Spirituality Information

Beware of the Lobby Lizards

Our church is infested with lobby lizards. They crawl around the lobby of the church while other activities are going on as if they already have mastered the topic the pastor is discussing. Maybe they have memorized the Bible so studying it in a small group isn't necessary. Whatever the case, the lobby lizards are multiplying!

Maybe it started with one person who had a legitimate excuse to roam the lobby. Maybe he had a bad back or was prone to surprise allergic reactions when he encountered truth head-on. Retreating to the lobby, for many, is a sign of spiritual maturity. Especially for those who get to sit in the high back chairs by the table under the portrait of the pastor. That, it seems, is the place of honor!

I've always wondered why those people (usually men) hang out in the lobby of the church early on Sunday morning. Is it so they can make sure all the people who need to be there stay in their places? Is it so that they can say to their business associates that they were "in church" on Sunday? That's always a great boost when it comes to closing a sale. Is it a lucky charm to prevent some catastrophic event from happening in the coming week? I don't know... and I just can't seem to figure out these guys.

Lobby lizards never look happy. Oh, they might grin and offer the obligatory "mornin'" when face-to-face with another person, but they always look as if they really don't want to be there. But they have opinions--loud opinions! The music is too contemporary, the pastor is too long-winded, the youth pastor is too hyper, and the kids are out of control. The worship center is too hot, the lobby is too cold, the parking lot is too full, and the organist doesn't sound like she's playing the same song as everyone else!

There's another breed of lobby lizard that is equally as puzzling. It's the "I'm too busy to stay in one spot" lizard that steps into and out of my small group each week. She's a "leader" with the personality of a pit bull that hasn't eaten in three days! She's a joy to be around... not really! She steps in to "make an appearance" but when it comes time to start the Bible study, she suddenly jumps up and heads for the door.

Did I say something offensive? Maybe! I guess people could get offended by, "Take your Bibles and turn to James chapter 1." Maybe it's me she doesn't like. I mean, I'm a likeable guy, but some people might be bothered by my straight-to-the-point approach to things. I keep saying I'm not bothered by it, but the fact that I'm writing this seems to indicate the contrary. I guess I'm bothered more by people who fill the role of leader but act in ways that are contrary to the concept of leadership.

I realize I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but some things are just obvious. I've discovered through the years some facts that I wish weren't true:

1. Most of the mean and unhappy people in the church are lobby lizards in one form or another. They avoid engaging in things that might help them deal with whatever it is that turned their dispositions sour and etched permanent frowns on their faces.

2. Lobby lizards bite. When they don't like something, they let the world know about it. They become ill and vindictive toward those they have on their hit lists.

3. Lobby lizards look a lot like chameleons. When it comes to acting spiritual, they can turn it on... right before they plant their teeth into your leg! Visitors think these people are the welcoming committee... except they seldom welcome anyone! The casual observer considers them to be "fixtures" in the church... and they are... like the water fountain, they occupy a permanent position in the hallway somewhere close to the restroom.

I don't understand lobby lizards and I'm sure they don't understand me. I've been in church long enough to be dogged by the best lobby lizards in the business. Some were deacons, others were charter members, and some have even worked for the church.

I have learned, however, how to repel the lobby lizards. It's a simple as this: stay close to God's Word. You see, lobby lizards don't want to hear what the Bible says because it might reveal what they know to be true--they are more of a hindrance than a help to the ministry of the church and the reputation of God in the community. The closer I stay to God, the less the lobby lizards bother me. Oh, I still have that one who makes sure we all know she's leaving the class when I begin teaching, but she's running from God, not me!

Jonah decided to run from God and he found himself suspended from life for three days. Like Jonah, most of the lobby lizards in my church and yours are serving a spiritual suspension. That's why they are angry and frowning. They don't realize that real joy comes not from occupying space in the church, but from a real, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

Pray for the lobby lizards; their avoidance of spiritual things is something we all should help them overcome!

Terry Hadaway is an author, editor, professor, and conference leader. He is recognized as one of today's authorities on adult education, especially in church settings. He is the author of several books and articles including 30 Seconds to Chaos; Mastering the Art of "What If" Thinking. Visit http://www.thinkezine.com for more information on his writing and conference leading.

Dr. Hadaway earned his PhD at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky where his dissertation addressed the issue of adult education in small groups in the church. He is the creator of the "Teaching Styles Evaluator" and helps churches improve their teaching ministries. He is married and has two children.


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