To Pew or Not to Pew

To pew or not to pew, that is the question.

This is the most pivotal question that American churches are facing today, seriously, we lose members over issues like this! But the greater question is this: Why are the pews in the front empty?  
District Superintendent, Fred Vanderwerf, visited us recently, pointing to the declining numbers in our pews all across our denominations, even in our own church.  Then, he noted the empty pews– in the front.   No one wants to sit there, not even church goers of 50 years!  We clamor for the back pew taking up the ‘best seats in the church’ and mark our pew as our own.
Ever wonder why Jesus never built a building for his ministry?  I’m wondering if it had anything to do with pews? 
Pews give permission to sit, stay put and become passive participants in what was designed  to be an active church body, each person contributing their energy, voice, and gifts to the worship service and mission outside the wall of the building.  Yet, we come early to get the back seats where we can be invisible, quiet, and withhold our singing voice except for a concert in the cities or shower back home.
Let me ask this:

Would Jesus’ disciples take the back pews or grab one in the very front?

While Jesus was teaching, they grabbed the front seats, close to their teacher   Yet, when engaging a newcomer, they would find them in the back and bring them to Jesus.  While the disciples hungered for Jesus and huddled close to him, they found those in the back and brought them forward–to meet Jesus and be saved.

The back pews are for the unsure, the newcomers, and those who are checking out Jesus.  It is safe in the back for beginners to find their home place.  Why would we steal that from them?
It is radical hospitality for the church to save the best seats in the house for the guests-the ones in the back third of the church. It is there where we greet our guests, strike up a conversation and ultimately bring them to Jesus through friendship.
It is radical discipleship to be engaged in the service, move right up to the front and be part of the worship and not an observer.  Sing with your whole heart, mind and soul to God. 
 OK, so this is where some say, “Pastor, you don’t want to me to sing!” 
Actually, it’s not what I want, but what God wants.  God wants us to be a whole disciple, from our head to our toes and everywhere in between, even our voice and our seat up front.  
Let me ask this: How long has it been since you found Jesus in your life?  And, how many years have you been sitting in the back with one foot out the door? It’s ok, you are not alone on this one.  But, if not now, when will  you ready to stand with Jesus? 
Be radical. Sit up front (all the way) and save the best seats for the guests; and then participate with your whole heart and voice. Remember, it’s a pew, not a cross.   If moving pews is uncomfortable, just look up at the cross.  Radical hospitality hung on a real cross (not a pew) saved you and me from ourselves and the sins of the world. The best seats  are ready just beneath that cross-up front.  
Pastor Terri

Christmas Wish


Look at the kids and you never find a Scrooge among them.

 Kids love Christmas: the colors, lights, cookies, traditions and, of course, the gifts!

Ask them what they like about Christmas and it is the feeling that Christmas leaves in their heart.

They are excited! They anticipate  joy!  They believe in Christmas!


So why do adults lose Christmas?

We think Christmas is only for children.

Our Christmas wishes grow with things that cannot be bought in a store.


 We want our family around us,

Laugh with our friends and

Make all of the bad things go away.

This is why there is always a gift under the tree for us:

 A piece of heaven wrapped in Jesus.


Jesus connects us to the divine with a step into eternity,

Transforms our weary souls into a better version of ourselves,

Life has meaning, purpose, and direction.


Jesus forgives the secrets that still hurt,

Heals broken relationships from a life time ago,

And gives us courage to make the decisions we must make.


Jesus transforms us into a better sister, brother, mother, father, or grandparent.

We become better neighbors, friends, and strangers.

We see the world through Jesus’ eyes.


We give because our hearts will not let us stop.

That is when Christmas finds us.

We see the possibilities.


Hope, Love, Joy and Peace,


When heaven connects with our heart.


Merry Christmas,

Pastor Terri 

Modern Times

waiting-man Our world is one hot mess.  We are polarized, captivated by our own anger at one another. No one wins.

But, these words keep pushing me :If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14  (NRSV)

Humbleness… well that trait went out of style years ago, replaced by an insatiable appetite about ourselves.  We tuned into the stationWIFM-What’s In it For Me, pushing and shoving our way through life just to get an edge up, a tiny piece of something more than the stranger next door.  We want it, therefore we take it.  Nothing else matters but our own point of view.

We didn’t get here overnight, you know. It took time, well planned and orchestrated effort to develop a nation of people primarily fixed on their own needs and desires. It took self-help books, talk shows, slogans, and messages on our walls to create a world of takers instead of givers. “Believe in yourself,” “fight for yourself” and “look out for number one!”

Somewhere in our effort to foster healthy self-esteem, we created a monster and unleashed it across America. The beast invaded the presidential elections, the nightly news and the streets of our cities. We felt a need to be right above all others, from city hall to our kids’ ball games, nothing was off-limits. Profanities, sarcastic humor, accusations, and bullish behavior was not only condoned, it was exemplified.  There was no filter, no attempt to be nice, and no effort to be kind to one another, let alone be ‘humble’.

We lost the value in being humble, to lift up the soul of another person with equal honor and respect. Humbleness underscores kindness, generosity, compassion and human dignity. To  humble ourselves is to stop pushing, shoving, and accusing; to let the other go first, congratulate the winner,  be a gracious opponent and put down the weapons of violence.  It allows us to be silent, to experience the moment and to recognize God plunked down in our midst.

Humbleness changes our perspective on life.  We discover that we are not  center stage of the universe, nor have we ever been.  Life is not all about us!  We have no choice but to fall down to our knees, seek God’s favor and ask forgiveness of our selfish ways. We admit  that we are thirsty and hungry, compelled to drink in God’s perfection like a beautiful wine and share in the holy bread. We long to be refreshed,  for the peace that fills our empty souls and heals our broken land. 
God, in your mercy, hear us.