When the Optional is not so Optional.
This is the follow up to yesterdays post “Unanswered Questions”.
My view is that nothing in a Church service should be mandatory, each person should be free to engage (or not) with whatever they feel is appropriate for themselves. Different people are at different stages, feel differently about different things – you aren’t in their head only they are!
Some *really* don’t like it when they are expected to go to the front to partake in something, and others object to being forced to partake in something. Some might have questions or issues (rightly, or wrongly) about what they are being asked to partake in etc etc.
And whilst I am sure most church leaders will tell you that all sorts of different activities in their church are optional, we have to question whether it is actually optional. Here is the classic example (similar to the situation I found myself in the other week). “I’ll pray for a renewal of the holy spirit in your life, if you want the holy spirit come up for prayer” – effectively meaning if you don’t come up for prayer you don’t want the holy spirit, everyone will know that you haven’t come forwards and therefore will wonder what is wrong with you as you haven’t. What annoyed me even more in the situation that I found myself in the other week is not only were we already stood at the front of the church, so no option to not make your way to the front but after being asked to hold your hand out if you wanted to by prayed over it was ignored and everyone was prayed over. So not only was there the psychological/emotional pressure making people not want to be the one to look like they didn’t want it but actually the option was removed altogether. As far as I am concerned that’s not cool.
What if I uncomfortable for prayer to be something done in front of everyone, as the center of attention in the room (Matt 6:6). Is it not possible that there are other options if you want more of the holy spirit then standing at the front of a Church with a minister praying for you, or is personal prayer not as effective? Why must it be worded in such a way as to suggest only those who come forwards want a certain thing.
People should be free to act authentically with their integrity to their own conscious. Some people are just uncomfortable with things that are done at the front in front of everybody, it isn’t always appropriate. I know several people who are really uncomfortable with this kind of thing. These activities should be genuinely optional and the words used to invite people to them need to show that it really is the case without inadvertently (or otherwise) making people pressured into taking part.