|Volume 18 Number 2 February 2016||
What is a pew? By definition, it’s a compartment in the auditorium of a church providing seats for several persons. More than just a place to sit, pews can be representative of those who sit in them, and those who don’t, during a time of Bible study or worship. When there are those who occupy a pew at these times, it shows hearts that are drawn to assemble together to learn more of God, to praise and glorify Him and to be blessed by the fellowship that comes from such time together. Unfortunately, in most congregations, while there are pews that are occupied, there are those that are empty. What does an empty pew say?
An empty pew represents someone who could be there, who should be there, but who is absent. It may be due to illness, being out of town or something such as this, but it can also be due to lack of interest, allowing the world and the desires of the flesh to have a greater influence and control over a person than the love of God and of Christ have. It comes from putting oneself over the will of God and denying God His rightful place in our hearts. Scripture clearly reveals the majesty, splendor and awe that God possesses as God, and how we as His creation should recognize His authority over all creation, which includes ourselves. David wrote, “The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord” (Psalm 24:1). Paul reminded the Corinthians, “Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). An empty pew that is empty deliberately, when we chose to occupy some other space for some other reason than the spiritual, reveals the kind of hearts we have. A heart of love should draw us to God and to each other at those special times when we are called to assembly in His presence and worship Him. “Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).
An empty pew also represents a missed opportunity. How many people are there who need to hear the Gospel message? How many long to know that someone truly cares for them? How many are searching for some way to find peace and hope in a troubled world? Surely an invitation to assemble could open a door in the lives of some who have tried the way of the world, only to find it empty, lacking what they truly seek. Jesus reminded His disciples, “Don’t you say, ‘There are still four more months, then comes the harvest’? Listen to what I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ready for harvest” (John 4:35). Of course, not everyone will take advantage of this opportunity, but we can offer it, and let others know they are welcome to come and learn. “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Why are there empty pews? At times, it can be due to a situation beyond one’s control. At times, it’s because one has an empty heart, with the world having a greater influence than the spiritual has. Allow God His rightful place in your heart and life, and make the pew a place where we all humble ourselves before God and find His grace, mercy and strength for life today and tomorrow. “He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you will be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; you were called by Him into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:8-9).
Gary C. Hampton
The care of believers for one another shines brightly in the assemblies of the saints. The writer to Hebrew Christians, who were evidently considering going back to serve God under the Law of Moses, gave specific directions concerning their assemblies. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Christian assemblies stir up love and good works through singing, which Paul saw as a great means of teaching. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16). Christ’s followers can also be stirred to confess their trespasses while gathered together. Others of like faith can then pray for each other (James 5:16). Gathering around the Lord’s Table is a wonderful reminder of the unity Christ’s followers have in His one spiritual body, the church (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). Hearing messages from God’s Word likewise challenges and provokes Christian growth.
God’s Son came to earth focused on man’s need to conquer death (Philippians 2:6-8). His followers are enjoined to follow His example by focusing on one another. Jesus’ disciples should serve others. Christians should demonstrate love for one another as Jesus demonstrated love for us. Forgiveness is a natural outflow of love within the body, the church.
Members of Christ’s body should exhibit care for their brethren. Those who love others will bear with them even though they make slow progress toward the goal or repeatedly fall. Members of Christ’s body should exhibit care for their brethren. They should similarly provoke each other through faithfully attending the assemblies of the saints.
The greatest goal of every Christian should be to spend eternity with each brother with whom he comes in contact, making “the Day” all the more special. Let us determine to do all that we can to assemble as a whole family in heaven.