Monday, March 29, 2010

#134-The Front Row aka The 8 mile road of church

Note: Not only did SAL catch up to the 21st century last week by making a twitter, but we also scurried right on up to 2010 and made a facebook group page (right side of page as well)! Now we can be satirically cynical, but also encouraging to one another as a community to social networking believers in one place....

This blog is credited to a fellow Urshanite who once wrote an essay when he was at school (that I would randomly stumble upon months after the fact) that literally had me thinking C.S. Lewis' quote that defines friendship out loud: "What? You too? I thought I was the only one." He is also the primary source behind a future, more adventurous post that has been brewing for months....

Firstly, we have already addressed one aspect of the phenomenon of church seating with the post entitled "Claiming your seat in the sanctuary as a separate independent nation."

Now onto the most sacred part about church seating: The front row-

To quote the recommender, "the only place more sacred than the platform is the first row of pews." When I read this quote I wondered aloud...Is this true? Is the front row more unique in it's reverence than that the platform demands?

And I think ultimately the answer is yes....

The front row and those who possess claim to have the boldness to sit in it's hallowed seats do indeed hold a more sacred place amongst the congregation than that of the platform simply because the platform can include many of the lay congregation (through conga players, children's choir, etc...) while only the fanatic fancies him/herself ready to take on the great burden that is the front row....

In other words, the sacredness is not determined by the physical entity of the platform/front pew in relation to it's location within the church, but rather the sacredness is determined by the constituents who represent that sector as a whole....

And thus, we arrive at the front row as the most sacred location within the church....

For what religious zealot possesses the fervor to take such bold steps as to make the front pew his home? not I, who feels naked and ashamed in such a context....but rather those that have the guts of Abraham to kill the own son at the request of is these amongst us and in our church who reside in this holy arena of the front pew....

The one advantage of the front pew zealot: He does not have the long walk of shame at the onset of altar call as the others (who must awkwardly push their neighbor to the side in the pew to stumble up embarrassingly to the altar if the message is one that demands repentance.) For the front pew sitter is already present at the altar upon the altar call. Essentially this can partially explain the ecstatic behavior of the front pew sitter: They treat the entire church service like it was one long altar call....

But when we think front pew possessor, we think of the fanatic. They dance...they jump..they shout....when we're struggling to simply lift a hand during a song...

Better yet is the fanatic of all fanatics: The front row seater at big-time youth event. This not only means that they got to church a lot earlier than everyone else, but they did so with a determination that they are not here to impress anyone but God himself....And they really mean it....

Where most of us go "that's awesome...I wish I could have the guts to do that." They are actually doing it.

Which leads into the second part of the post....

the Front Row as the "8 Mile Road" of church....
Some of you may be familiar with the 8 mile movie starring the rapper Eminem (if you're not, don't watch it.)...but essentially the movie is named after 8 mile Road in Detroit (my home).....8 mile road is the road that separates Detroit and all it's roughness, criminal, and ghetto-related connotations that come with the city and that of the suburbs where life is much more calm and orderly. South of 8 mile is Detroit and chaos. North of 8 mile is suburban life (I live on 12 mile and thus in a very safe and middle to upper-middle class town). Those of us who live north of 8 mile (basically all my friends) kind of have a romanticism of Detroit. We try to head down there many of weekends (only enough guts to hang out in certain areas) when we get the opportunity, and we admire the lifestyle and the anarchy therein of those who our age who live in Detroit. Just like there is a longing for us to return to nature in us all at times, there is a longing for suburbanites to want to return to the urban centers that once were but are no more.....

The reality is we know that we couldn't survive one day living in Detroit as a real detroiter. We couldn't keep up with the madness. We would get caught at gun point within the first week and go running home to our mommies....But that doesn't stop the longing

I hope you see the analogy in relation to the front pew fanatic. We think they're slightly crazy. We look in shock and their worship, wondering what in the world is going through their head, but there is also a longing where we wish we could have boldness in church to act so free unashamed of the onlookers behind us....

Of course for the evolutionary psychologist within me, I would call this front row sitting an act of signaling wherein the male who is looking for a female mate signals to the female that in their front row sitting and the exuberant worship therein, they are indicating more than anyone else that "they are spiritual." And when one is spiritual this closely implies a higher probability that they will grow up to be a preacher/pastor which is every good apostolics girl's dream: to marry a preacher because that is the highest respected alpha male office in our social setting. So the front row enthusiast is actually beating us all to getting the best girls....(i mention the part about apostolic girls wanting to marry preacher in jest).

And to think that after all this typing I did not get to another crucial aspect of pew-sitting: The further you gradually slip back in the pews, the more you are considered a backslider all the way to the point of the dreaded "backrow backslider." But alas, i will leave this to a future post.

(For all those concerned, I think that if we stopped accepting post suggestions now, we'd still have roughly 100 or so more posts to write...that said, keep sending the suggestions!)

