A few weeks ago at church, I sat next to a couple who were doing a play-by-play analysis on the entire service. From the very first worship song to the very last announcement, they were talking about the service. Usually people who talk about what they would have done in a football game on Monday are called “Monday Morning Quarterbacks,” but this was a new level of fascinating I’d never experienced before.
It was kind of like watching the director’s commentary on a DVD, which is always a disappointing experience. I remember being excited to watch the director’s commentary on the movie “Say Anything.” I thought there would be some sort of magical exchange between the director and John Cusack when they discussed the scene where he held up the boombox over his head. Some sort of deep wisdom or off-the-cuff nugget about that pivotal moment.
Instead, it went something like this:
Director: Remember that scene.
John Cusack: Yeah, I do.
Director: What tape was actually in the boombox?
John Cusack: I think it was Fishbone.
John Cusack: Yeah, maybe.
If you want to Instagram that dialog feel free. It’s riveting.
Would the director’s commentary of the church service prove to be more interesting? Would they top John Cusack with their analysis? Would there be any part they didn’t discuss loudly? So many questions and, as time has proven, so many thoughts went through my head:
1. Whoa, talking during a worship song. Bold move, or maybe they’re “talk singers,” afraid to actually try singing a song and, instead, just talk the words out. Nashville is an intimidating place to worship. Everyone you sit next to has a record deal.
2. Is it rude to listen? It’s impossible to ignore. They’re talking so loud that I kind of feel like they’re talking to me.
3. Is this performance art? Maybe this is part of an edgy new sermon series? Are they crowd plants? Maybe Pete is going to do a series on distractions, and these people are actors?
4. Do they think they’re invisible? Is this kind of like when my kids were young and played hide and seek simply by closing their eyes? They thought no one could see them if they couldn’t see you. Should I tell them they’re not invisible?
5. Is that the weirdest thing you could tell someone at church? “Hey, not sure if you knew, but you’re not invisible.”
6. What if this is biblical? Isn’t there a verse about not worshipping when a brother is mad at you? Don’t you have to run and fix that broken relationship before you worship? Maybe I’m watching a reconciliation? Brother against brother.
7. Like the Civil War. Or “Civil Wars.” How great is that band name? They added an “S” and boom! That consonant is gold. Plus, their 60 seconds on the Grammy’s was absolutely brilliant. I wonder if they come to Cross Point like all the other country musicians? Maybe this is them? Am I sitting next to the Civil Wars right now? Are we in Barton Hollow?
8. How is my pastor, Pete, handling this? He’s a pro. I just saw him look over here, though. He has to hear what’s happening. Is there a discreet way I can signal, “They’re not with me. I’m ‘tracking with you’”?
9. Do they know we’re at church? Probably. I mean there are 1,000 people in the room, and we’re sitting in pews. Both of those things seem like pretty clear indicators of what is going on right now.
10. Maybe they have bad depth perception. Maybe they can’t tell that we’re sitting on the front row. The pastor is 7 feet away, not 70. Is it an eyesight issue? They think they’re in the back row?
11. What if they’re first-time visitors and don’t know how church works? I am such a jerk.
12. Wait, why do we act like first-time visitors are from another planet? Have they ever been to a movie, a school performance, a play, a funeral, or a dance recital? Then they probably know the social norms that come with sitting in a crowd.
13. Can you shush someone at church and not look like a graceless monster fresh from the bowels of Hades? Is that possible? Probably not.
14. If I write about this, how fast will someone comment, “This is why people hate coming to church!” What’s that going to be: the third comment or the fourth comment?
Ultimately, I decided to just listen to the podcast of the sermon later. I was too ADD to not half-listen to their conversation and Pete’s sermon at the same time.
My ultimate concern for this situation, though, isn’t about talking in church or kindness to strangers or pew etiquette. My chief concern is simple:
I hope they don’t read Stuff Christians Like and see this.
What would you have done in this situation?