First, don’t feel awkward. The point is not that you attend once or twice a year. The point is that you attend once or twice a year. You understand what I mean? Let me clarify. We ordained types are usually paranoid to some degree. I mean, the more empty pews there are the more we wonder if it’s us that keeps the crowd away. This leads to an abnormal hunger for acceptance. And the best way to feel accepted is to look out from the pulpit and see multitudes. And the fact of the matter is we don’t experience that acceptance except for those one or two times a year you come. Thus, put your awkwardness aside. You’re on a mission. You’re healing our paranoia.
Second, don’t sit in the back. I know you think that because your presence is such a rarity sitting there will make you stand out less. It won’t. You see, the back is the preferred pew of the regular attendees. If you plop down on the pew occupied by those regular folks they will notice you’re not one of them. You’ll stick out.
Third, don’t sit in the front. People will think you’ve elevated yourself to some saintly status. They’ll wonder who you think you are seeming so eager to hear the Word.
My suggestion would be to sit two-thirds the way down and a bit to the outside of center. You’ll look like someone who’s comfortable being in the sanctuary; you’ll not stand out if you sing well, and you’ll not stand out if you can’t carry a tune. Additionally, that position should put you far enough away from others they will have no idea how much or how little you put into the plate.
The final think I want to talk with you about is that delicate interchange that cannot be avoided. It’s the give and take between the pastor and the infrequent pew sitter. It’s one thing you have in common with the regulars. Somewhere, before you escape that building, you’re probably going to have to encounter and experience, however brief, a dialog with the minister.
Here are some pointers. As you’re in that line waiting to shake the pastor’s hand on your way out of the building, notice him or her carefully. See how the pastor’s eyes keep looking your way while talking to the elderly woman with the blue hair? The pastor trying to remember if you are someone supposed to be recognized. Here’s your chance to seize control of the situation. When you come up grasp the hand firmly, make eye-to-eye contact and say, “Hi, Pastor, (insert your name here), that sermon was a delight. I’m glad I came back today.” That pastor will be eating out of your hand. And on the way home the spouse will be told what you said.
If you want to be revolutionary, you could say this to the pastor. “Please preach that sermon again next week.” The last time that was said is recorded in Acts 13: 42. The worshipers at Antioch said it to the Apostle Paul. I don’t think anyone exiting the church have said that since. For sure, certainly not to me.