One Sunday afternoon, I watched the Periscope of a pastor I had never seen before. Every word of his message was powerful and ministered to me greatly. It was just what I needed, when I needed it. From time to time, the person who was recording the scope panned the sanctuary. I noticed there were about nine people sitting in the first two pews. But the three pews in the back of the church were packed. And there were seven or eight rows of empty pews between the front and the back. I got so distracted by these empty pews that I decided it would be best to listen to the sermon and not watch it.
The presence of God was truly in that sanctuary. By the time the pastor was coming to the close of his message, everyone was standing and praising the Lord. And people came to the altar for prayer. I dare not reason why the physical distance in that particular congregation was so pronounced. But I think about those “back of the church” seats I occupied throughout my Christian walk. Here are a few reasons why I sat in the back:
— Before I accepted the Lord in my life and couldn’t say no to invitations from friends.
— So I could tip out at will for other appointments.
— To be seen clocking in and out.
— Whenever I yielded to sin, felt guilty and/or unworthy to be in the house of God.
— When I was bound with depression.
— Mad at God for not fixing my stuff on my schedule.
One time I sat so far in the back of the church that my seat was in my car in the parking lot. But the day came when I changed my mind about the need to occupy the back seat. I was a new Christian dealing with an emotional challenge and had skipped church for a few weeks. I was nursing and rehearsing that episode with a lack of faith. Then when I felt some conviction and decided to go to church, I sat on the last row, end seat. I figured I could tip out after I felt I had fulfilled my Christian duty and due diligence of “forsaking not the assembling with other believers.” But the presence of the Lord hung in the sanctuary long after praise and worship. So much so that I can’t even remember the pastor’s message. I experienced a constant, overwhelming joy and all I could do was weep and thank God for touching my heart. I couldn’t wait until there was an altar call to seal the deliverance.
Now I will sit in the last pew, last seat in the sanctuary if I HAVE to. But I like to sit as close to the altar as possible. I pray that in the future, the people in that Periscope, the members of that body of believers, will honor the shepherd of the house by sitting closer as he delivers the Word of the Lord to them. But I know that when the Spirit of the Lord is in the house of God, He fills every inch of the room. God won’t force you to receive Him, or praise and worship Him. People can purposefully sit in the back seat, last row, whatever, and put on a spiritual haz-mat suit if they want to. But when you are willing to receive from Him, He can touch and heal you of whatever, whenever and wherever you are.
“For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand.
I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God,
than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
Areli MediaWorks | 2016