I owe this blog to a challenge from Dawn at Inspiration with an Attitude. It’s one of many blogs that I follow and if you’re not following her, you might want to. I say this because if I offend someone with this blog, blame Dawn. She responded to an earlier blog, Seeds Live Truthfully with the challenge to do a follow-up with the symptoms of The Tenured Pew Sitter. Even at 61, the competitor in me still likes a good challenge.
I don’t know exactly how I formed this phrase, I think it was inspired from reading another blogger, See, there’s this thing called biology (you might want to check insanitybytes out, too. Some more good stuff!). She coined a word “Churchians” and from that, I would like to think I was inspired by the Holy Spirit. So, I started using the phrase “Tenured Pew Sitters”. So to answer the challenge from Dawn, here goes from Number 10 to Number 1:
10. A Love For The Bible That Does Not Include The Application
For the Tenured Pew Sitters the goal is information. The more information one has, the better person they become. The problem is that the Bible is not given to us for information, rather transformation.
9. Trapped In The Past
They see the height of the church being in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. If church leaders would just do what they did back then, the result would be church growth. If we were living in the same “Christian” culture as back then it would work. But we aren’t and it won’t. There is a reason why this era is called the “Post Christian” culture. The values of Jesus are no longer the primary values of society. They insist that we must go back and do what we used to do, and be. If you always do what you’ve always done, then you will always be what you’ve always been.
8. Religion Replaces Relationship
Tenured Pew Sitters focus on the external rather than the internal. It is all about “the show”. The rich traditions and liturgy that once inspired a previous generation to know and love God more deeply, are now sacred cows to be protected at all costs; even at the cost of a local church dying. It is the desire for form over substance. John Wesley wrote near the end of his life that he never doubted that there would ever cease to be a people known as Methodists. But his greatest fear was that they have the form of godliness but without the power of the Holy Spirit.
7. They Are The Ultimate Image Of A Christian.
Therefore, everyone else must conform to their image. If anyone is to be a part of “their” church, then they must agree with them. They see themselves on the “path” and everyone else is either a trouble-maker or a “well bless their little hearts”. You have to be a Southerner to know what “well bless their little hearts” means.
6. Power Over Purpose
It’s not the “power” you are thinking about. It’s not about the power of the local church, but about holding power OVER the local church. They do this in a variety of ways: being on the right committees; being vocally abusive even in a nice kind of way. More important for them is the power of the Offering Plate. They see it as the ballot box–of approving or disapproving of the mission of the church. They care more about the weight of their power than the true purpose for the Body of Christ.
5. Heightened Sense Of Self Importance
The Tenured Pew Sitter sees themselves as the source of all wisdom. Some will actually say that the church cannot survive without them and their support. This is another way of saying they have a serious ego problem, not that different from the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day.
4. It’s All About What Happens In Here
There is no sense of mission, except to send money somewhere far, far away. Supporting foreign mission projects becomes a way to ease the conscience of the Tenured Pew Sitter. The bulk of the budget must be spent on what happens INSIDE the church building.
3. A Deep Seated Desire To Judge
The Tenured Pew Sitter thinks of themselves as a “fruit” inspector. What they really are is a bulldozer; quick to run anyone down they see as a threat to their power and/or their comfort. They think that the Lord helps those who can help themselves; and only the worthy deserve any help.
2. An Obvious Absence Of Deep Joy
The Tenured Pew Sitter has “that” expression, on their face and in their words. “That” expression is what I call “The Painfully Pious” look. Imagine this: Chewing on a lemon rind on one side of your mouth and a green persimmon on the other. Try it if you would like and look at yourself in the mirror. I wouldn’t recommend it; just trust me on this one.
1. The Local Church Exists For Them.
They see the local church as a producer of goods and services for them, the consumer. For the Tenured Pew Sitter, for “church” to be “church” then it must offer things that appeal to them first and foremost.
Well Dawn, I hope this gives you my insights. Anyone else out there have other insights into The Tenured Pew Sitter? Feel free to add them below in the comments section.
I am…started to say “surprised” but really I’m not because I saw it coming from a mile away. I am…started to say “amazed” but that’s not the word because there’s nothing profound or significant in it. I am…started to say “speechless” but there’s so much I could say. I am…started to say “fed-up” because I certainly am, but as a follower of Jesus I need to be more than just “fed-up”. I am…started to say “disgusted” and that certainly is an emotion that is present and prevalent in me right now. So, what’s the word I’m looking for?
