Why Can’t I Sit in Church?

There are several modern inventions I think are genius. The in-car GPS?  Give that inventor a Nobel prize.  And the DVR – wow!  I get to fast forward through commercials.  I can watch a soccer game in about 15 minutes, but just zipping through it until the score changes then watching the goal.  Amazing.  Recently, I got a smart phone – a Droid because everyone else says to get the iPhone.  How did I live so many years without a smart phone?

But there is one modern innovation that this aging pastor hates.  I don’t know who the low-down varmint was who came up with the idea that we have to stand during the whole song service, but he is not my friend.  I would like to find him and give him a piece of my mind – what is left of it.  I’d like to make him stand (and I mean stand) in the corner for several days until his feet hurt like mine do on Sunday evening after three services of almost uninterrupted standing.

I grew up in the era where we followed the Bible. The Bible ( I can’t remember the exact chapter and verse, but it has to be in there somewhere) says you stand on the opening song, then sit until the offertory hymn, during which you stand to give people easy access to their wallets. If you sing “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” you stand up, because it is only right.  And you can’t sing “Standing on the Promises” while you are “sitting on the premises” as I was told by the music leader every time we sang that song.  So, we stood. We stood until the deacon of the week asked God to bless the gift and the giver and to use the offerings for the furtherance of Thy Kingdom. Then, we sat. Everyone knew the rules. That’s the way we always did it when I was growing up. I know it is the Bible way, because that’s the way we always did it in my growing up years.

Then, some whippersnapper brainchild came up with the idea that we should always stand when we sing!

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not against contemporary worship.  As a matter of fact, as I grow older I have come to prefer the guitars and drums to the organ and piano – just a personal preference.  If I were starting a church from scratch it would have contemporary worship all the way.  No, I’m not just some old codger who thinks we should only sing out of the hymnal.

I’d just like to sing “Our God is Greater” whilst sitting on that portion of my anatomy which God specifically designed for sitting.  I like modern worship, but my feet don’t!  I don’t get to sit and nap during the message, so it’s just not fair that I have to stand during the singing!

So, some eager worship leader says, “Worship is coming into the presence of the King, right? When you come into the King’s presence, you stand.”

Aren’t we in the presence of the Lord when we are studying his Word as well?  Isn’t preaching an act of worship? Okay, have it your way.  I’ll stand during the singing if you will stand during the preaching!  Deal?

Besides, Paul said that we are “seated in the heavenly places with Christ.”  Now I am pulling out the big guns.  If we are seated in the heavenlies why do I have to stand in church?  I got a verse to prove my point, folks.  Discussion over, right?

I really think the solution is what I mentioned a moment ago.  If they keep making me stand during the music I’m going to make them stand during the preaching – every last one of those young whippersnappers!

Oh, and Dan Barnes, you’d better recover from your surgery.  If I implement this, you’ll probably be getting some visitors over there pretty soon.  Back me up.  Make them stand while Gene preaches!

Comments

  1. Dave Miller says

    A few years ago, I published a similar article at sbcIMPACT. But they are still making me stand, and I’m still footsore. No one cares. No one listens.

    Nobody likes me, everybody hates me. I’m gonna eat some worms…

    • Dave Miller says

      (Do they still sing that song on playgrounds or am I the only one old enough to remember it?)

      • says

        That song is in the playground hymnal. Kids these days don’t sing it anymore – they are looking for a more contemporary song to sing. ;)

          • says

            Ooh, don’t get me started on “positive and encouraging”!! :) We pick up a Christian radio station here – Life 101.9 (love it by the way) that bills itself as “positive, uplifting, encouraging”, etc. Well, as soon as they say that, they play the following songs, in order:

            “Walking her Home”
            “Jesus Bring the Rain”
            “I will Priase you in this Storm”
            “Letters from War”
            “Dancing with Cinderella”
            “Lead Me”

            By the time I got to work, I was a wreck.

            Positive and uplifting my Balaam’s horse thingy!

            :)

          • Dave Miller says

            “Positive and uplifting my Balaam’s horse thingy!”

            Okay, wow. That was funny.

  2. Dave Miller says

    On a more serious note (if that is possible on a post like this), music is a source of conflict at our church because we have both contemporary and traditional services and some intermingling.

    Interesting that among a number of the older folks, the complaint is often not so much about the music but about the standing. I’ve had a number of folks older than me say they don’t mind the music nearly as much as the standing.

    When you are older (and/or heavier) it is not that easy to stand for half an hour. It’s okay though, they get naps once I get in the pulpit.

    • says

      For a time we had two services and I preached on occasion after playing bass on the worship team for both services. I didn’t even get to sit down for the announcements!

      • Frank L. says

        Mike,

        I still preach after playing the bass, so I’m up most of the service and a bass is heavy.

        Like, old David, (not David of Old), my feet aren’t what they used to be. Like, old David, I get complaints from older people if they have to stand too much. It seems petty on the surface of the matter–until you actually get old.

        Thanks, Dave, for a brave post.

    • says

      That WASN’T a serious note? It was to me.

