Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Best Available Seats

Have you ever noticed that when we fly on an airplane, we want our family to sit together? When we purchase tickets for a baseball game, we want four seats together as close as we can get? We do these things? Because we want to share in the excitement, thrills, and fellowship. Then, why at church do families sit apart from each other and as far back as they can get. Should not the church house be THE PLACE of excitement, thrills, and fellowship?
Our next question on our teen questionnaire reads:
If I could sit anywhere in church, and it would be fine, it would be:
A. On the back row 10%
B. On the front row 20%
C. With my friends 47%
D. With my family 23%

A few months ago, my sister was having her first child. Baby Caleb Sallee was born on February 1, 2009 on a Sunday morning. We went to the hospital on Saturday evening, and after a long evening of waiting, Caleb decided to cooperate. I had pre-arranged for one of our missionaries to preach that Sunday morning. By the time I left the hospital, I arrived at church that Sunday just before the preaching. I came in the back and sat in the back pew. I don't know how anyone, with a spiritual bone in their body, can sit week after week on the back pew....
Nine people left for the restroom. Three were sleeping in front of me. There were many mothers with babies sitting around me (which in my opinion is the only ones that should sit in a back pew at church), and the noise was quite distracting. You could not hear the preacher when he spoke softer. All movements and distractions were overwhelming. I enjoyed the message-the parts that I truly heard. I wasn't so much disturbed by the distractions, as for the most part they could be expected and normal. (Those that left for restroom were either visitors or those that rode our bus; the three sleeping were elderly who I consider a blessing that they have the strength to get to church; the mothers with babies is a reward from the Lord and babies make noises; the other sounds come with 120 people being people). I just don't understand why someone who loved the Lord and wanted to mature in the Lord would choose to sit in the back and miss a part or majority of a message from the Lord.
At Great American Ballpark, home of our Cincinnati Reds, the front 8 rows behind homeplate are $200 a seat! I've never sat there, but would love to have the opportunity once in my life. We cherish front row seats at concerts, sporting events, races, and more...while our front rows at church sit empty. Why?
Our young people, according to our survey, are less concerned with the geographic location of their seats, and more concerned with the associations they sit with. Only 23% desire to sit with their families in church. 47% would rather sit with their friends.
We could discuss all the reasons and disect the problems and give suggestions as to answers...but I believe a best suited principle would be...
Why do we go to church?

If we are there to worship God, shouldn't we desire to hear every word?
If we are there to learn and mature in the things of God, shouldn't we want to be in a location where we can be fed the most?
If we truly want our families strengthened and desire for our children to learn the things of God, shouldn't we sit together as a family and 'inspect' our young people listening as they should?
In my experience, the majority of young people that go on to serve God faithfully are not the ones sitting on the back pew each service, they are the ones sitting with their families towards the front of the service. It's the ones in the back that are texting in church (21st century note writing), laughing, doodlling and grossly blaspheming the Lord and His church.
Parents, let us each evaluate why we bring our families and sit in the best available seats.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Inspect What You Expect

Jeremiah 29:10-14a -
"For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord:

While in Bible college, there was a pastor who drilled into my mind the phrase "Inspect what you expect." To my shame it took a while for that to sink in as to exactly what it meant. Basically the idea behind it is you may expect someone to do something, but you had better check up to make sure it's been done. That philosophy has come in handy in my life, and I occasionally find myself quoting it. The application here is simple - parents, we instill in our children certain expectations. The reason why just over half of our young people expect a pure spouse at the altar is that is all the expectation we have given them. In the quoted passage at the beginning of this post, the Lord made known His expectation. He had a plan for them, which probably at the time didn't seem very likely nor did they feel really confident in its success. But through reassurance and repetition, His expectation became theirs. What do we expect from and for our youth? Sadly, too often, we expect no more than the world. We are often guilty of basing our views on the culture instead of Christ. Some would argue that we expect too much - Have you read the words of Jesus Christ lately? He went much deeper than we do. We generally stop with the exterior, but He always goes to the heart, because that is where everything originates.(Prov. 4:23)(Matt. 15:18-19) All sin originates from the heart; any act committed on the outside started from the inside. We have a responsibility to know what is going on in the life of our child. Proverbs 27:23 gives a principle regarding our material possessions that can also be applied to any area that we are responsible to oversee. Are we fulfilling that responsibility? Are we training our young people to keep their heart under wraps that they not allow anything or anyone to steal it away? God commands us to love him with all our heart, etc.(Matt. 22:37) That is really hard for anyone, much less a young person, to do when they are feeding and building desires of lust in their heart because they have not been instructed to be pure.
What do our young people expect? Simply what we have instilled in them. Our responsibility is to be continually inspecting their expectations, being confident that our expectations are in line with our heavenly Father's expectations, that we might receive "thoughts of peace and not of evil" to receive an expected end.