A few more peeves…

PeevedOh, where to begin? Okay, how about this… I’m going to put my tongue into my cheek, lean into a little different perspective, and tell you about some of my pet peeves.

First off, I’m not particularly impressed by the churches with pristinely cultivated landscaping or modernized corporate style church signs. These things makes me feel like I’m pulling into a Walgreen’s in Pensacola, Florida, or maybe a chiropractor’s office in downtown Milford, Michigan. On the other hand, a church sign that’s worn and weathered doesn’t bother me. It says, “Hey, we were here before the local Taco Bell was built and we’ll be here long after…” So, pastors, certainly you need to take care of your stuff. Don’t be slobs, but maybe don’t get too tightly wound with your yards or signs. Those don’t make Christians.

I’m peeved by people who are peeved that we don’t have parking attendants. I mean, c’mon, you navigated the highways and byways, stop lights and stop signs to get here, and then you are given a paved surface with comprehendible demarcation, but then not only are you peeved that the parking spaces are too small for your particular vehicle (and what are you driving, by the way, a Panzer?), but you’ve suddenly become frustrated enough with the church-going experience that you are willing to turn around and go home because no one was there to help you figure out how to walk from your car to the same point on the horizon to which everyone else in the parking lot is traveling. Really? I guess in addition to this, I’m peeved by churches that would put their volunteers out into the rain and snow because the community has a nightmarish, almost surrealistic, problem of its citizens visiting churches but wandering aimlessly around the church properties unable to find the front doors. It seems to me that’s the bigger problem. Forget the parking attendants. Get some doctors in here. Or maybe the CDC. The surrounding townships need to get their water tested, for sure. But I digress…

Even further, I’m peeved that some Christian churches have become so impersonally large that they feel as though they need parking lot attendants. I suppose if the church believes that they are the only game in town working to sell an “experience,” like Disney World, or heck, even something a little smaller, like an entertainment complex, then perhaps a huge parking lot is justified – maybe even a trolley that patrols sections marked with images of Bible characters. “Honey, don’t forget that we parked in Melchizedek 3.” But I have to wonder if the spiritual consumers flocking to such places are in need of something that transcends the woes of parking, something they won’t get at the big church, but rather something they’ll find at the little gathering down the street where people are genuinely glad to see them, where the front doors are easy to locate, where the folks inside interact with the Divine in a locale with a yard full of dandelions and marked by a hand painted sign communicating service times. Just sayin’.

I’m not too terribly interested in overly-friendly, outgoing, automaton greeters accosting me at the door of a church. This may have worked in the 1980s, but nowadays it feels fake and it freaks people out. You know what else it does? It tells the visitor that you don’t have friendly people in your church. Whether or not this is true, I don’t know. But it gives the impression that you are programmatically meeting a deficiency by artificially inserting your Stepford members into strategic places because they can’t be trusted to simply greet visitors naturally on their own. One more thing…greeters have the potential for making folks feel like they may be in danger of being called out to introduce themselves to a huge group of strangers in the middle of a room doing something that they, as unchurched visitors, might not even understand. (With a hugely dental smile on his face, the pastor calls out, “Hey folks, I met Bob today on the way in. Say, Bob, would you stand up and tell us a little bit about yourself?” A moment of uncomfortable silence. “Um, yeah. Hi. I’m Bob, and I just thought I was in a Walgreens picking up my prescription.”)

Do you know what else gets on my nerves? Responsive readings that try to relate to individualized life experiences of particular groups of people in the pews. How about we just let the liturgy of the Divine Service lead us as a whole and speak of our sins as the collective gathering born of Adam that guys like the Apostle Paul said we are, and then respond accordingly with the all-encompassing words of the Gospel — the powerful message of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for our redemption, an all-encompassing act that He accomplished which meets all of us wherever and whenever we are in the collective and makes us Christians?

