I visited a new church last Sunday.
Visiting churches can be scary. But my wife and I were out of town on Sunday, and I don’t believe in skipping worship just because God has blessed us with the means to go on vacation. (Plus, God gives extra points for vacation church, and extra extra points for bragging about it.) So we drove down the street and picked a church based solely on their meeting time.
I’ve visited many churches and experienced many types of worship. But I had forgotten how long it had been since I was outside my comfort zone. The people were friendly and all that. Though the pastor and praise team were absolutely not comfortable with any stray moment of silence. They were saying, “Praise the Lord,” and “Thank you, Jesus,” like it was a nervous, spastic tic, even when it made no sense. This continued on for an hour and a half, at the end of which my wife and I were saying, “Sweet Jesus, let’s get out of here and eat lunch!”
It reminded me how diverse worship is, and how I’m only comfortable with a small slice of it. Really, a lot of worship makes me uncomfortable. I want to emphasize that I have nothing against Christians who worship differently than me. I’m just uncomfortable around them. So I started wondering if I should just be more comfortable with Christians who worship differently from me, or if they should take a seat and not draw so much attention to themselves.
I came up with five types of Christian worshippers. Which one are you?
The Keep-It-to-Yourself Christian
This is the least distracting Christian. This person sits quietly, stands when they’re supposed to, and hardly makes any audible sounds. If anything spiritual is going on with this person, only God knows about it. Some more boisterous Christians might be tempted to be annoyed with this guy, but hey, he just doesn’t care to put on a show for your sake.
The Self-Conscious Christian
This is me. I sing the songs, but not too loud, because I can’t carry a tune. I’ll tap the chair in front of me with my hands and kind of move around, but I have a really hard time moving my hands higher then waist height because: A) my arms are so manly that I don’t want to cause my sisters in Christ to stumble, and B) because I know by putting my hands up in the air, the guy behind me won’t be able to see the screen. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got sweet dance moves (ask my wife.) I’ve been in several Black Eye Peas videos as a body double for Will.i.am (well, that’s not true.) I just don’t rock dat body in worship.
The Non-Stop Talk Christian
This is the person who, like the people in the church we visited, seem deathly afraid of any moment of silence during worship. Thus, this person has been gifted with speaking in tongues…or failing that, just saying, “Praise God,” again and again. If they’re really gifted, they’ll be appointed to pray, and will litter their prayers with copious “Lord God” phrases, as if God needs to reminded we’re talking to Him. Maybe we should start snapping our fingers to get God’s attention. And if you get two or more of these people in the same room, you have a showdown on your hands as they see who can be more encouraging with their ad-lib God-shout-outs.
The Front Row Christian
The front row in church is a very special place. I don’t go there, and it isn’t because I’m afraid of being that close to God, who obviously is huddling inside the pulpit, feeding the pastor his lines. No, I’m not a front row Christian, because it’s obviously a gang of Christians who I don’t fit in with. I don’t know what it is about the front row. Why are people in the front row so often the ones drawing everyone’s attention? There’s always a front row-er who’s the loudest in the room, with their hands raised highest (thus, I never learn the lyrics of any songs.) Does the front row attract attention seekers, or does it convert them into loud, raucous worshippers? Or are they just trying to set an example for the rest of us? Which came first: the front row, or the front row Christian?
The Only-Person-Doing-That Christian
For a special few Christian soldiers, the front row just can’t contain them. It’s okay for amatuers, but once you graduate from stretching your hands to block everyone’s view and yelling over everyone so God can hear you, you have to start to make your own way. Every once in a while you’ll meet one of these people who’s totally comfortable with doing something no one else is doing. Last week, a woman (of course, in the front row) decided the third verse of the second song was just the right moment to start waving a flag. Yes, a flag. A cloth on a stick, which she brought from home. That was new to me, but she was going to town with that thing. I don’t know why she had to be in the front row. I felt a definate draft from the air conditioner from my vantage point. Her flag would’ve fluttered for Jesus just fine where I was sitting, halfway back. At another church I witnessed a woman doing an interpretive dance (also up front, obviously). I don’t know if this woman had mixed up church with her yoga class, but she came prepared, wearing a leotard and everything.
I’ve still never been to a snake handling church. And there’s always been lots of ways people have worshipped. People have praised God by speaking in tongues, rolling on the floor and barking like dogs (Yes. Apparently the barkers made John Wesley a tad uncomfortable.) I’m glad I wasn’t visiting church in ancient Israel on “Circumcision Day.” That would be almost as uncomfortable as trying to escape a Baptist church without responding to the altar call.
I just can’t figure it out. I try to love other Christians and accept their worship. But I can’t deny that their worship definately interferes with my worship. I’m sitting there, trying not to stare at someone flailing around in the front row when I should be focused on God.
What do you think? What kind of worshipper are you? Does anything go when it comes to church? Should I get off my throne of judgement, or should the people in the front row take a seat and blend in?