Growing up, I never knew their names. I would watch them every week on the Muppet Show, mocking Fozzie the Bear incessantly. But it wasn’t just Fozzie. They made fun of every act, every celebrity guest and every performance from their perch in the balcony.
They were cantankerous. They were snide. They were funny.
And now, thanks to the wonders of Wikipedia, I know their names.
Statler and Waldorf.
We all know a Statler or Waldorf, right? They have an opinion about everything. If you watch TV with them, they comment on and critique every show, every movie, every commercial. They tell you what they think about every restaurant and every waitress. They are the armchair quarterbacks, the backseat drivers, the know-it-alls of our lives.
Honestly, though, we all have a little Statler and Waldorf inside of us.
In fact, that is one of the more subtle temptations of the devil in church. As Christians, we all blindly fall into it at one point or another. Our worship experience Sunday morning becomes less a conversation with our Savior God and more “At the Movies with Siskel and Ebert.”
We don’t even notice it happening. Instead of meditating on and taking to heart the words being spoken and sung, we suddenly find ourselves critiquing the sermon, the music and the preacher. As we drive home from church, our conversations with the family become more a rating of the pastor’s performance that Sunday instead of a discussion and application of the message that was preached.
We tell ourselves that our concern is genuine. We just want the church to grow. We just want to have good preaching and inspiring music.
The truth is, it’s hard to see a critical heart when you look in the mirror.
But listen to yourself when you talk about your church and pastor. What thoughts go through your mind as you worship on Sunday? Are you humbly listening and taking to heart the message or are you wondering why they can’t pick more singable hymns or why the preacher can’t make his sermons more interesting?
As Christian brothers and sisters, there is room for constructive criticism and brotherly admonition, but the truth is, we have come to expect our worship services to be high-quality Broadway shows that dazzle us and keep our attention. We expect our preachers to be as interesting as our favorite “Ted Talk” and as funny as “Whose Line is it Anyway?”
Many today flock to churches where the preaching is two thumbs up and the music is at least four out of five stars. The truth of God’s word being proclaimed and the faithfulness of the preacher become irrelevant.
The pastor better be funny and hip. If not, we complain. If not, we shop around to find a better show.
Watch out. The devil wants to sneak into your heart and turn you into Statler and Waldorf. He wants to turn your thoughts away from God’s life-giving word to judgmental critiques of our pastors, our churches and our fellow Christians.
The amazing truth is that you can be saved, fed and encouraged with God’s word proclaimed by the most boring of preachers and the blandest of music. Listen humbly to the message and think about the words you are singing. That’s how God works. That’s how God saves.
Be a positive, encouraging factor in your church. If your pastor or music aren’t up to our world’s standards, don’t leave. Help, support and encourage the conversations in your church to be about the message and not the messenger.
In our world today, everybody’s a critic. Be different. Be an encourager.