I’m bothered by a worship service that wants me to be comfortable at all times and in every way. There is a tension at work in the Divine Service. And if you know anything about holy worship, then you’ll know it is supposed to be there, and it is working at various levels. Sometimes it’s working through the standing, sitting, and kneeling. Of course we’re not trying to cause a heart attack from overexertion (although Lutheran Service Book is a little heavier than LW and TLH), but most folks can handle standing up right after they sat down right after a motion to stand up. If I come to your service and am pretty much in a stationary seated position – that is, I don’t sit and stand and kneel at various points – well, you’d better be ready to take my dinner order. And just so you know, I’ll have a ribeye, medium rare, with sautéed mushrooms. I’ll take Thousand Island dressing on the side salad, but keep the onions in the kitchen. And bring me a Scotch old enough to vote while you’re at it.

Also, a word to the pedantic. Agreed. The pastor isn’t giving a lecture. He isn’t to be speaking from such a cerebral sphere that no one but the visiting seminary professor can understand him. And yet on the other hand, there had better be a higher bit of lingo sprinkled into the sermon which challenges the listener to grow not only in the faith but in the vernacular of that faith, the language of Christianity. Does not the Word of God tell us by way of Colossians 3:1-4, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”? So, you mean those pastors who love hearing their pew sitters say, “Wow, he really comes down to my level!” are maybe moving in the wrong direction? Yes, maybe they are.

I get uncomfortable in churches where the pastor feels the need to explain the purpose of worship or the day’s theme every single Sunday. Catechesis is great, and there are certain things that pastors need to be communicating to the parish about her life in regularly measured ways, but if you have to offer this particular explanation before every service, then you are probably not following the Lectionary correctly or you are in the middle of a dopey and dislocated sermon series you devised and perhaps you need to understand that you cannot prescribe a course for the church as well as the Lectionary can. But what about the visitors? Well, since I’m of the school which believes that worship is not an evangelism tool (at least not in the sense that most of the post-modern Christians will understand), I don’t really feel the need to begin a thread about that.

I don’t like folks speaking out of two sides of their mouths. Now, I’m not saying I want our clergy to feel free to dress like slobs. Don’t misunderstand me. I just get peeved by folks saying we shouldn’t allow our clergy to dress like biker gang members and yet those same folks are perfectly comfortable with encouraging goofy “specialized” ministries that almost always result in efforts with names like “Bikers for Jesus” where the pastor is a burly, tattooed, unshaven beast who holds a worship service in a bar and is completely and comfortably funded by synodical dollars. Seems a bit inconsistent.

Lastly, I don’t like the word “worshipful.” Stop using it. It’s stupid. What does it even mean? “The service sure was worshipful!” That’s just stupid. That’s like saying that bridge over there is bridgeful. Or our state Governor is governorful. Cut it out. It makes us Missouri Synod Lutherans look not very Lutheranful.

Okay, I’m done. Just a different perspective on pet peeves.


A few more peeves… — 24 Comments

  1. Thank you! Here’s something to add fuel to the fire: from the website of Our Savior Lutheran Church and School – St. Petersburg, Florida (a “member” of “LCMS”). I am having a hard time swallowing this one.

    “What are the worship services like?
    Our Savior has both traditional and contemporary worship.

    Traditional — St. Pete
    Traditional worship at our St. Pete location is held in the sanctuary Sundays at 8am and 11:30am. This service, more conventional in nature, employs time-honored liturgies from our Lutheran faith. The music consists of traditional organ hymns and are often accompanied by our choir. Upon arrival, greeters distribute bulletins (large-print available) that detail everything needed to participate in the service. Communion is served weekly at all services. All who recognize Jesus as their savior are welcome to commune with us.

    Contemporary — St. Pete & East Bay
    Contemporary worship is 10:00am at both locations. At St. Pete, worship is held in Wegner Hall and at East Bay it is in the sanctuary. This service is a blend of uplifting contemporary music, time for personal confession and reflection, and God’s word presented to be real, relevant, and life-practical. The music, a mix of mainstream Christian rock and modernized traditional songs are an active part of this service. Service at East Bay is interpreted for the deaf or hard of hearing.

