To Talk or Not to Talk…in Church

Please see Author’s Note at the end 

I had a great conversation with my oldest daughter on Sunday. We had the opportunity to broach the topic of “true love” and what that looks like in a Christian’s life. We talked about how sometimes true love has to say “No” even if it makes the other person upset. We talked about how we can show love to others, just by seeing them, instead of letting them go unnoticed. We even talked about how God’s love, agape love, was freely given and yet we have the choice to receive it.

And we talked about all of it…in church.

be-quiet-in-churchYes, in church, during the sermon. I know, I know, talking in church is a big “no-no”. In an article entitled the “Top 10 Rudest Things People Do In Church” talking in church took the number one spot. The author is willing to forgive some of the other offenses listed, but certainly not this one because, “There is no possible way we can please God or be His faithful followers if we don’t learn to listen.

Another author states, “If the Church is not on fire, you should not be talking.”

Hmmm….well, admittedly,  the church building wasn’t on fire, so were we in the wrong?

I’d like to push back on this particular thought and counter that if the Church isn’t on fire…maybe we should all be talking. Maybe we should consider how talking in church might actually be a useful tool for discipleship and potentially help us all listen well.

So, let’s talk about it.

To begin, what is the context in which we first hear about preachers in church?  I immediately thought of Paul and because I’m me, I thought about the story where Paul is preaching and some poor kid gets so tired that he falls out of a third story window. Fortunately, Paul is there to pray over him and raise him back to life. But let’s consider that moment found in Acts 20:7-12.  Was Paul really just monologuing from the front of a room for so long with everyone held in silence that a person could literally fall asleep and die?  Eh, probably not. The whole concept of church was a little different back then.

“Paul was not “preaching” to them. The American Standard Version renders verse 7: “Paul discoursed with them.” E.V. Rieu’s translation renders it: “Paul was holding a discussion with them.” The actual Greek word used is dialegomai. …that is, not by way of a sermon, but by a discourse of a more conversational character.”

…Meetings in the early church were much more fellowship oriented and casual than our current day church services. Everyone was expected to participate. The teaching was more conversational, with everyone involved. (Source)

Today, we call these conversational times “small groups” or “life groups” or “grow groups.”  They called it “church.”

Suffice it to say, talking was a necessary element of this church service. But ours aren’t like that, right?  So isn’t it rude to talk when the pastor is speaking?

I love the way this church pew card reads:

Relax! God put the wiggle in children. Don’t feel you have to suppress it in God’s house. All are welcome! Sit towards the front where it is easier for your little ones to see and hear what’s going on. They tire of seeing the backs of other’s heads. Quietly explain the parts of the service and actions of the pastor, ushers, choir, etc.

That “quiet explanation” necessarily means talking. A friend of mine who is the father of five children says what he likes to do is place two of his kids on his lap and whisper the sermon into their ears in words they understand. He says even he gets more out of the sermon by, well, talking in church.

Now please understand, I’m not suggesting we answer our phone and set up a hair appointment or turn to our neighbor and discuss what restaurant we are headed to after church. But when talking is done in a way that actually creates a context and space for the words being spoken or sung to find a home in our hearts….I can’t help but think that’s what church is all about!

What about the rudeness factor though?  If everyone is talking to everyone, who is actually listening?  Isn’t that in and of itself causing a disruption?

Yes. If all the people all started talking at the same time, yes, that would be disruptive.

But realistically, if a mother is leaning over to whisper something to her child or a father is sharing an insight with his son or a spouse with his/her significant other or a grandmother with a grandchild or… isn’t that what church is all about?  

Isn’t that why the sermon is even being shared?

If the words are sparking a thought, hitting on a topic held close to their hearts, or bringing to light something that would otherwise have been kept in the dark, isn’t it appropriate to lean over and quietly share that moment?

I think it is. I think it’s okay to talk in church. I think it’s part of this thing we call discipleship and it’s part of this thing we call fellowship.

And you know what else?  It makes the effect of church last a whole lot longer.

Because of that moment, those words, shared in a pew between my daughter and I on Sunday, the sermon will last long after we leave the building. The next time we are standing together in a checkout line, we will remember the conversation we had about seeing the person and loving them, not just passing them by. The next time I say, “Sorry, babe, but you can’t watch that show” we will remember together that my motivation is love. And the next time we sit next to each other in church, we will likely have another quiet conversation…because, that is discipleship; that is church.

Author’s Note: I’ve blogged about a lot of things on this website, but have never had the level of negative feedback this particular subject has generated (except during the election cycle). Some clarifications –  the conversation I had with my daughter was non-disruptive and quiet (not rude or loud); I am not advocating (as stated in the blog) long, off-topic conversations during the sermon; certainly the fact you are in a group should be kept in mind and deference given to others; and consideration of the environment is essential. 

Yet, with all that said, if we put such a high premium on non-disturbance in our modern-day church services, it comes with a cost…and in my opinion, that cost is relationship, discipleship, and compassion. I’d much rather see a brief conversation happen during the service that leads to engagement and discipleship than the rigid silence that leads to disengagement, boredom and resistance to God’s Word simply so one can escape the judgment and criticism of others. “All things in moderation” seems to me to apply to this situation as well as others.


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About this Blog

Family(40)

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed

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3 thoughts on “To Talk or Not to Talk…in Church

  1. I think this is great! I tire of seeing kids stilled, hushed, and rushed out of the room because they do not behave like adults. I think we need to realize that there are more ways to show respect than just listening and not moving.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Talking in church? – Discovery

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