A drunk: To seat or to escort out?
A professional acquaintance and friend wrote recently on Facebook that during a church service he was attending a drunk man entered the sanctuary, took a seat in a pew, and placed two open bottles of beer under the pew as though trying to hide them. The man was immediately escorted without resistance from the sanctuary. No information was given about what happened after he was removed from the sanctuary. I don’t know if he was offered counsel, turned over to the police, or what.
However, the incident raised some questions in my mind and caused me to contemplate the situation.
Was removing him from the sanctuary the right action? Did that cause more distraction or disturbance than might have occurred if the man had been allowed to remain seated? How would I have felt had I been there? What would be the reaction at my church if a drunk walked in and sat down in a pew? Would we react the same way or differently?
These and other questions have been gnawing at my mind, and I’m somewhat frustrated that I’m not reaching firm conclusions or answers. Truthfully, I seem to be asking as many questions as I am answering. So, I invite you to share my journey with me.
A drunk walking into a service, whether by accident or purpose, is not something we expect to happen and, most likely, is not something ushers have been trained to handle. My church, and perhaps yours, has some security measures in place to prevent late entrance into a service already under way or to make entry as unobtrusive as possible. We don’t want to distract from the worship mood we hope exists at each service. Although it is not likely or probable that a drunk man would enter the church building and the sanctuary without being stopped, I don’t think we can believe or assume that it could never happen.
So, if it did, what would be the right course of action?
Someone more versed in the Bible than I might be able to quickly cite verses that would provide some answers. My first thought was the admonition in James, Chapter 2, about how to react when a well-dressed, obviously rich man and a poor man in vile raiment enter the church. If we seat the expensively dressed man in “a good place” and tell the poor man to stand or, in effect, sit on the back row, James asks, Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
While this passage does not mention a drunk, could it be that the principle presented in the scenario has application? The drunk, like a poor man in vile raiment, is just as much a soul in God’s sight as an expensively dressed man given favored seating. I recognize that two bottles of beer would be unacceptable in the sanctuary, but could those be removed without removing the man?
If the drunk is disruptive, such as being noisy or getting up and down from the pew, it might be appropriate to escort him out of the service, though I would hope that once outside of the sanctuary an opportunity for counsel and assistance would be offered.
However, there needs to be some agreed-upon definition for disruptive before removing someone from the service. For example, I remember a service in which a man fell asleep and began snoring. Our pastor paused in his sermon, requested that a deacon sit by the man and keep him awake, and then proceeded with the sermon. The result: minimal disruption and a man afforded the opportunity to hear the sermon.
Disruptive can also be cell phones going off or wandering in and out of the sanctuary or auditorium, whether to use the bathroom, get a drink, or whatever. I remember once visiting a church and finding it disruptive that a man dressed in walking shorts and wearing flip flops that went clickety-clack as he walked got up from his seat on the fourth or fifth row and walked in and out of the auditorium two or three times. He certainly did not appear to be drunk, but a quiet drunk man sitting in the back portion of the auditorium would definitely have been less disruptive. And no one escorted the man with his floppy flip flops from the auditorium.
In reflecting on the incident with the drunk man, I couldn’t help but wonder if he had come to church thinking he might find what he needed there. Escorting him out may have robbed him of that opportunity unless he was counseled after being removed from the sanctuary, and that is something I don’t know. I am convinced, though, that his soul was every bit as important to God as any of the sober souls in attendance.
Our pastor often encourages people to be mindful of not being a distraction during the service because we don’t want to take away from the worship of God. He often mentions that members and visitors are in the service for a reason and that some may be there as a divine appointment.
Could that have been true for the drunk man?