Pews – What good are they?

Pews – What good are they?

The young seminarian could not help but make fun of the pews. There are eighteen of them all together, nine rows separated by an aisle down the center. Made of good solid hardwood with a blondish coloring, the old fashioned seats need some tending to but otherwise they do their job. Two generations of Christians have taken their accustomed and cherished places to worship God in those very pews. Have they outgrown their usefulness?

My young friend would never have pews in his church. No, he would arrange things where people could see and talk to one another without craning their necks. His idea was to employ either a square or circle configuration. This is how it is done now, he informed me. Pews have been out a long time now I guess.

I nodded and smiled thinking maybe he was right. I’m older now and not as up on the trends. Maybe we are Miller Avenue Baptist Church of Mill Valley, California have not moved along with the times and our failure to adapt contributed to our having a rather smallish congregation.

In defense however, I pointed to the young man that in our lovely fellowship hall, we call it Spangler Hall after the father and son who built it back in the early 1950s, we have several arrays of couches, not new ones of course, but serviceable. Here Sunday after Sunday our church family enjoys a very nice lunch together and often spends hours being in and enjoying each other’s company. Couches okay, the pews, well, he was sure they would have to go in any case.

The seminarian never came back again, probably because of the pews; still I could not help but think about what he said. Pews – what good are they really?

During the hay days of the Jesus People Movement, 1967 to 1972, we Jesus Freaks rarely saw the inside of an actual church building, rather we were on the streets, in the parks, at the beach, on a hillside, by a river, or a bay, in homes, and we worshipped God all right. Buildings with pews were what the old folks had and it was boring and lame, or so we thought.  Early on in my ministry I was considered a real innovator; here I was though thinking the pews may be a problem. So I began to wonder whether it was my duty to ask the congregation to do away with them.

After that thought ‘I woke up’ so to speak. Wait a minute here; I may be old but I have not lost my good sense. What is it that we are doing in our Sunday morning services anyway? With that question things started coming back into focus for me. Deep down I knew that we are to worship God first and foremost. If I have to be watched by and watch the people all around me, I will be distracted and have trouble turning my eyes on Jesus. But in the pews I can see the communion table, which reminds me of the broken body and shed blood of Jesus; the candles on that table are burning, which remind me of the call to prayer; the pulpit, where the Gospel of Christ is presented; and the cross behind that, and I can think again of the cost of my salvation. Then, too, the words of the expositor, preacher, worship leader, and choir concentrate my thoughts on my Lord and Savior – and this goes on in front of me, right in front of the pews. Yes, people are all around me, and there will be plenty of time for fellowship following, yet my heart’s desire is to think about my God, both who He is and what He has done, at the appointed time of worship.

If the pews went, what else might be considered fuddy duddy? Maybe the piano? What about the cross? After all, that old rugged cross, it might offend someone. The organ, we haven’t had an organist in ages anyway; I suppose it ought to go. Communion table; who even understands what that is all about. Yep, it will be better to go along with what is new and be considered cool by the young crowd. That way we would be on the cutting edge. Wow. Just think.

Nope, the pews are staying.

God’s Will is clear and simple?

God’s will is clear and simple or What actually is God’s will for you?

About two years after my new birth I became obsessed with wanting to know what God’s will was for me. I heard calls from the pulpit to surrender to foreign missions or to answer the call to full time pastoral ministry. Trouble is, though I wanted both, was ready to do either, I could not be sure if I were called to either.

That emotionally and spiritually difficult period was resolved when I made a decision to attend seminary with a view to being a pastor. Indeed, I did have a sense of being called, like Isaiah the prophet or even like Paul. (How many times, in so short a time did I hear sermons on Isaiah 6 and Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road.) The tension I experienced coalesced one day while studying for a masters in psychology when it dawned on me that I would not be able to talk to counselees about Jesus in a school setting as a student counselor. I announced to my pastor I had received a call, and shortly after off I went to attend seminary.

This essay however is not about experiencing a call. To this day I believe my calling was genuinely from God, no, this essay is about knowing what the will of God is. The answer might seem rather tame and plain; my objective however is to be as biblical as possible

In former days

The Four Spiritual Laws booklet published by Campus Crusade for Christ, which I used countless times while a hippie street Christian in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District in the 1960s, was correct: God does have a plan for the Christian’s life. Question was however–How do I find out what that plan is?

Thus ensued numbers of mechanisms, everything to filling our questionnaires to having “prophets” pray over you that they might get a “word from God,” in order to solve the mystery. As a pastor of a church filled with young adults in the 1970s, many of whom were avidly seeking to serve their Lord, I, and our pastoral staff and elders, sought diligently to find answers and help people discover God’s will for their lives, and while we were at it, discover their spiritual gifts. Looking back I think that what we really did was process in our minds, almost unconsciously, what we knew about a person and consider what they were already engaged in, ministry wise or in their lives so far, to come up with something that seemed likely. Trouble is, the pronouncements of what came up was usually preceded by a “Thus saith the Lord.” Few would disagree.

God’s will is the same for us all[1]

Clear and simple God’s will is that we believe in his Son, Jesus. To a group of seekers who asked Jesus, “What must we do, to be doing the works[2] of God?” (John 6:28). Jesus’ answer is in verse 29: “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Overshadowing all else, the chief will of God for us is to believe in, rely upon, trust in, the Triune God, for the forgiveness of sin and our new birth. Jesus is extremely clear: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40).

We start by trusting in Jesus, and we continue the same way. It is as the writer of Hebrews stated:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy what was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and isseated at the right hand of the throne of God.          Hebrews 12:1-2

God’s will is that we grow up in Christ, continually turning away from sin, and should be falter, confess our sins and receive his forgiveness.[3] We are to be perfect, or complete and mature followers of Jesus, and we know this does not happen overnight.

We take on the full armor of God that we may be strong in the Lord and stand against the wiles of the devil.[4]

We are to flee from sin, study and meditate on Scripture, pray, and in the way Jesus taught us,[5]  and a whole host of other instructions found bunched together in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapters 5,6, and 7, but also found scattered throughout the whole of Scripture, Genesis to Revelation.

Every Christian is to be a proclaimer of the Good News that in Jesus’ work on the cross we can be forgiven and receive the gift of eternal life. Here is what Jesus specifically said:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. God therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Matthew 28:18-20


[1] To prevent this from becoming something more than a short essay, it is necessary that the myriad of passages that could be referred to be reduced to key and summary ones.

[2] Works and will are essentially synonymous as can be deduced since in Jesus’ response to the question He uses the term “will” in place of “works,” see John 6:39-40.

[3] 1 John 1:8-2:2.

[4] Ephesians 6:10-20.

[5] Matthew 6:9-13.

If the Devil Wrote a Bible

The Devil's Bible?

The Devil’s Bible?

If the Devil Wrote a Bible has arrived! Both an ebook and paperback version are available.  In the 1970s Logos International published a book with this title, it sold like crazy, even published in Spanish but I never received a cent since I yielded to the appeal to put the royalties back into the ministry. Now is a second run at it, a completely new book, nothing the same. It has been a long time in process and I feel it will be worth the effort.

Are you ready to discover what the Devil wants you to believe?

There are 29 chapters, each chapter has 3 sections: The Devil’s bible verse, his commentary on it, and a response from a Christian. Following the main section are the “Demonments,” the Devil’s version of the Ten Commandments, and the “Bebaditudes,” the Devil’s version of Jesus’ Beatitudes. Go to to order a copy.

Are you ready to discover what the Devil wants you to believe?