      Actually, I solved the problem. I sit down during the worship music. Doesn’t hurt a bit and if anybody ever mentions it to me, I’m going to tell them they got their eyes on the wrong guy if they’re watching me.

      Next problem?

  3. Mark says

    dude, when the “spirit” moves, I sit down … we are still part of a free church tradition, right?

    • Dave Miller says

      Actually, we have a note at the bottom of the bulletin that tells people to sit if they want to.

      • says

        Our music guy tells people “you can stand if you want or sit if you want–whatever, I don’t care.” Nobody stands. (well if they do then the people behind them complain they can’t see!)

          • Pedro says

            I have been sitting now for over a year (in Church during everything) and I’m enjoying it. Men, don’t complain about standing. You are not trained dogs who stand when they are told to stand. Be men and sit when want to sit. Don’t be a bunch of wimps. Do I hear some loud Amens?

  4. Jim says

    Okay, I sympathize with you, now let me hear an “A-w-w-w-w, poor old man” for me. I cannot say this delicately: I have a bad tailbone. So I stand until my feet give out, then sit until my tail gives out, etc. etc. all through the service.

  5. says

    You and me, too. About three-four years ago, I attended an SGM church near where I live. It was a two hour Sunday morning service. They had us standing for 50 minutes…even for receiving the communion. Having had open heart surgery a few years before, I soon felt the impact of such prolonged standing. Even the church Inow attend with somuch contemp. music has us standing for 30-40 minutes. My wife, who had scoliosis sets down. I think such standing comes from the attendance at Rock concerts. It certainly does not recognize the possiblities inherent in standing, setting, rising, and standing as to the improvement in the quality of singing. And, even though the contemp. music sons are sometimes more Gospel centered than some of the old ones, I do grow weary of the beat music.(Is that a result of my being raised on BWesterbns where the music was from the classics (most familiar would be the Lone Ranger and William Tell’s Overture)). In any case, I long for the music from the 1700s and some in the 1800s. the former has much of the sense and feeling of those awesome events, The Great Awakenings, a result, I feel sure, of the theology that was the key to such visitations.

  6. says

    Should I mention the synagogue practices of Jesus’ time when during the teaching the people would stand and the teacher would be seated?
    (I think of that every time someone complains about the preacher using a stool…)

    • says

      I was getting ready to post something like this… well not w/ the people complaining about the stool part, but doggonit… let the preacher sit and the people stand like they used to in those really old days.

      Heck, in Nehemiah 8 when Ezra read the law, it seems to indicate the people stood for the reading from early morning until midday, and they paid attention too.

      But they probably paid attention b/c they were standing…kinda harder to fall asleep when you’re not sitting in a pew.

      And down with those pews anyway–they’re just creature comforts we don’t need in the church… away with all chairs! (especially padded ones with seat backs)… :)

  7. Josh M. says

    “So, some eager worship leader says, ‘Worship is coming into the presence of the King, right? When you come into the King’s presence, you stand.'”

    Lies! When you come into the presence of the King, you fall on your face. Let’s start singing faced down into the carpet.

  8. Max says

    I couldn’t help but notice the photo you provided with this blog. It appears that most folks are staring away from the stage … upward and to the left. I suspect that is where the words they don’t know are posted on a big screen. My dad used to call that “singing off the wall”.

    As I’ve grown older, I’ve always thought of myself as “culturally-relevant” in each decade I lived … after all, Jesus is the eternal contemporary. I don’t have a problem with form as long as there is some substance to go with it. I’ve come to terms with “7/11″ chants, drums and guitars in the sanctuary. I’ve endured standing with the best of the young whipper-snappers and even been known to shout as the Spirit moved.

    However, I too long, as an earlier commenter, for the great hymns of faith on occasion … there’s a lot of good doctrine in those old songs. Unfortunately, LifeWay has seen fit to delete some of the hymns I love in its new Baptist Hymnal (2008 revision). If you are using that new book and one of your folks requests that the church sing “Whosoever Will” or “Whosoever Meaneth Me” or others of that flavor, you won’t find them there. Neither will you find “O Zion, Haste” or “Holy Bible, Book of Love”. It appears that these are now out of fashion, deemed no longer theologically-correct by LifeWay editors, or simply removed to make room for more contemporary lyrics … so we stand and wonder what’s next.

    • bill says

      It’s not uncommon for songs to be rotated out or outright removed during new versions of the baptist hymnal. It’s generally handled through vast amounts of data collection as to how much a song is sung or not sung in church services across a broad spectrum.

      What has happened is that a lot of junk hymns have been rotated out and been replaced with hymns that are more recently accepted as hymns or very well written praise choruses.

      However, with that said, now that the junk hymns have been rotated out, we’re now seeing good hymns which have largely fallen by the wayside get rotated out now. It’s a shame, but each version has some stuff rotated out and new stuff put in. Those hymns aren’t lost forever though, because you can find the words and chord sheets quite easily and print it into your weekly bulletin or up on the wall during your song service.

      Just because it ain’t in the book doesn’t mean it’s not there…

      And I also enjoy the hymns, I just enjoy them up on a 20×20 screen because my eyes ain’t what they used to be.

