Toward a More Tolerant Worship Atmosphere

"And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up." (Ezra 8:5).

There are some churches one attends where they insist that everyone stands in honor of the Word of God. I'm not saying this is bad. But what I've noticed that comes with that is an attitude that travels with people of that tradition when they go to another church that does not hold to that same tradition. It's almost like, "We stand in honor of the Word where I come from. And we're gonna stand here in your sanctuary" as if it is some commandment from the Lord.

But a close reading of this Scripture shows that it was a response of the people. Ezra, a priest and scribe of integrity was on a raised platform. When he opened the book to read, the people stood up. Appropriate. Yes, very appropriate. These are the Words of God to the people of God. Very appropriate.

What's missing is Ezra whipping or criticizing the people. He tells no one to stand. They just did.

While I write that point, I must also say that for those who don't stand when the Word is read, they ought not look at people who do as if they're crazy. When people are in a worship setting and they have a legitimate response to something, I wish more of us would be more tolerant. Nehemiah simply records what happened. He does not editorialize about it. He just records it. And it seems there was no problem behind the people standing in honor of the Word.

We need to be more tolerant! Folk who practice traditions like standing for the Word shouldn't judge folk who don't as being irreverent. And folk who tend to worship more conservatively shouldn't look askance at people who stand in demonstrative response to the reading (or hearing) of the Word of God.

Can we take this a bit further? What about praise and worship? Is it okay for people to sit while you (whoever you are who leads the praise and worship) lead out? Can y'all stop whipping folk for not standing? Some folk are tired. It took quite a bit for them to get to the House of God. They had a rough week. Can they sing from their seat during your 30 minute set of praise songs? Is that okay? Do you have to tell folk, "If the person sitting next to you won't get up and praise God, you better move your seat!" Do you have to make folk feel bad cause they don't like to holler in the House of God?

But what about the sista who dances in her pew? Or the brother who does the chicken wing dance in the aisle? If they aren't stepping on you, can they do their little dance? I mean, they aren't scuffing your shoes up in the process. I know you think it's undignified, but it may very well be a legitimate response to the goodness of God.

We all have different personalities that play out in various contexts. I don't scream at football games. I come from a pretty calm natured family. It takes a bit to get us "worked up." We can get there now. But not all the time. My wife's family, on the other hand, have lots of energy that comes through in their speech -- to each other in person, to each other on the phone, to the congregation when they're up front speaking, at the Kansas City Chiefs football game, wherever. Is it okay for you to be you and me to be me in worship? Can we all come together, some standing, some sitting, all praising God in our own way? Kinda like a symphony where you have some strings, some woodwinds, some brass and percussion, all playing together, but playing their own part. If you've never heard it before, it's beautiful.

Just my thoughts.


Pastor Goodman,

What can worship leaders do to foster this tolerant attitude in worship? Should education happen in the moment? Something like: "Please stand with us if you are so inclined..."

Or maybe the education should happen at another time, perhaps on wed night or something.

God bless...

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