I wasn’t aware that there was a new movement for wives to sit separately from their families during church services.
That is, until I recently read an article on Christian Today written by Rebecca McLaughlin titled, “Why I Don’t Sit With My Husband At Church.” When I first read the title I’ll admit that I was skeptical. I think it is good for a family to sit together and bond in their walk with God. We should encourage each other and help each other grow in our faith. Then I read the article.
I was surprised that the writer wasn’t starting off by trying to convince the reader that mothers and wives need their space or that family could be distracting during church. That’s about what I was expecting, based on the title.
Instead, she told an anecdote about the time she was in church and a woman walked in the back searching for somewhere to sit. She was alone and the church pews were filled with families all sitting together. McLaughlin could tell the woman felt intimidated and was thinking of turning back. So, Rebecca waved her down and invited her to sit with her and her family.
This experience had a major impact on McLaughlin and her husband. They feel that in order to offer hospitality and made new solo visitors feel more at ease, husbands and wives should sit separately with new people each Sunday. This way, everyone feels welcomed.
McLaughlin presented five points to her theory.
1-“Outsiders shouldn’t be outsiders.”
Here, she tells the above anecdote. She goes on to say that newcomers or “outsiders” shouldn’t walk into a church feeling like an outsider. They should be welcomed in like family and given a seat next to you in service. Make them feel as if they belong there and not awkward and lonely.
2- “Family is more than immediate family.”
Most Christians, if not all, agree that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. The lack of genetic relation through blood doesn’t mean we are not family. The writer tells us that welcoming newcomers into the church family is an important part of our role as Christians in the church.
3- “Your spouse is too much like you.”
Here the writer explains that even though spouses may sometimes seem like exact opposites, deep down they must hold some similarities for them to bond enough to marry. So, she claims that we should go outside of the comfort zone of our immediate families and sit with people completely unlike us, whether it be socioeconomic differences, racial differences, etc…
4- “Your marriage isn’t only for your benefit.”
The writer says that marriage is a gift not just for the immediate family, but to benefit the church as well. I didn’t quite understand how her anecdote about how her husband tried to put his arm around her during service as she sat comforting a friend who was going through a divorce related to this topic. She said that she felt uncomfortable throwing PDA in her lonely friend’s face. She also mentioned when she is feeling broken or struggling, sitting with her husband is great, but when she feels strong she wants to sit with others and offer them her strength.
5- “We all need disillusionment with church.”
McLaughlin claims that many church-goers leave their congregations because they became disillusioned. According to her, they had grand ideas of what the church or the people should be like and it didn’t meet their grand standards. We are only human and we will fail sometimes. God, however, will never fail us.
She goes on to speak about the opinions of a German pastor/theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. ”
“Disillusionment, argues Bonhoeffer, is not the end of Christian community but rather the entry point. We can only truly know Christ in each other when our dreams have been shattered and we see the broken sinners around us for who they are. What is worse, they must see us. Like the first Christians, all of us will utterly fail to live up to the biblical ideal. But if our faith is built on a man on a cross, failure is not the end, a sign that it’s has all gone wrong and we better find another church. Instead, it’s the beginning. We can’t find resurrection except through death. My hope is that, in the midst of our disillusionment with church, all of us—marrieds, singles, and kids—will grow in our sacrificial love for each other as we reach across our differences.”
So from what I gather reading this section of her article, she’s saying that when our grand ideas of what church and its members should be are shattered and we see everyone around us as sinners like us and not these perfect beings on pedestals, we can better understand what it means to be a Christian. Furthermore, the people around us will see us as we are and not the image we try to hide behind. This can be uncomfortable, but it is the first step in the right direction. When people of the church fail to live up to the Bible and we no longer see everyone as “perfect”, we tend to think that its a time to give up and find another church. I know so many people who do this and end up hopping from church to church because they cannot find that perfect church with those perfect people they are imagining.
The point is, if your faith is built on Christ and God’s Word, then a failure is not the end of your story. The blood of Christ redeems us and gives us another chance. We pick ourselves back up and get back to work following the narrow path that leaves to salvation.
I’m not sure how I feel about sitting separate from your spouse every Sunday, but I do like the idea of church members taking it upon themselves to seek out new people to sit with at church services and functions to help bond the church and strengthen the community. We must all realize that none of us are better than any other. We are all born sinners and we all equally receive the same salvation through the cross no matter our race, nationality, or gender.
A young, but wise pastor once told his congregation, “Don’t look at me and put me on a pedestal. I will fail you. I am only human and man will always fail you. God is the only one who will never fail you.” He pushed that we will all stumble (even a pastor), but as a church family, we should help pick each other up (not cast stones) and continue on.
***What’s your opinion on Mrs. McLaughlin’s statement about spouses sitting separately during church? Tell me in the comments. Let’s just keep it peaceful, please. ***