Not only have we


  1. Hillarious and so very true....a word from a front pew worshipper!!!! I personally find that there are fewer distractions in worship if I can't see anyone in front of me!!! But then again...if you're really worshiping seeing people shouldn't matter!!!

    As a side note...I would like to nominate for honourable mention...the aisle seater!!! They get the outside see for easy access to the aisle and therefore the altar!!!!

    Keep posting I love it!!! It's fun to make fun of ourselves, gives us a sense of identity!!!Things no one ever brings up in conversation but are seriously in play in every day service!!!

  2. I would even go as far as to say that the outside aisle seaters (meaning they sit as close to the wall as possible) are put in the same category as the back row seaters. I mean, you know those people sit as close to the wall / aisle just in case the need to make a quick and non-publicised exit should a moment of conviction arise.


  3. LOL! okaaaaaaay i am NOT a front row worshipper but I am a second rower! Idk why but the front row just feels weird!!! BUT...the reason why I really am adamant about sitting in the front is cause of the distractions! I mean- when I am in the back I just cannot FOCUS!!! There is sooooooo much going on in the back...I just find myself watchin like the lady that always clips cupons, writes her grocery list, reads reflections magazine, clips her nails AND plucks facial hair during church!!! tHEN that makes me laugh...etc..!!!

  4. The spiritual will also begin the intermittent standing ovations on their own. Advice: listen for a building point, rising voice or just a really solid point may do it. Otherwise, you will look pretty dumb. But when that happens, just play it off. Keep standing for a few minutes, scrunch your face up and nod your head repeatedly, and perhaps say "come on," "amen" or something similar.

    One of the rules for sitting front pew is knowing how this works. It's your job during worship, but even more so during preaching.

  5. Proverbs 11:30 and the term "Soul Winners" an unfortunate misunderstanding of the word context in Proverbs.

    As if we can somehow "win" a person's soul to Christ. Obviously, nuances aside, we have an evangelistic role in spreading the Gospel story, so that's not a dispute. What is being pointed out is the use of "soul winning" and this random Proverb to support things like "Soul Winners Techniques," etc.

    To understand the second part of the verse, one must understand the first part. They are dependent to each other and quite related, almost in a contrast!

    The Message gets the paraphrase right: "A good life is a fruit-bearing tree; a violent life destroys souls."

    Your a fellow Christian sharing the story, an evangelist even, but the term "soul winner" is not a scriptural term. Perhaps we've used it to mean one in the same? The debate continues... but definitely an oft-missed scripture quoted without understanding its meaning.

  6. Sorry, the above comment was intended for the post on Scriptures out of context.

  7. Great point on the right moment to stand up and amen etc. Sarah, totally agree with you. I would like to say though that I sit on the platform and when a preacher gets to this rousing point in his message I am one of the only ones not standing, clapping, amen-ing, etc... Part of the reason for this is that lately I find myself checking facts and I am running things over in my head, the other part is that I am a daydreamer. I love it when a preacher starts talking about the OT and I start daydreaming about that time. I am a history major and so I understand the world view in these times and I am completely lost in the service. Kind of funny but also the same reason I sit mid way up on wednesday services.


    Mary if I saw people doing that, I would purposely sit back and watch them. That would captivate so much of my time. I mean I would now go to the church services just to watch what they did the next service. Free entertainment isn't always readily available!

  8. Dear Anon., you know you your refusal to stand is on one of the following repercussions:

    1) You are now suspected to be carnal (or not unified with the pastor since you are on the platform), you don't agree, etc
    2) It's reverse psychology. Your way of "standing" is my appearing too spiritual to participate with the hanky waiving crowd. You simply rub your chin and make people think you are deep into thought.
    3) You are deep under conviction and the Spirit has already arrested your heart. At this point, though, we are checking for tears, a look of agony, something...

  9. well well well- just stumbled across "this here ole blog" and am apprecative- being born and raised in this movement and having "left the fold"- "fell from grace" aka "backsliden" and after 10 yr hiatus- returned to refuse to take my seat on the front row- still the ever exuberant worshiper- i do it from the back row- thank you again for your very poigant reflection...i look forward to reading more-

  10. Yes Sara those all have probably applied at one point or another. The hilarious part though is that I am a youth leader in my church and what I'm trying to do right now is direct the youth away from using the church building as social basis for peoples spirituality. I'm going "against the grain" if you will in hopes that my youth group will realize that your position on the platform, seating in the service, opinion of others etc.... doesn't get you to heaven. I would like to try and teach them the importance of study and prayer and love for others in their individual life vs. positioning in the sanctuary or popularity amongst the group of christians they are around.


    Thank you SAL and specifically Joel Riley

  11. Anon, when we begin to see the church building as a meeting place, a place to gather and assemble once a week, we will be better off. When our houses become open forums for showing love, fellowship with neighbors, signs and wonders, prayer, communion and study, we will be better off.

  12. Doesn't anyone know that God lives on the platform? Those in the front row just want to be closer to God. Duh.