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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Church staff attitudes impact listenerscomment (0)

May 6, 2004

By Betty Baggott


Recently, I attended one of the music presentations of the Auburn United Methodist Church in Auburn. Outstanding performers are presented in a music series the church sponsors — a mix of inspirational, classics, etc.

Roger Williams, outstanding pianist known to people worldwide, was the guest for the evening. Playing to an overflow crowd, he charmed the audience not only with his masterful command of the keyboard but also with his personality of some 80 years that brought humor, uniqueness and spirit to the occasion.

Only a preacher’s wife would sit there entertaining the fleeting thoughts I had from time to time. Williams was supported by a four-piece band with a sound of deep quality, and they played as if each note had been rehearsed 100 times over. They read the pianist’s mind. Outstanding!

I’ll admit I enjoyed the music, but I was captivated by the mindfulness the musicians displayed as Williams played his solos. If the song being played was not my favorite, the expressions on their faces made me want to listen with an attentive ear. They were wide awake, at times swaying with every note. It seems that constantly they were on the alert for the melodious sounds he would demand from the piano.

They set the mood for the performance by their strict attention.

Not so with some who grace our pulpits on Sunday morning and during other services. Forgive me church staff, but I have seen many a sermon ruined by a member of the support team daydreaming as the pastor preaches.

Inattentive in church

One revival I attended, the young man preached his heart out. The church staff member who had made the announcements fell asleep. The sermon was powerful, but undoubtedly the night before had been too much for this church administrator who turned pages in his Bible in order to try and stay awake. Needless to say, it was distracting.

But the spirit within me rushes to make excuses. Perhaps he was out late ministering to a family in need. Still, the front row would be a better place to fall asleep.

I have seen people on the platform (not just church staff leaders, but people who had made an announcement and still graced the stage during the sermon) daydreaming, lost in thought, looking around the sanctuary and just plain sending the message that they were bored to death.

A trend in past years was for the one doing the preaching to have the pulpit all to himself. I like that better. When others are nearby, one can’t help but be distracted by the other person at some point.

They hear. They are praying for the speaker. They cannot wait for the next word. That’s contagious.

And then there is the choir. Since I am on this subject, I might as well put in a good word for the minister of music who demands perfection from his choir members. If the church is on television, each member is required to look like they are captured by every word. No ponderings of what is cooking at home.

One choir master goes so far as to view the televised service once a month, just to see if the choir members lend a spirit of worship to the service. Not a bad idea.

Once a choir member told me after the service, “You looked so sad and mad during your husband’s sermon. I could not listen for looking at you.”

Needless to say, I took on a new look the next week.

Everyone plays a part in the worship service if you are in view of the audience. Who knows what message you send from the platform and from the choir. We owe it to God to be sure it is a positive one.

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