Because of the great response to last week’s article Grammatical Pet Peeves I thought I might as well continue the general topic. So this week’s focus is Ecclesiastical Pet Peeves.
Essentially, I’m writing this week about matters that are distracting or otherwise detrimental to the Christian worship experience. I pray and trust these comments will be read and received in the same spirit of constructive but non-judgmental criticism in which they are offered.
Here are a few of my Ecclesiastical Pet Peeves:
Outside and in the parking lot:
- Un-mowed grass, un-trimmed bushes, outdated church sign, poorly maintained facilities
- Non-existent or unclear directions for visiting, elderly or physically challenged worshipers to convenient parking spots
- Poorly marked parking spaces or spaces too narrow for the average vehicle
- No parking lot attendants to provide information and assistance, especially for seniors and in times of inclement weather
In the worship service:
- Absence of friendly, outgoing, well-groomed, trained greeters to welcome worshipers
- Lack of properly trained ushers to assist latecomers in finding a seat in the sanctuary or to invite latecomers to wait in the narthex until a natural and appropriate time to enter
- Printed orders of confession of sin that put what may not be accurately self-descriptive words in the mouths of worshipers
- Responsive readings that are pedantic and unrelated to the life experience of worshipers expected to speak those words
- Selection of hymns or songs that are very difficult, if not nearly impossible to sing
- Projecting on a screen the words of unfamiliar hymns or songs without the musical score
- Requiring worshipers to stand and sit, stand and sit, repetitively or unnecessarily—three times in one worship service should be sufficient
- Requiring worshipers to stand during a several minute prayer or for an unusually lengthy Scripture reading, even if it is the gospel lesson for the day—I can listen or pray to our Lord with greater devotion while remaining comfortably seated than if having to stand again after being seated only moments or sometimes even seconds earlier
In speaking or preaching:
- Absence of a friendly word of welcome by the pastor or other church leader that briefly explains the reason for worship and the central theme of the day’s worship service
- Reading of Scripture lessons by the pastor or other person without clear and distinct pronunciation or without the emotion demanded by the text itself
- Service leaders who pay little if any attention to personal appearance
- Shoes freshly shined
- Hair neatly trimmed
- Face cleanly shaved or, if you insist, beard/goatee/mustache neatly trimmed—Note to clergy and other public worship leaders: Compare the most recent photo of the motorcycle shooting participants in Waco or Mexican drug cartel leaders with a photo of the Fortune 500 CEOs or all but nine of the 44 U.S. presidents and see which group you most nearly resemble—I’m just sayin’ …
- Lack of explanation regarding the reason and purpose for gathering of offerings
- Non-existent practice of explaining in simple, evangelical and understandable words the reason for the sacrament of Holy Communion and what the Bible says about proper reception of this wonderful means of God’s grace
- Speaking or preaching in a manner that makes it difficult for people of all ages to hear and understand what is being said
- Slow down, you speak too fast
- Speed it up, you talk too slow
- Speak up, don’t whisper, we can’t hear you, you’re speaking to a crowd, not an individual
- Speak naturally, lose the pulpit tone
That’s enough for now. I’m fairly certain this list omits some personal peeves that you could readily add. I’m also fairly certain some will agree and others will disagree with what I’ve written. I’m always interested in hearing what you think about stuff I write, even when it’s not possible for me to reply to all the responses, suggestions, criticisms and adulations I receive.
One final thought in the interest of full disclosure. It’s right and proper for you to know that at one point or another in my own ministry it’s very likely that I fanned the flame by participating in some of these peevish matters myself and sometimes that happens still today. Mea culpa! Mea maxima culpa!
What’s the bottom line? If you’re in charge of anything ecclesiastical, pay close attention to what goes on around you and do what you can to make the worship experience as worshipful and meaningful as possible. Even when that happens Satan will try to disturb and distract.
People assemble to worship our Lord in spirit and in truth. Do everything you can as an ecclesiastical leader to help that happen!