Vol.III No.IV Pg.5
May 1966

Sitting At The Back

Robert F. Turner

Why do so many churchgoers insist upon sitting in the back of the building? In big churches, little churches; north, south, east or west; this is a continual question. The elders will make an announcement, the preacher "'shame! shame!"s the folk, and everybody (?) moves down -- for a few weeks. Then most of them drift back, back, back; and we start all over again.

I may not have the solution, but many years of experience have taught me some things about the problem. If more members would think objectively about that, we might get a little closer to the answers.

In the first place, saints assemble to worship God; i.e., each one is a participant or teammate in a joint activity. We are not in the grandstand, as observers; but on the field, as players. Each Christian is priest, (1 Pet.2:5,9) with a valid function.

Frequently we are urged to "move down, so the singing will sound better." The request is based upon factual observation, but it misses the more important reason. The higher motive for a close blending of voices is the blessedness of united effort, the sweet communion of kindred souls as the songs of Zion swell heavenward. Yes, we shall be judged as individuals; but the collective elements of public worship, by divine assignment, have a special function in the praise of God and the strengthening of the worshippers. (Cf. 1 Cor.14:23-25)

In a large auditorium that is but sparsely populated the problem is communication. In any auditorium, half-filled or packed, the problem is communication. I do not refer to the purely physical matter of being heard. Cur modern electronic systems can blast sound into the most remote corner. I refer to the communication necessary to our purpose for assembling. It is feeling, and being felt; imparting and receiving; establishing the togetherness so essential to community worship that suffers most in a scattered assembly, or between the teacher at the front and the pupil on the back row. Unnecessary space interferes with this communication. Distractions such as crying babies (or playing with the babies) break this communication. The late-comer, the shifting about of mothers who must take their children to the nursery or rest room -- all of these things wreck communication; and these things are worse in the back of the auditorium.

Visitors - especially non-members-sit in the back because they ARE but observers. Although we welcome their presence, there is no reason for feeling themselves a part -- a participant in our worship of God. Psychologist tell us that people sit apart because they do not wish to become involved-to feel obligated by the activities of the gathering. This offers a logical and understandable reason for the non-member sitting at the back.

But why would sincere worshippers of God, members of the congregation, saints who have come for no other purpose than to join with fellow-saints in this sacred service -- why would they sit at the back?