Know any pew potatoes? You know, those folks who seem to just occupy a spot on the pew Sunday mornings and not do much else?
Christianese is usually insightful as to the ways that Christians think about their faith, and Christianese is often funny as well. But sometimes a Christianese term contains a veiled criticism or judgment of the way that other Christians are practicing their faith. Pew potato is one of those terms.
As you can probably guess without too much effort, the Christianese term pew potato is based on the secular slang term couch potato. My research shows that the term couch potato was coined in 1976, and the earliest quotation I could find for pew potato was 1981, so it didn’t take long for people to see the analogy between someone who sits on the couch passively watching TV and someone who sits in the pew passively watching the pulpit and altar.
Know any other terms that are similar to pew potato?
pew potato n. [Probably coined by analogy with couch potato. A trademark filing in the United States for the expression couch potato asserts that the expression “couch potato” was first used on July 15, 1976. The OED online has a quotation for couch potato from 1979.] A churchgoer who is uninvolved in church activities; a person whose participation in church does not extend beyond sitting in the pew on Sunday mornings.
See also *frozen chosen.
• 1981 Hustad Jubilate II: Church Music in the Evangelical Tradition 298 : The “couch potato” rather naturally becomes a “pew potato” in church. 1989 “Pew Potatoes Need Not Apply” World Vision 33/5 10 : (see title) It’s not a typical church. It doesn’t have a pipe organ. It doesn’t even have a building. But ask Donnell and Pam Blake and their two daughters if Washington, D.C.’s Jubilee Church is doing the work of the church, and they’ll tell you how they got out of a homeless shelter and into an apartment of their own. 1989 Kokomo Tribune (IN) (23 Sep.) 8 : Faith Lutheran Church, 3215 Judson Road. 8:15 a.m., Sunday school; 9:30 a.m., [sermon title:] “Don’t Be a Pew Potato.” 1991 Westfall Coloring Outside the Lines: Discipleship for the “Undisciplined” 000 : We are called to be more than “pew potatoes” (God’s frozen chosen). We need more people who are willing to push back the barriers of “religion” and discover the true unpredictable journey of faith. 1993 American Organist XXVII. iss. 7–12 66 : Among other things, this has given rise to a creature known as the pew-potato, who goes to church not necessarily to participate, but to see what can be gotten out of it. 1995 Gregoris Death of a Pew-Potato: The Guide Book for All Lay People [title] 1996 Diehl Ministry in Daily Life: A Practical Guide for Congregations v : Largely, they were passive pew sitters when it came to relating their faith to their daily lives. Someone refers to them as “pew potatoes.” 1997 Black Sacramental Ministry to a Diverse Generation 11 : In interviews with Baby Boomers and their ministers, a large percentage of what can be termed pew potatoes were identified. These are the people who have remained loyal to the Church physically by fulfilling their Sunday obligation and/or making sure that their children are enrolled in some form of religious instruction. 1997 Werning God Says, “Move!” Go Where He Leads 31 : Leaders were mostly inaccessible and unaccountable. Music was given to choirs. Spectator Christianity had arrived. Instead of being participants, believers might be termed “spiritual pew potatoes.” 2002 Strobel Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage 214 : The result was that he became a “pew potato,” a mere spectator whose spiritual growth became stunted. 2004 Phillips Spiritual CPR: Reviving a Flat-Lined Generation 35 : Those who still try to control their own lives I call “pew potatoes.” They are like Christian “couch potatoes.” Pew potatoes come to church on Sunday, sit in the pews and wait for God to perform. For them, church is not about what they can give in worship to God but what they expect to get from God. 2008 Prince There Is Hope! Keep the Faith! 28 : It cannot be anything but a crying shame to look at God’s people sitting in church and calling them names. Names such as “Bench Warmers” or “Pew Potatoes.” It is an insult, probably before God and man. Pews people are worshippers, and supporters; they should be treated with respect. 2008 Viola Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity 000 : It’s much easier to become a “pew potato” two hours on Sunday morning in an institutional church. Anyone can be a perfect Christian then. 2012 Bourne God in the Outback 6 : I soon became a pew potato or a pew warmer, and I even had my very own little comfort zone. I sat near the side door of the church, and when the last “amen” sounded, I was up and out of there. I just faded into the background. 2012 Wheatley Choice for Change 59 : Back then I would classify my husband and me as church “pew potatoes,” for we went to church, occupied the pew until the sermon was over, and quickly exited.