One of the tracts I read this past month as I was looking for new tracts for our tract rack started off so beautifully. It asked the important question, “Are we rushing through worship?” (In fact, I plan on preaching a sermon next week on this very subject). It talked of preparing yourself for the worship hour by getting a good night’s sleep, getting up early so that rushing out of the door is not required, eating a good breakfast so that you don’t get hungry during a long winded sermon (like me), avoiding arguments with the family, bringing your bible lessons completed and having your bible with you. Really basic stuff that you would do if you were preparing to go to work (outside of bible lesson stuff). However, tucked within this list was the following quote, “Sit in a place where you are least likely to be diverted by babies…” Let that sink in for just a moment. They just encouraged you to avoid anyone that might have a baby because that baby might make it hard for you to have a good worship towards God. My initial reaction to this comment was outrage. As a father of four and one who has faced this in his time I was outraged. On numerous occasions in my time as a preacher my wife, who would have to sit there alone, was shunned by so-called Christians adhering to this idea. They act like the worst thing that could happen to a church is have a bunch of moms with crying babies distracting the service. As a result, many of those churches make certain that they don’t have a bunch of moms with crying babies. The moms are so discouraged by that local congregation that they either fall away all together, or find somewhere to worship that is inviting to younger families. Then, years later they sit around and wonder who it is that there are no young people in the church. There are no younger men to groom into elders and deacons and eventually the church begins to wonder if the church will ever continue because the demographic of the church is an ever increasing age. I have actually visited churches where it is so engrained into the members that babies are a distraction that the slightest whimper moves the mother to get the baby out of the auditorium as quickly as possible. Is that really the environment we went to be broadcasting to everyone? We want you to come, but keep those babies quiet or else? My “second” reaction was to figure out what we are doing here and what we can do to be sure that we are providing on environment not just conducive for worship, but one that is inviting to others, especially unto our visitors. Are you speaking unto our visitors as they come? And yes, we do here. In fact, I have had numerous visitors comment through the years that they really appreciate how inviting the members of this congregation are. (I have been placed where the elders have to assign greeters each week because the members would rather sit on their pews and ignore each other.) With that said, I would encourage you to do this and all the more as we have visitors here during the meeting. Are you encouraging the mothers that bring children? While my wife is not a single mother, when I am in the pulpit she is essentially a single mom. You of course have been great about watching the kids, letting them sit with you, etc. My kids love this because they feel a part of your life, and your family. While I realize that visitors see you as a stranger, the same courtesy you have given my family needs to be extended into her and her family. The last thing she needs to be feeling is that she was a burden to us. Ask if we can help. Sit down in the pew with her; hold a song book for her as she holds her baby, etc. Instead of seeking for the best seat in the house, help the one who might need to hear this sermon even more than you do. Are we avoiding others because of their skin color, the way they smell, they way they dress, etc? I had a friend years ago I had worked and worked and worked with to get to study the bible with me. He was a neighbor, and classmate of mine throughout grade school and high school. One day he decided to start “going to church.” Because of the groundwork I had laid, he chose to go to the local church of Christ. He would later tell me he would never go back. You see, my friend was not the cleanest person. He was now covered in tattoos and didn’t have any “Sunday best” clothes. He actually had people get up and sit somewhere else after he sat down and only a handful of people in a group of 100 even spoke to him. Years of hard work thrown out because he wasn’t apparently what that church considered “prime prospect material.” I don’t know if he would have obeyed the gospel. What I do know is that now he won’t because of the prejudicial behavior of others. Let that never be said of us. Let us not pre-judge a person because they are not wearing what you think is appropriate, they are covered in tattoos, body piercings, or are even known to be the town drunk. After all, Jesus reached out to known prostitutes even when the local religious people (Pharisees) that it was beneath them. Read Luke 7:36-50. -WTK
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What Kind of Environment Are We Creating in the Worship Assembly?