As I matured, I decided that to name a particular word worse than others was somewhat arbitrary. If anything, I think that hearing God’s name or the name of Jesus misused probably grates on me to a much greater degree.

Blasphemy is clearly the worst.

But so are words of hate. Hate speech can be racist rhetoric, or it can be the over-reaction of internet trolls speaking out against people who disagree with their pet doctrine or favorite Bible translation, or people who simply don’t use the same terminology as they do to express the gospel.

I still think the use of the F-word represents a lack of refinement. It is clearly still considered substandard English. However, it doesn’t raise my blood pressure as much as the aforementioned alternatives.

Do you agree?

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