I try to stay away from the pulpit. I hate being on stage in front of people. But time to time (pastor's appreciation, Adventurers, etc...) I am forced to stand up there in the bright light for everyone to see and talk about. (Can you hear my introvert insecurity?) When I'm up there, I'm always surprised at what a vantage point pastors and the praise team has to observe what's really going on at church. Sometimes when I'm sitting in the audience, I think no one is looking at me. But really, everyone on stage can see you. And sometimes they are surprised at what you are doing down there. Maybe I should start a Dear Abby type column about appropriate church behavior. Because people just don't seem to know what's ok. For starters, here's some of the things that angry pastors wives and their husbands hate to see you doing in your pew (or chair) at church:
1. Texting - I know some of us have our Bibles on our phones these days, fine. But checking Facebook, Word with Friends, or the Groupon deal of the day is really inappropriate. And we can see it from behind you, next to you and from the pulpit.
2. Eating - A piece of gum or hard candy is no big deal. I sometimes need that sugar rush to get me through the service. But sometimes things go too far. I've actually seen someone eating a sausage patty during the sermon. I know there's a million 6 meal a day diets out there right now, but once a week, please time your protein snacks around the 1 hour that you are at church.
3. Painting your nails - I hope I don't have to explain this one. Painting, clipping or filing of your nails should be done in the privacy of your home or a salon. The same goes for cleaning your ears, flossing your teeth, and brushing your hair. And all you touchy feely couples out there - hold hands or put an arm around your spouse to show affection. Kissing, nuzzling, massaging and playing with their hair is over the line. Get a room.
4. Disciplining your child - My favorite offensive move is putting your hand over your screaming child's mouth. Sometimes this is a quick move that you need to do to get your child out of the sanctuary quickly. No problem. I'm a parent and I know that kids have outbursts. It's a part of life. But if you are holding your hand over their mouth while they scream continuously for 10+ seconds, you are being inappropriate. The same goes for pinching your child, scolding, or slapping. Have a gentle talk with your unruly child - in the lobby or restroom please!
5. Making change out of the offering plate - First of all, this is 2013, why are you carrying cash? Secondly, are you only willing to give God your ones? If all you have is a 5 or 10, why don't you give it all - are you going to miss the change THAT much? If you can afford to tip the barista at Starbucks, you can probably afford to tip God. If all you've got are bigger bills, and you ran out of checks, and don't own a computer or smartphone, go out to the office or back of the church and ask the treasurer for change. The rest of us in your row do not want to watch your lengthy bank transaction.
6. Making rude facial expressions - I'm probably most guilty of this one. It's hard to fake it sometimes. Try to remember that the pastor/worship team/prayer leader CAN SEE YOU. No matter how bad the music or grammatical error, Do not roll your eyes. If the prayer warrior starts speaking in tongues or the dancers wave their flags into your personal space, try to stay neutral. They will see you giggling and be offended. It may be what you want to do, but its not very polite.
7. Gossiping about your week - I know church is a social place. We greet our friends, make plans for lunch or remind each other of special events, but save this stuff for the hallway. It's distracting to all those around you as well as the people onstage.
It's hard to keep all of these things from interrupting our worship. I find myself wanting to do many of the above things during church, but I have to stop, and control myself. Going to church is about worship. FOCUS REJ FOCUS! Attention is a learned skill. It's not inborn. But when you train your mind to stay clear and open to God, you can hear Him talking to you and through you.
No one is forcing you to go to church. If you've got better things to do than worship God, why are you at church? Go home, hang out in the parking lot or meet your friends after church for lunch. You aren't fooling God or anyone else. You are just fooling yourself into thinking that you are church-going Christian. That's not my issue. That's between you and God. Just stop trying to take me down with you!