The other day, Titus the Honorable asked me a question: “Do you remember when you and me used to go to the movies all the time?”
I had to smile. Titus is only 4 years old, and I have only taken him to the movies twice. But I answered, “Yes.”
“Poppy, what ever happened to that?”
This kid is smart. He has already earned a Ph.D. in manipulating his Poppy. I explained to him that I wouldn’t be leaving town as much as in the past and that, in fact, this would be a good time for the two of us to go and see another movie.
We went to see the movie “Incredibles 2.” Normally, I take him to the theater with the electric seats that slowly recline when you push a button while the footrest comes up. Most of the time, Titus is more interested in the chair than what is on the screen. This time, we went to a budget theater, the kind with the old-time seats where the bottom folds up when you stand.
As the previews began, I heard that squeaky, mouse-like voice: “Look at me, Poppy!” I glanced over, and Titus’ seat was folded up like a taco with only his head showing along with his feet sticking out beside his ears. I had to smile. Like father, like son. I have seen this trick before.
I served for a long time in a church that also had theater seats. I thought this was odd for a church, because when you stood up, each chair made a slight “thunk” sound. If everyone stood in unison, there would be one resounding thunk. But Baptists have never done anything in unison, so when the congregation was asked to stand, you heard a series of, “thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk,” waited a few seconds and heard another “thunk.”
Our youngest son, Caleb, loved these seats. He thought they were part of the playground equipment. Sitting in church, listening to the pastor, I would look over and see Caleb doing his leg stretches. He would let the bottom of the seat rise ever so slowly until he had the desired taco effect, then slowly push out with his legs, lowering the bottom cushion. You would be surprised how many configurations one small child can create in a theater seat.
One Sunday, our service had just ended when a small voice whispered, “Help me, daddy.” I looked over, and Caleb had managed to get himself stuck in the space between the bottom cushion and the back of the chair. It would have been funny except for the panic that showed on his face. He had been squirming, trying everything he could to get up and out, but I guess all these seats have a point of no return.
As my wife and I were trying to figure how to get the chair to release our son, all I could think of were those news clips where firemen are called into rescue puppies that have fallen into a drain. I needed to get him out. I didn’t want to be the highlight of the 5 o’clock news: “Boy trapped in church, firemen called to rescue.”
After much tugging, pulling and crying, we finally managed to get one little boy extracted without damage to him or the chair. If my memory serves me correctly, I don’t remember any more theater-seat gymnastics from that time on.
I know there has been a cultural shift concerning the church. But I remember what the author of the book Hebrews wrote: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:25).
Church is the place where the body of Christ that has scattered is now reassembled. And in this coming together, the giftedness God has placed within each Christ-follower is exercised so we can be encouraged and strengthened in our love and good deeds, not only for one another, but for those who do not yet follow Him.
It is important to Jesus that we meet together because He said the one way the world will know we are His is not by our programs, our plans or our potlucks, but by our love for one another (John 13:35).
If history repeats itself, I am sure that one of these days, I will have to rescue Titus the Honorable from the clutches of a theater seat. But if you are going to get stuck somewhere, the best place it can happen is in church.