My dad started a Southern Baptist Church in New England. And according to bylaw 67.8.B of the Southern Baptist Convention, “a pastor and his punk kids have to sit in the same seats every Sunday, preferably stage right, first row if at all feasible given the architecture of the church in question.” It’s weird that the convention made a point of saying “punk kids” in the official bylaw, but trust me, it was a phrase well deserved.
But even though I’m longer under the watchful eye of my folks, I find myself sitting in the same section at church every week. I go to a massive church so it’s not that I only have a few spots to sit in. I have literally thousands of seats to choose from. But I sit within the same three rows, week after week, month after month. Why do I do that?
I have a few theories.
1. The Santa Claus Theory
Kids at Christmas sometimes get afraid that Santa Claus won’t be able to find them if they go out of town for the holidays. Like maybe Santa doesn’t know where Aunt Maude’s house is and will show up where Timmy is 364 days a year and finding him not home will head back to the North Pole without delivering his presents. Maybe we think the same thing will happen with God. We’ve connected with Him before in seat 4 in the front middle row and if we move to the balcony one Sunday we’re afraid God will show up to our old seat and say, “Whoa, you’re not Mark. My bad. Where is Mark? This is his seat. Weird. I guess he doesn’t want this blessing. Adios.”
2. The Scoot Theory
One of my top five days ever was spent riding scooters around on Martha’s Vineyard with my friends. The scooters were called “Cobras” so we rode with our helmets and our little “meep meep” horns waving to Harley riders all day. We pretended we were the Cobra Kai from the Karate Kid move and yelled things like “there is no pain in this dojo!” But despite how much I loved that day, I realize we looked like complete dorks. It’s nearly impossible to look cool on a cheap scooter. And it’s not random coincidence that the thing somebody that comes late to church asks you to do so they can take your seat is to “scoot.” Scooting over is the worst. You’ve got all your stuff out – bible, notebook, coffee cup, laminated numbers that indicate which kids belong to you in Sunday school, etc. You’re not in a seat. You’re in a dorm room. And then here comes “I completely forgot that for the last 7 years church has started at the exact same time” dude and he wants you to scoot. So you have to either find a section to sit where late people can’t get to you, like the front row. Or form a death grip on your seat and just shake your head “no” when someone asks you to move. Or you could just scoot over and love your neighbor by being gracious. I guess that would work too.
3. The Visitor Identification Theory
At small churches, maybe people sit in the same seat so that it’s easy to identify the visitors and show them some love. For instance, if you know that the first row, third seat down is affectionately known as the “Larry Shaw” because Mr. Larry Shaw has sat there for fourteen years straight, when a fresh faced young man sits there one Sunday, you’ll know he is a visitor.
4. The Clear Line of Sight Theory
I don’t know what happened, but last Sunday my wife and I found ourselves in a forest of giants at church. We must have missed our normal section by a row or two because there were about a dozen sermon blockers forming a wall on every side. During worship, I couldn’t really see the stage or the video screens that well and thought I would be forced to watch a reflection of Andy Stanley off the forehead of the sweaty scalped man in front of me. Maybe that happens to other people too. You realize where in the sanctuary you can see well, factoring in things like angle to worship, visibility of pastor, visual access to the baptismal, possible cameraman obstacles etc. And then, on a piece of graph paper or perhaps an engineering program like AutoCAD, plot out your best possible seat. Then you sit there for the next 30 years.
I know that being anal about where you sit at church isn’t the greatest way to welcome visitors, but as I confessed, my wife and I hang out in the same area every Sunday at church. It’s not because of any of the theories above. We figured out the perfect spot for seeing the stage and making a lightning fast exit to get our kids after it’s all over. The avalanche of parents trying not to be the “guy that was last to pick up his kid” is 2 fast and 2 furious. (You’ve just witnessed my last reference to that art film, which seems as good a place as any to end a post.)