Monday, August 20, 2012

What do you do when someone busts up your worship service?

What does the pastor do when someone busts up his worship service?

The case of the Russian punk rockers with the unmentionable name brings this subject to mind. The three women were recently sentenced to two years in jail for their offense:
The three women were arrested in March after a guerrilla performance in Moscow's main cathedral where they high-kicked and danced while singing a "punk prayer" pleading with the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Vladimir Putin, who was elected to a third term as Russia's president two weeks later.

A "guerrilla performance" is not the only way to interrupt a worship service.

A neighbor pastor was preaching one Sunday when the music minister fell asleep on the front pew. The high decibel snoring gave him away and that to the entire congregation. That sermon was pretty much over after that. It turned out that a medical problem was behind this. The congregation remembers the incident as a humorous occasion. No harm. No foul.

I was in the congregation once sitting near the front when man entered the sanctuary, dashed up on the pulpit platform during the sermon and started flailing his arms and shouting wildly. The pastor was naturally taken aback, almost frozen in place, but a burly, robed choir member stepped out of the choir and landed a haymaker on the guy.

No charges were filed but security at this church was greatly enhanced after the incident with access through the doors in close proximity to the pulpit closed during the service and security guys roaming the hallways.

My own church was in the middle of a worship service one Sunday morning when, as the choir was singing a special, a lady came in the front door, walked down the center aisle, up on the platform, and began berating the congregation.

The music minister didn't know whether to keep directing the choir or do something different. I was seated but not on the platform and approached the lady. She quit and left.

I knew her because she had come by my office that week asking for the church to pay her vet bill. I said that I was sorry but we don't pay vet bills for people.

She was, well, unbalanced. I talked to the church about increasing security but in an average sized church there is not a lot that can be done. I probably should have filed charges against the lady.

So, what do you do in situations like these last two? To be honest, I don't know of many options here. A few suggestions:

  • It is a different day than 30 years ago. Every church needs to consider security. The pastor should discuss security with church staff and leadership regularly. Most state conventions have material on this.
  • An intruder should be confronted and if necessary, physically restrained.
  • Churches of all sizes should have people in the common areas of the church during services.
If punk rockers crash your wait...the tattooed, funky-colored hair folks are already in church. Nothing wrong with that.

I have no doubt that my peers have more and better ideas on this than I and I would love to hear them.  


Les said...

William, great post. I found you from SBV Voices BTW.

This is issue is very important in our day. Interruptions can be somewhat minor and humorous as you described and can also be dangerous. You may remember a few years ago reading about a pastor who was shot during a Sunday morning service across the river from St. louis in Illinois by someone who just walked in and began shooting. Very sad.

I remember well being in London a few years back and our group attended worship at All Souls Church where John Stott was for so many years. At that time he had been mostly retired and only preached on occasion. But, he was preaching that Lord's Day.

About 15 minutes into his 30 minute sermon, a man stood up where he was seated (an aisle seat not too far from me) and started loudly calling Mr. Stott out about something, some theological position of Mr. Stott's. Mr. Stott very calmly and graciously asked the man to please not interrupt and urged that he (Stott) would happily speak with the man after the service. The man persisted in talking and Mr. Stott gently persisted that he would speak after. Then a couple of men (church leaders I presume) came down the aisle and stood near the man. They did not so anything, just stood close.

With that, the man sat down and said no more.

True to is word, Mr. Stott did in fact speak at length after the service and a calm and apparently thoughtful conversation took place.

I thought he and the leaders handled it well.


Anonymous said...

I have discovered that if we, as a church, need something like security I target our police force with the gospel and free breakfasts at the church for first responders, free gifts at Christmas. God has blessed us with a few of these fine officers to get saved and join our church. I pity the person who walks in and disrupts our services, Sunday Schools or nurseries...

We gladly support our members who are in the NRA and are licensed to carry their weapons on the premises.


Anonymous said...

I guess the question is what would we do with Jesus after he wrecked havoc upon the religious system of his time by smashing tables and the like as a means of protest? Putin and the church are the problem here, not the women, as many, many people in Russia and around the world would agree.