I had a disturbing experience at Sunday worship this morning. It was not the first time, but today I became more keenly aware of the problem than ever before.
We got up late and had to rush to make it to church on time, but we managed to arrive a few minutes before the start of the early worship service. We found a seat near the center of the sanctuary, and the service soon began.
A younger couple was seated directly behind us. As the service progressed, they began whispering to each other. The man was doing most of the talking. He was also moving his leg and bumping the pew ahead of him (the one we were sitting in), causing additional distraction.
The whispering and bumping continued through the song service, communion and the offering. Things tend to loosen up a bit during the offering at our church; quite a few people were talking then. The younger children were in junior church, but the older children and teens present in the adult service were generally quiet. It was the grownups who were making all of the noise.
As the sermon began, the man behind me continued whispering and bumping the pew. I began to get annoyed as it was difficult for me to focus on the sermon while all of this was going on. I considered turning around and saying something to the man, but then I thought to myself, “What if he is a first-time visitor? If I offend him, will he never come back… and maybe miss the message of salvation through Jesus Christ?”
Finally the sermon was over, but the distractions continued, even during the prayer of invitation! At last, the service concluded, and everyone left. But today’s experience got me thinking…
Why, when I was growing up, the children would talk in church, and the parents had to tell them to be quiet. Now the children are mostly quiet, and the grownups do all of the talking! It wasn’t only this morning; quite often I find myself seated in front of a talking couple at Sunday worship. I spoke with a friend after today’s service, only to find that I’m not the only person who is disturbed by such distractions.
Why is this happening? First off, the children are quieter now because the younger ones (who are more prone to talk out of turn) are in junior church. They didn’t have junior church 30 years ago, and the young ones had to sit through the adult service.
As for the adults, it’s my guess that they, like most of us, were brought up on TV, movies and rock concerts. They’re used to talking during performances of various kinds, and to most people nowadays, a sermon is merely a performance.
Here’s the problem: the sermon is not merely a performance. It’s God’s message, brought to us by God’s messenger. As a Divine message, it demands our respect, whether we enjoy it or not, and whether we agree with it or not. Also, folks need to have respect for their neighbors who are trying to listen to the sermon, or the communion meditation, or whatever is taking place. The bottom line is, distractions are annoying and totally not conducive to worship. Today’s grownups simply need to exhibit more “grown up” behavior in the house of God.