Fans pay big money for courtside seats at an NBA Finals game. But when it comes to God’s courts of worship, the prized seats seem to be on the back row. It’s not just true of Back-Row Baptists. It’s also true of Posterior Presbyterians, Latter-Seat Lutherans, and the Rearward Reformed. The trend seems to contradict the profound eagerness the psalmist articulated as he entered the gates of God’s courts with thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4), the joy untold he found when beckoned by fellow saints to go to the Lord’s house (Psalm 122:1), and sorrow of heart he experienced when he could not lead the throng in procession into God’s house as he had previously done (Psalm 42:4).
Certainly, some people have legitimate reasons to sit near the back. These include:
- Parents and caretakers with very young children
- Elderly saints and physically afflicted individuals
- Visitors, especially those who are nervous about being in a church in the first place
- On-call servants such as ushers, nursery workers, and security personnel
For the rest, you should consider sitting nearer the front. It is a form of ministry, or service, in the truest sense. You will serve God with more vigor, and you will serve people with deeper love.
What happens as you move forward in the auditorium?
- You open seats at the back for those who legitimately need them. Might you be a little more uncomfortable? Maybe. But when did Paul ever say dying to self was easy?
- You establish in your own heart a greater expectation that the Lord will fill the seats behind you with new worshipers.
- You gain accountability. You’ll be less inclined to fidget, sleep, pass notes (digital or paper), or talk to your neighbor. It seems ironic, but even in the special presence of God in corporate worship, the eyes of people in the rows behind us is sometimes the accountability we need to focus on the Lord more fully.
- You stay more focused in worship. One young husband and wife that were front-row regulars in the church I serve recently moved to sit near the back of the auditorium because of their baby. This man lamented how many distractions there are to worshiping the living God in the back row when you have to overlook so many people in front of you.
- You experience robust singing. With most of the voices behind you, your ears and heart will be lifted to glory. Chances are, your own singing will improve too.
- You encourage the congregation and the preacher. I tell our young people that they encourage the congregation greatly when they see our youth eager to worship the King of glory by their posture and position.
- You might be changed. A non-Christian man once nervously joined our worship assembly. He sat in the back. Gradually, he became more interested in God’s word and more comfortable with God’s people. Over the weeks and months he moved forward bit by bit until he camped all alone on the front row with an intense focus. In time, the Lord opened his heart and he believed in Jesus while sitting on the front row. What might change in you if you took a more serious posture and position in worship?
So, move on forward. Take a seat up front in worship. Say with the psalmist, “Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts!” (Psalm 65:4).
James Faris is a pastor of the Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. This article first appeared at Gentle Reformation and is used with permission.