Comfy Pews


How's this for paradoxical . . A podium is a raised place upon which the conductor of an orchestra stands. The word comes directly from the Latin. A podium was the raised place or balcony where the Roman emperors sat to watch lions chomp on early Christians. And here's the paradox, the word "podium" finally made its way into the English language as "pew," something church goers plonk their backsides on. I found that rather amusing in a kind of sick, twisted way.

And I got to thinking about how times have changed. Once upon a time pews were made of bare wooden boards with no cushions. It's not that there were no cushions back in 1416 when they were first introduced to church buildings, it's that cushions were deliberately not used. The reasoning behind that was very sound and pastors of this "enlightened" age would do well to pay attention to it. The reason why the pews were made not comfortable was so that believers would not become comfortable. The whole idea was to remind the believer that this world is not their home and that they were not to become comfortable in it. To be reminded that their task was not to make "the church" a home away from home but to hear the Word rightly preached then get off their plump posteriors and go out in to the streets in order to fulfill the commission to which they had been charged - namely preaching the Gospel.

But my, how things have changed! It's been said that progress is man's ability to complicate the simple. Now we not only have nice comfy padded pews, but reverse cycle air conditioning, shag pile carpets, plush furnishings, 2,000 watt sound systems, concert video screens, valet parking, and popcorn stands. One "church complex" in the United States even has it's own in-house Macdonald's outlet for goodness sake. . And what of the congregants? Not all, but way too many, are gagging at the gills with the "food" of seminar after seminar, conference after conference - reclining comfortably numb in the soft ambience of designer decor while the world it's meant to reach goes to hell in a handbag!

You know, I can hear the echo of a day gone bye, the sound of tables upturned, the frantic flutter of pigeon wings and the tones of a ticked off Messiah whose words thunder still in these very corridors of time . . . "My house shall be a house of prayer." (Matthew 21:12-13) And I just can't imagine Him adding to that by saying something like, "Would you like fries with that?"

We even have things we call "retreats". What on earth is the Christian soldier doing in retreat? The Saviour commanded that believers OCCUPY until He returns. That word OCCUPY is a military term and it involves the concept of ardent force in order to maintain control of the front line; there's no hint of retreating in His Word. Scripturally, when we believers meet with God we do so in the heat of battle, we don't retreat from it - He sets up a tent of meeting in the midst of the gunfire. Seems some have been watching too many chick flicks on the tele.

The unpalatable truth is that many believers (myself included on occasions) have become lazy, comfortable, complacent and spiritually obese. When was the last time you heard a sermon where the preacher used the word "repent" in reference to salvation? When was the last time you heard a preacher use the word "repent" period? We've watered down His Word to make everyone feel nice and warm and cosy and in the process we've nodded off ourselves.

High time we brought back the things that disturb our comfort, both pews and preaching if you know what I mean!