    Communion is served weekly at all services in St. Pete and the 1st and 3rd Sundays at East Bay. All who recognize Jesus as their savior are welcome to commune with us. Children who don’t commune yet may come forward for a blessing. Both wine and white grape juice are offered. Greeters invite parishoners to come to the front to receive communion. Those not able to come up can receive communion at their seat by letting a greeter know.”

  2. @Juan Hasinoff #2

    What strikes me besides all the contemporary service stuff, is their communion statement. ‘All who recognize Jesus as their Savior are welcome to commune with us’. WOW! Open communion is not in the closet anymore. So much for ‘walking together’ as a synod.

    In Christ,

  3. Pastor Thoma,
    I, too, got the joke; very jokeful (jokesome?). Just sayin’.

  4. First off, I’m not particularly impressed by the churches with pristinely cultivated landscaping…..

    Pr.Thoma, I am not certain why church landscaping done lovingly and carefully by a congregation would be a pet peeve. In two congregations over 30 plus years the parsonage was adjacent to the church. Gardening happens to be one of my hobbies, so providing flowers to beautify church grounds was something I enjoyed. Since we had a small green house it was easy to grow flowers and shrubs as no cost to the congregation. Members gladly volunteered to make the House of the Lord a place where the beauty of God’s creation was visible.

    I wonder if the Lord was peeved to see His handiwork on our church grounds. A smile comes to my face every time I remembers a daughter comment as she assisted in planting various flowers, “God must have had fun designing so many different flowers.”

    marie meyer

  5. @Marie Meyer #8
    Dear Marie,
    I myself think that landscape, appearance, etc. is important at least to the fact, “we care about the Lord’s house.” Yes, it is the Word, but we do our best (within reason) to show reverence to the Lord’s house by our care.
    FYI – just mowed the Church yesterday, going to rain all week.

  6. I distinctly remember writing in the first full paragraph: “So, pastors, certainly you need to take care of your stuff. Don’t be slobs…” Also, I noticed that same paragraph began with “I’m not particularly impressed…” I didn’t say I didn’t like it, but rather I’m not impressed by it. You can put flowers in the mailbox if you want. Part of the point is that it bruises the parish pastor who is unable to meet the subjective standards of a current or former bishop…particularly when they are communicated so negatively. My post was inspired by the struggle of a brother who was offended by the original “peeves” post. You may read the inspiring piece here and decide if we should choose one church over the other because of parking attendants and nice landscaping. Notice, also, that I use the term “perspective.” Be glad I didn’t use “perspectiveful.”


  7. @Pastor Prentice #10

    Pastor Prentice,

    You miss the point. The post is about the superficial nature of so many congregations & pastors in the LCMS these days. You know they exist.


  8. I’m wondering more about the superficial nature of the peeves.   This seems a little disrepectful of the volunteers who maintain the lawn, greet visitors, etc.  Why not have an occasional article showing some gratitude toward volunteers?

    On the other hand, the article was not intended to be dead serious and I thought it was pretty funny.

  9. It is becoming rather painful to observe the misunderstandings at work here,
    and the failure to communicate bringing the misunderstandings about.

    Please, somebody (I myself am not sufficiently savvy in terms of the workings of this site) place a link to the blog post that occasioned this thread, in which former Synodical President Kieschnick expresses not only his concerns for well-trimmed lawns,

    but also
    his contempt for congregations too small to have humongous parking lots,

    his displeasure at congregations in which worshippers stand up for readings and prayers more often than he thinks they should (and particularly for those where worshippers stand up for the reading of the Gospel!),

    his dislike for Pastors and other servants of the Church who are Hispanic or otherwise in appearance unalike to very wealthy white people, and are thus physically unattractive to former SYnodical President Keischnick,

    his disdain for Pastors who speak in a conversational tone when preaching,

    his disdain for Pastors who fail to speak in a conversational tone when preaching,

    a rather impressive number of other phenomena found in congregations that do not not exactly correspond to former Synodical President Kieschnick’s private and personal preferences, wherefore the congregations in which they occur must fall under his judgement.

