With the weekend approaching I look forward to time with my family. My husband and daughter will be home from school and work and we can take advantage of relaxed time to enjoy each others’ company without the constraints of the weekday responsibilities. Another thing that I look forward to about the weekend is our time of worship. Our family spent time living overseas because of my husband’s work and we lived in an area that simply couldn’t offer us a home church like we had known while living in the states. Before then I hadn’t realized how much I took church for granted; not only having a church on just about every corner but having churches that spoke a language that I was fluent in. During our time abroad, my husband fulfilled his role within our household as spiritual leader. In addition to his secular job, he’s also an ordained minister so it’s safe to say he had a little practice and was prepared to lead his family in worship. Even so, we all felt the distance between ourselves and God so once we returned to the United States, one of our first priorities was finding a home church.
There’s just something about being in God’s house with likeminded children of His and being given an opportunity to simply worship our Savior that energizes the spirit. This past service I looked around and noticed all the empty seats. It reminded me of a sermon that I once delivered during a Children’s Church service. As Sunday morning approaches I’d like to share what I told the kids that morning.
My lesson wasn’t to the kids that day. Instead, I chose to talk to the empty chairs. I asked; “Empty chairs, why are you empty?” The response was “ We are empty because people were out late last night, there’s a sports event on tv today, there are plans for cookouts and picnics. We are empty because shopping trips are planned or because this is an only day to sleep late. We are empty chairs because people chose to go into work to get things done that weren’t completed during the regular work day, homework didn’t get finished on time, tests weren’t studied for, the house isn’t clean, guests were coming over or there simply wasn’t a desire to fill us. Mostly, we are empty because no one asked anyone to join them in church. “
At that point the kids and I had a candid discussion about how hard it is sometimes to ask our friends to join us at church. Maybe we’re embarrassed, maybe we don’t live close enough to give them a ride, maybe we aren’t sure of their faith, maybe they’ll think it’s dumb or won’t understand why it’s important, maybe we’re just afraid to hear “no.”
Jesus is pretty clear when He says “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26) He doesn’t give us room for excuses: But Jesus, I have to go to school with these people, I have to work with them, what if they make fun of me? There’s no room for reasoning, He tells us not to be ashamed of Him. This is an easy lesson to teach to kids but what about adults? How easy is it for us to knock on our neighbor’s door and invite them to church? What about our boss or the new guy in the office? What are OUR excuses that we hold on to that keep us from filling up the empty chairs in church?
I grew up in Arkansas where a Saturday afternoon Razorback game in Barnhill Arena would draw 10,000 screaming fans. Fan with painted faces and big plastic pig hats on their heads yelling “Whooooo Pig Soooieeee” like there was no tomorrow yet when came to being in church Sunday morning yelling for the salvation offered by Jesus Christ, the pews were bare. It’s okay to support and encourage our favorite teams but should we not also be excited about the grace of God without fear of embarrassment or worry of what others will think?
God wants His house to be packed with His children. “And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.” (Luke 14:23) So here’s the challenge that I posed to the kids that day: Between now and your next worship service find just one person to invite to church. If they need a ride that you can’t provide contact your church office. I am willing to guarantee that there will be someone who is able to pick them up. God isn’t asking you to lead His people out of Egypt. He’s telling you to lead others to Him. Step out beyond your hesitations so that His house may be FULL!