Standing for the Wrong Thing
By Pam Kumpe –
This example of a young and energetic American missionary who went to Venezuela for his first term reminds me of how we may sit through church services not understanding or even trying to comprehend the message.
This missionary did try to understand by taking the time to learn the language, but he didn’t really get it. On his first day in Venezuela, he was late for church. He walked inside and slipped down the aisle to the only pew with a seat—on the front row.
During the service, he struggled to understand the message so he decided to pick someone near him to imitate. This way, everyone would think he knew the language.
The man sitting next to Mr. Missionary became the best choice and he started mimicking every action.
When the congregation worshiped and sang the missionary peeked at his neighbor’s
hymnal to see the page number. When the man stood up to pray, yes, the young missionary stood up too. When the man sat down, Mr. Missionary copied the move.
This makes me wonder how much we pay attention in church. After all, we do speak the same language don’t we? We should understand our preacher, right? But do we go into remote and forget to listen?
We stand. Sing. Sit down. Turn the page in our hymnals. We open our Bible. We mark the place with our finger. We look up and make eye contact with our preacher. We appear to understand.
We even use a yellow marker on scriptures. We nod in agreement. And we say amen at all the right places. But I must ask. What did your pastor preach on last Sunday? Now I’m meddling, back to Mr. Missionary.
He sat on the pew and tried to look just like that man. Do we do the same? Are we simply trying our best to look like everyone else?
Next, in this service the preacher gave announcements. Everyone clapped at something the pastor said, so Mr. Missionary joined in clapping his hands too. Then the preacher said some words that were even more confusing and the man next to the missionary stood up. So Mr. Missionary stood up too.
Suddenly a hush fell over the entire congregation, even a few people gasped, and a few fingers pointed at the two men—the only two standing. Mr. Missionary looked around and saw that nobody else was standing, so he sat down.
After the service, the preacher shook hands with everyone as they left. He stretched out his hand to greet the missionary and spoke in English, “I take it you don’t speak Spanish?”
The missionary replied, “No, I don’t. Is it that obvious?”
“Well, yes. I announced that a family in our church had a new baby boy, and I asked the proud father to stand up. Seems there’s some discussion on who the father is now.”
As usual I see a lesson in this story because many of us attend church. We love to sing. We have our Bibles. But do we listen?
If you are imitating a person, be careful because before you know it—when you least expect it, you may find yourself standing up when you should remain seated.
So this Sunday if you are happy to remain an imitator then sit in the pew beside someone and copy him or her, clap and stand at random.
Or try this. Sit up front. Listen with your heart. Take notes. Apply the message to your daily walk—because John 8:47 reminds me that whoever belongs to God hears what God says.
Just be you, it’s better than imitating others—it frees you to sit on the pew of life with understanding, and you’ll clap at the right time. You’re the only you—there is, fearfully made and wonderfully loved by God. Beside, you don’t want to get caught standing for the wrong thing, now do you?