  10. @Jais H. Tinglund #15

    I guess I’m confused too. Was this post by Pastor Thoma a sarcastic rebuttal to what Rev. Kieschnick wrote on his blog? Pastor Tinglund you can find out what Rev. Kieschnick wrote at jerrykieschnick.wordpress.com.

    In Christ,

  11. @Diane #16
    Was this post by Pastor Thoma a sarcastic rebuttal to what Rev. Kieschnick wrote on his blog?

    I assume it was – but I am not sure everybody is even aware of former Synodical President Kieschnick’s blogpost.

    That is why I think a link would be helpful.

    I myself, however, am not sufficiently skillful in the art of electronic communication to post a link.

  12. Pres. Kieshnick does have points. And I would argue some of the buildings and grounds issues can reflect congregants ‘first fruits.’ Do people really believe in Jesus and care about the ‘temple’ and worship? Parking lot attendants seems like a mercy activity.

    However, does all of this really belong under ecclesiastical? I’m thinking not so much. Such focus on busy work, some even adiaphora (liberals like EVERYTHING to be adiaphora). Where are churchly pet peeves? Is there any concern about the Word rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered? The things an ecclesiastical supervisor should be promoting to brother pastors?

    Not to mention the concept of the church is people not the building. His blog entry goes totally against that. Sometimes it feels like the next program (Kennedy, Ablaze, TCN, take your pick), playing so much to end result emotions. So what?

    To risk ad hominem, think of the boy who cried wolf. Yes, we may try to evaluate the content of what’s being said. But after a number of questionable if not untrustworthy utterances, any future pontifications are just not seen as reliable. Or suspected of a reoccurring bias. Sometimes the messenger and the message discredit each other, to the point of the messenger being ignored.

    So my initial reaction was its okay, and maybe I can use some of this, but in what context? Can we apply the suggestions without confusing what should be our first love? Let’s be cautious not to major in the minors.

  13. Thank you Jason and Pr Tinglund.  I had no idea of the context of Pr Thoma’s article.  Without taking any of this too seriously, the two lists of pet peeves are something to think about.  I like Jason’s conclusion:  “Can we apply the suggestions without confusing what should be our first love? Let’s be cautious not to major in the minors.”

  14. What summarizes all of this is Pr. Thoma’s key line: “Those don’t make Christians.” I understand the original intent in Kieschnick’s post, that we should take care of our churches the best we can, dress the best we can, etc., because we are dealing with holy things. However, these externals don’t make Christians. Our priorities need to be on that one thing that makes Christians: the Gospel. Give me a weed-filled lawn and scuffed shoes with the saving Gospel and I’m happy. Give me a weedy lawn and scuffed shoes in the megachurch atmosphere, where I’m being sold a performance, and I’ll be out faster than my latte from the Starbucks cart in the lobby can cool. It’s all in what you go to church for – to be made a Christian by the Gospel or to watch a performance.

  15. @Jason #18

    Here is the original by Pres. Jerry “I’m not a theologian” Kieshnick.

    Thanks to the person who posted this. Pr. Thoma’s “peeves” begin to make a bit of sense. [Next time, let us in on the joke at the beginning? Many of us do not seek “more” from GK.]

    As “ecclesiastical” peeves, Jerry’s are more about “style” than substance.
    But it was ever thus.
    [And he no doubt chose a church “post-SP” with a parking lot big enough to need guides but for most “Missouri” congregations, that is not a problem.]

    [He might try attending the Rev. Laurence White’s congregation in Houston. Their greeters patrol the parking lot with golf carts and give you a ride to the church doors. And they take you back to your car after the service. However, the service, as I heard it last, might be a little too Lutheran for Jerry.]

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