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Encouragement For The ‘Pew’ed

March 16, 2013

There are many articles that have been written in the attempt to provide encouragement to pastors. And, of course, pastors need to be encouraged due to the amount of things they have to face in any given week in counseling, studying, and praying for their flock. However it doesn’t seem that much encouragement is given to the people that sit in the pews every Sunday.

Now, I am not talking about being encouraged to look to Christ and to desire a more holy life; that should be happening as a part of the sermon. I am talking about being encouraged about the difficult job of sitting in a pew for 1 or 2 hours (depending on the length of your service).

And no, I am not being sarcastic about the fact that it is a hard job. First you have a tail bone that doesn’t wait too long before it begins protesting its uncomfortable position. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:26 “If one member suffers, all suffer together” and while that is a spiritual truth about the body of Christ, the “Pewed” know the physical truth very well.

Besides the physical strain, there is a mental strain. Within the first 5 minutes of a sermon, we find that our minds begin to drift to other things and we have to exert our will in order to think through what is being preached. And besides this, it is our duty to take what the pastor says and to compare it to the Word of God in order to discern if the saying is true (Acts 17:11).

The church that I attend begins its worship service at 10:30. We have some singing, praying, and then the sermon. Overall, a fairly normal American church service. The one thing that is kind of up in the air is that there is no set time at which we end. Sometimes the sermon only lasts 30 min and the service is over by 11:30 but sometimes a long sermon and a long worship service keeps us until noon or later. To the “Pewed” this can sometimes be a distressing thing. A long sermon can give us the feeling of mental exhaustion and our stomachs begin to growl and we just aren’t sure how much longer this thing is going to last.

I want to encourage you…. with a true story 🙂

Last Sunday, we began at our normal time but it ended up being one of those long services and we didn’t get out until noon. That was what most of the congregation experienced. I assume that the majority of people left, went home, had a nice dinner, and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing. What most people don’t know is that this wasn’t the case with everyone. There were at least dozen young people (and a few slightly older than young) who meet together by 1:30. They then spent the next 5 hours in an intense study of hermeneutics and biblical doctrine (with the help of lots of coffee). After this was over, many of these same people went to the Sunday evening service where they sat through various lectures for the next hour.

So, there were several people who gave seven hours of their time while many of us find ourselves complaining if the sermon lasts more than a half an hour. It makes us seem rather petty and weak doesn’t it? But I want to encourage you. I want to provide you with reasons that might lead you to desire the service to last longer and maybe even be disappointed at its shortness.

The Privilege Pew(ed)

I think that one reason we are so quickly inclined to get impatient about the length of the service is that we fail to realize our privileged position. In some churches, people think themselves “privileged” because they sit under a “celebrity” pastor; I am not referring to that. I am referring to the privilege of sitting under the proclamation of God’s Holy, inspired Word. We should consider it a great honor to be in our position and to be able to hear the Word; The Life-Giving, Perfect, Empowering, Encouraging, Up-lifting, Healing, Ever-Living Word of God. This indeed is a grand privilege and one that we should not take lightly. Hearing the Word “exposed” to us by the preacher in such a way that we are hearing and seeing the mind and thoughts of God is something that is so exciting that it should keep us on the edge of our seats, whether the sermon lasts 30 or 90 minutes…

That Same Sweet Story

Have you ever read a kid his favorite story? The kid has heard the story hundreds of times and could probably recite the thing to you, and yet he wants you to read it again. He could read it for himself; instead he asks you to read it to him. So you do it. You open the book and begin reading. The kid knows what is coming and yet he is there, in the present, hanging on to every word, evaluating every precious detail, and getting lost in the story as you tell it to him. You can see the thrill in his face as you tell him a story that he already knows by heart, as if he is hearing it for the very first time. And then you finish. “Again, again! Tell me the story again!”

It’s Sunday morning. The preacher gets up in the pulpit and tells you a story that you already know; one that you could read for yourself. A preacher, if he is truly engaging in exposition, will show you not only the meaning of the text, but how it points you to Christ and the story of Redemption. He will show you that Same Sweet Story again.

How will you respond to it when you hear it? Are you trusting in it? Do you believe it? Do you see it as Sweet?

Allow your heart to well up with joy at its first sounds and follow the line of God’s Grace as if it were taking place in the present; because it is. Hang on to Every Word, and Every Detail. Get lost in the beauty of the story and allow it to wash over you as if it were the first time. Feel the thrill of a God who has given His own Son out of His Love for you. And when the preacher is done, let your response be “Again, again! Tell me that same sweet story again!”

Why do you come to church on Sunday morning anyways? Is it to gain more “principles” to apply to your life? I don’t need more principles because I (and you) have yet to keep the most simple of commands perfectly. We still struggle with our inability to obey 10 little commands, why would you come to hear more?

We come to “hear what our great God and Savior has done on behalf of sinful man”. We come to receive the promise of the forgiveness of a past week full of sin and to receive strength to face another. We come to hear that story that restores our souls and renews our minds. We come to praise and worship God with brothers and sisters and together receive the proclamation of God’s Word.

This isn’t an activity that we should be looking to get through as fast as we can. It is humanly possible to endure a service that lasts longer than an hour.

And be encouraged. Find joy in God, in His Word and in the Gospel and you will find yourself desiring to hear more, not less…

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.
Jeremiah 15:16

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