      • Max says

        Bill – I’m not familiar with the phrase “junk hymns”. How would you define that?

        • bill says

          There was a hymn written in the sixties trying to invoke the imagery of the space race with the glory of God.

          A line literally read “…like rocket ships in the night.”

          Awful stuff.

          Like I said, junk hymns…

          I’m sorry, but just because it made it into a hymnal does not make it automatically sacred stuff.

    • says

      Yeah, if you add a hymn you have to delete another. And I think they do some research on what hymns are used in churches and what aren’t.

  9. says

    Dave, I enjoyed this article. You provide some interesting thoughts on tradition. Wonder where all this standing came from? We stand just a little bit at my church; but, you can almost set your clock by when to stand and when to sit.

    Some pastors have people stand up when the Word of God is read. I’m fine with this; but, I don’t know that it’s any more reverent to stand when the Bible is read than it is to sit when it’s read.

    • says

      Actually, I alluded to it in the piece. As I understand it, someone had the idea that when you worship, you “stand” before the throne of God and so it is appropriate to stand in God’s presence.

      It started among charismatics to my knowledge but is pretty much universal in the contemporary worship culture.

  10. says

    The traditional practice in the liturgical churches has been to stand for all the hymns; I always got a kick out of it when my somewhat iconoclastic father-in-law would announce, “We shall now sit and sing number ….” And he meant it … back to the pulpit chair and down.

    As for having people stand for the reading of Scripture, that is still common practice for the Gospel selection in liturgical churches. When I was a young organist at a Lutheran church, I learned how you get people up for the Gospel; the pastor would inevitable say, “The Holy Gospel (much throat clearing) is found in …” They knew that little cough was sacred language for “on your feet”.

    • Christiane says

      “As for having people stand for the reading of Scripture, that is still common practice for the Gospel selection in liturgical churches.”

      Everyone, who is physically able, stands in Catholic and in Orthodox Churches when the Holy Gospel is read aloud. Liturgically, this is done ‘as a congregation’.

  11. bapticus hereticus says

    Dave: … almost uninterrupted standing.

    James: Even the church I now attend with so much contemp. music has us standing for 30-40 minutes.

    bapticus hereticus: I share the sentiments of Dave and James. Granted, standing has a long history in the church for liturgical (e.g., gospel reading) and practical reasons (e.g., no seating available), but today 30-40 minutes, yeah even 15 minutes, is well, goodness, seemingly a desire to facilitate a religious mosh pit. No thanks (as far as being a preference). I’ll sing and support the new direction in music, but when it majorly begins to facilitate focus on my body instead of God, I’ll politely do what I can to retain the focus on the latter, independent of any perceived desire of the worship leader.

    But such a situation raises an interesting issue: the development of a worship service that is capable of being meaningful for an intergenerational community of faith. How does one balance movement and other things worship so that all ages perceive they are sufficiently included? In terms of movement, if I couldn’t stand for 20 minutes, but could for 15 minutes, likely I would be OK with sitting alone for 5 minutes. But if I could only go 5 minutes and must, then, sit for 15 minutes alone, would I perceive an appropriate level of inclusion with the community? It’s a difficult question to appropriate: what processes need to be in place to ensure and manage a healthy tension among the needs and desires of the individual and that of the community.

  12. says

    Thank you. As the concert, I mean worship, continues my knees swell. I feel guilty that I am thinking how much longer do we have to stand

    From my grumpy side -“worship leaders” do not see the preached word as the center of worship. We have a youth camp talk show format. No prayers or Bible readings can interupt our show. What I consistantly see is a formless vat of imitation of Christian Rock stars. Then some preaching for, some reason they allow, is tacked on.

    • Max says

      Fletcher – Same thing on my end with some new SBC church plants. While this “worship” format is attracting large numbers of 20s/30s, particularly in our college town, the scene resembles a large youth group with the kids running the place. This is not only an old guy observation, I have talked to young folks who have baled out after a season of swimming in shallow water. How much of the world can we drag into our circle and still appear Christian?

      • Christiane says

        “How much of the world can we drag into our circle and still appear Christian?”

        I don’t understand this sentence.

    • Dave Miller says

      I will agree that one of the great dangers in modern Christian music is that the worship service can become a concert, but I think the criticisms that Fletcher and Max have made here are generally unfair.

      the young people I know who lead worship generally care about worship. Just because, Fletcher, its not your style doesn’t mean its not genuine worship.

      And, Max, that is a pretty good old cherry, the “bringing the world into the church” thing. But it doesn’t hold water.

      Many of the “great old hymns” were put to the common tunes of the day – folks songs and such. The church has always been putting Christian words to “worldly” songs. Now, if you want to sing Bach, Handel and Beethoven, maybe you would have a point.

      The assumption that old music is inherently more spiritual is just a prejudice, not based on fact or exegesis.

      And to assume that contemporary music is “swimming in the shallow water” is just not factual either. in the last 10 years or so, some amazingly deep, theological and uplifting words have been set to modern tunes.

      I hear these tired and cliched arguments so often that they kind of get under my skin. sorry.