When I was home over Christmas last December, there was a beautiful moment when all the members of my entire immediate family fit into one long pew at my parents’ church. My mom and dad were celebrating their anniversary that particular day (Dec. 27) and it was especially moving for them to see all their children with their spouses and grandchildren being together in one row in the house of God. It was a wonderful picture to me of what passing on the faith means.
The love and the faith that began with my mother and father were carried on in my life and in the lives of my brother and sister and their families. The baton has been passed, and we now are called to carry on the faith to our future generations. But as we know, the pews are not as full as they once were in “our day.” Attendance at traditional worship is not as much a staple of our weekend schedule as it once was in our Christian families.
That is not to say that people are not religious. It is just that they are expressing faith in different ways: at home, through online streaming worship services, through small groups at coffee shops.
The actual church pews may not be as filled as they were, but the pew bench has extended to places outside the church building.
Practicing your faith is not just about going to church at the same time every Sunday and sitting in the same pew. It is also about sitting next to a friend who is hurting. It is about working at a soup kitchen serving the homeless. It is about driving someone without a car to his doctor’s appointment.
Our first inclination when we see empty church pews may be to decry a lack of faith in our future generations. But that is not in reality what is happening, in my view.
The praise and worship of God is breaking out beyond the walls of tradition and becoming a part of daily living in ways that we may have never envisioned.
A college friend told me recently that the long pews in my alma mater’s chapel have been removed and replaced with movable chairs. At first I was sad to hear that, but then I realized that that change demonstrates the shift that is occurring in church and in worship and in faith today.
It is OK to rearrange the pews and make them move and adjust and adapt to our changing practices, which are equally as valid and important as regular church attendance.
How have you seen the changes in faith practices impacting your church, which may be reflected in the way pews are used and filled both literally and metaphorically? What are some ways in which Christian publishers like Creative Communications can address this shift?