Sitting in Your Own Pew… For Now

C. S. Lewis compared the optimal church experience to a pair of comfy shoes: “A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. …The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God” (Letters to Malcolm). 

To be clear, Lewis was referring to the liturgy and physical surroundings of the service, not the importance or meaningfulness of the gathering. He was expressing his concern over a tendency he saw in some churches to change things up in order to draw people in or keep them engaged through “incessant brightenings, lightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplifications, and complications of the service.” When that happens, Lewis believed worshipers would be distracted from focus on God to focus on all the new things going on in church. “Thinking about worship is a different thing from worshiping,” he observed. 

His words are a wise counterpoint to the modern impulse to reinvent church every few years—or, in some churches, every few weeks! A good church service—like a good shoe—really is one that doesn’t draw attention to itself but instead allows you to focus on more important things. And yet, the history of Christianity is a story marked by change from the very start. In the Book of Acts, the early church was forced to change and adjust on almost every page! Whether they were responding to God’s blessing or overcoming new challenges, the saints in Acts seemed to be in constant motion. 

But those early Christians weren’t just doing stuff for the sake of doing stuff. They were carrying out their mission to spread Jesus’ kingdom to the ends of the earth. That is what all the dynamic change in the Book of Acts is all about. It’s about mission—i.e., making disciples, planting churches, and spreading Jesus’ kingdom in the power of God’s Spirit.  

Our elders believe the same applies today. Change for the sake of change is foolish; but change driven by mission is wise and necessary. 

We find ourselves facing the challenge of limited seating. While we love the classic look and feel of our beloved pews, our elders would rather exchange them for chairs than surrender or suspend our pursuit of Jesus’ mission. With pews, the seating capacity in our auditorium is 220; with chairs, configured nearly the same way as the pews, that number goes as high as 330. That’s a lot more room to make disciples! 

So here’s the bottom line: we know change can sometimes be a distraction. But some changes, like replacing our pews with chairs, can be the very thing that solves a distraction and keeps us on track with our mission.