In Frederick Buechner‘s book Telling The Truth – The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale, he briefly describes a few people sitting in those pews on a Sunday morning…
“In the front pews the old ladies turn up their hearing aids, and a young lady slips her six year old a Lifesaver and a Magic Marker. A college sophomore home for vacation, who is there because he was dragged there, slumps forward with his chin in his hand. The vice-president of a bank who twice that week has seriously contemplated suicide places his hymnal in the rack.
A pregnant girl feels the life stir inside her.
A high-school math teacher, who for twenty years has managed to keep his homosexuality a secret the most part even from himself, creases his order of service down the center with his thumbnail and tucks it under his knee.”
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I love this reminder. The church “audience” is not homogenous. It is not a collective of people who all grew up the same way, think the same way, vote the same way, and have all the same hopes and dreams.
In those pews are doubters and liars, faithful and faithless, followers and leaders, people who are on the rise and those who have crashed and burned. Those pews (or chairs) contain extroverts and introverts, women and men, young and old, the confident and the insecure, the hopeful and the broken, the lost and the found.
Considering who is in those pews is the job of every preacher – and then we must do our very best to show them Jesus in a way they can receive.