In fact, if you are new to a church and wonder who the pastor is...just look in the front row. He's (or she's) probably there.
Ryan sits in the front left row of our church. If I wasn't married to him I think I would sit in the back row. It would be so much easier for me to relax. Namely, because I figure people are paying way more attention to me that they really are. And I am a goofball clutz that embarrassing things happen to, and in the back row those things are less noticeable.
While sitting or standing in the front row of church, these are the general types of things that go through my head... "is my bra strap showing? " "Is my skirt tucked into my tights? " "Is my tag sticking out?" Will my chair break? (this has happened) "will people notice that I am not putting something into the offering basket?" There is also always the hazard of getting spit on or having the pastor make eye contact with you...which of course if your spouse is the teaching pastor for the day you have to just grin and bear that one...(or you can throw a spit wad...which only very immature pastor's wives or front-row sitters would ever do).
Last week I came in a few minutes late due to some unforeseen drama with the boys that morning. I came in, walked up to the front, turned off my cell phone, set down my purse and water, then knocked my water and purse over, spilling out my collections of gum wrappers, to-do lists, pens and wadded up dollar bills that I keep in my not-so tidy purse. Disruptive maybe? Then I realized that I didn't have a bulletin and I always take notes so I excused myself to go to the back again to grab a bulletin. Once the sermon started, someone came to sit by me and whisper that they thought Ryan's truck lights were on. I left again to go check. It was another white, giant hemi-engined man-truck (ok that is sexist...but that is how I see it) with it's lights on...not Ryan's. So I had to go back to the front row again. All the while I am wondering if people are asking "can't she just sit still?"
This week, during musical worship, I struggled again. In the back row I feel the freedom to sing and praise God without thinking about anyone else other than me and God. If I need to let things go, I may lift my hands up. If I am happy I might clap or move with the music in my white-girl way. I might sit if I feel the need to posture myself in a show of humility. In the back row, I might even kneel. In the front row I wonder...if I stand while most everyone is sitting what will others think? People often watch the pastor to see what he is up to - if he sits, they sit, if he claps, they clap. If he stands, they stand. I personally don't like that practice because I think it is important for people to do what they feel led to do during that time. Worship isn't a choreographed sing-along. Worship (in music) is one way believers express to God their gratitude and praise. It is often done in a large group setting, but it is the heart God is hearing and not the outward expression that matters.
Do I do my best in the front row to do back-row worship? Yes I try. But my request to worship leaders and to pastors is this - please teach those of us in every row what worship needs to be. Remind us that we can express ourselves however we feel we need to - without judgement or ridicule (although if you dance around the church we might giggle a tiny bit...).
I know I will continue to sit in the front row (except for those days Ryan is out of town...). I know I need to learn once again in one more way that I don't live my life for those around me, but rather for the God who made me. Today I sat when others were standing. I felt like that made the most sense but it was hard for me to do. After church someone came to me and said "I really wanted to sit before God during worship but no one was sitting...I saw you sitting and it gave me the courage to sit." It sounds so silly but if you are a part of church you probably know what I am talking about. It was a good reminder to me once again to let God dictate what I do and not the opinion of others.