Well, this wordsmith who usually finds something deep and profound is left with just this simple phrase: “I am sick and tired of it!” I realize these words lack spiritual depth and certainly are not words of grace and mercy, but they do describe where I am. I was feeling bad about it until I remembered Jesus, the week of His death, walking into the Court of the Gentiles and seeing that “spiritual flea market” of currency exchanges and sellers of animals for sacrifice. OK, so maybe it’s not so bad that I’m feeling sick and tired of it. I do think that Jesus was sick and tired of seeing those who were supposed to represent HIM on earth tied up to and wrapped up in so much that had absolutely nothing do to with the Heavenly Father. Hang on a minute while I take these cords and fashion me a whip.
Much has been said about the recent acts by NFL players hitting the knee or staying in the locker room while the National Anthem is played. And herein is my rub, those first 4 words–“Much has been said”! What “has been said” are words, lots of words, about anger and disgust. The only threat of action is to “stop watching them on TV”. Well, gee golly, that ought to change our culture and nation! But I didn’t see any change after Monday Night Football in our culture. Maybe after Sunday when sooooooo many are not watching NFL football our culture will change. Guess I’ll have to wait until Monday to see our culture change. Yet…..somehow I don’t think that act will bring about any real change, culture shift, or a “everyone lives happily ever after” narrative.
Look, people! That is their right and freedom. Even my son, Sargent First Class Matthew Burbank (combat veteran of 5 tours in some of the worst flea-infested-arm-pits parts of the world) acknowledges he paid a price (though he calls it a small price, but I, Dad, know better than that) for them to disrespect THE Flag that draped the coffins of his friends and comrades in arms. Before I continue my “sick and tired” thoughts, you need to think about this in a practical way. If we ban this form of protest it will not be long until another form of protest and another and another, until finally we will have lost one of the linchpin principles of this nation: Freedom of Speech. Remove that linchpin and soon thereafter all the other linchpins will be pulled and we will be living under tyranny, again!
Wait, I just heard something thinking, “OK, Mr. Kingdom Pastor, what would you suggest? Just go ahead and watch those games?” If that’s how you want to express your freedom to protest by not watching those games, then by all means, go ahead. But if you are wanting to hit those players in the pocketbook, then simply do NOT buy anything that has the Officially Licensed NFL logo. That’s where the money is made. By the way, that includes more than jerseys, t-shirts and caps. There are other products that are labeled “The Official _____________________(fill in the blank with a product or service) of the NFL.” But do you think that is really going to change our culture and our nation? You do? Look, contact me and I will arrange to sell you some great Gulf Coast property in New Mexico, or Montana if you prefer Montana.
What do I suggest? I am so glad you asked me that. Here’s my suggestion: HIT YOUR KNEES! Pray FOR, and not AGAINST those you see as the problem in our culture and nation. And then pray some more–for YOURSELF! Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters, quit complaining and start doing something that will make a positive difference in another person. Mahatma Gandhi may not have been a committed follower of Jesus Christ, but he certainly gave clarity to the teaching of Jesus and our responsibilities to God’s creation when he challenged people saying, “You must be the change you want to see in others.” Do you remember that time when the disciples saw a problem, people were hungry and needed to be sent on their way? What was Jesus’ initial response? “YOU give them something to eat!” So you who passionately profess to follow Jesus but consistently “pass the buck” and expect others to do something, “What say ye now, to Jesus?”
Hit YOUR knees in prayer. Ask the God of infinite mercy and grace to forgive you of your whining when you should have been doing something to reveal the presence of Jesus in your own life. Genuinely regret that you are a part of the “when all is said and done, more is said than done” crowd. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your heart and mind with the Presence, Power and Provisions of God Himself, the power that caused The Resurrection to happen for Jesus! Hit YOUR knees and ask God to open your eyes, mind and heart to all those people you will see today who need to see Hope, who need to be made whole in Jesus Christ!
Then look for practical ways to do it. Take them out to lunch, to Starbucks, to somewhere and listen to their story. Offer to take someone who can’t drive shopping with you. Find ways to live UN-selfishly. Caleb Kaltenbach, in his book, Messy Grace, reminds us that as Christians we need to be known what we are FOR, and NOT for what we are AGAINST! And what we should be for is people coming into the loving Relationship that God wants everyone to have with Him.
Churchians, Tenured Pew Sitters, and WATNFL (Whiners Against The NFL) card-holding-members, begin doing things FOR others that only Jesus would do. Watching re-runs on Sunday afternoons, Monday nights and Thursday nights will NOT change our culture and nation. But taking personal responsibility to show and share the love of Jesus, especially without words ever being said, WILL change our culture one life at a time. And the first life that needs to change may well be your own. I know this is true in my case.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And makes sure all the glory goes to Him!