There was a great glut of human traffic which came to an abrupt halt in the vestibule of the Garsonville Church, as each stalled congregant stared down at their church bulletin, which was only a half-sheet of paper, and mused over the meaning.
Welcome to Jesus Church!
1. Enter! Take a seat in one of the first five rows on either side
2. Greet One Another
3. A Hymn (Congregation’s choice)
4. Thought Luke 14: 16-24
5. An Effectual Fervent Prayer
As you leave, please drop your offering into the red, heart-shaped box at the back door
That was it.
Through mutterings, groans, misgivings and sighs, the congregation made its way into the church, reluctantly sitting in the first five rows as requested. (Well, three families departed in a huff, and Deacon Smitters perched himself in his accustomed assigned seating near the back door.)
Promptly at eleven, Reverend Meningsbee arrived, shaking some hands and beginning the service. After singing “Wings of a Dove,” as requested by a nine-year-old who was more curious about the title than familiar with the tune, the Reverend spoke.
“Thank you, one and all, for taking a seat front and center. You may wonder why I made this request. In Luke the 14th Chapter, verses 16-24, Jesus tells the story about a man who planned a feast. Of course, we know he’s talking about God. So God has invited people to His feast. They immediately begin to make excuses. They’re too busy, they’re financially engaged, they have responsibilities… Anyway, they turn Him down.
At this point, God says something very interesting. He tells His servants to go out and invite as many people as possible–good or bad–so His house will be full.
Do you realize that every Sunday morning we insult the Heavenly Father by scattering all over this building in little pockets of family, social cliques and pews of tradition, flaunting the obvious emptiness of our sanctuary, never realizing that God wants His house to be full?
We don’t take back seats anywhere else. We don’t go to a concert of our favorite musical artist and sit in the nosebleed section. We don’t go to a restaurant and look for the worst table in the establishment.
But we come to church and think it’s our right and privilege to avoid contact with the altar of repentance, and stay closer to the back door of evacuation.
If God wants His house full–and He does–since we don’t have enough people to fill it up, we’re going to begin to fill this church from the front to the back. That will give us a sense of being full because we’re all sitting close together, facing the front, unaware of the vacant seats behind us.
This is our first step.
This is our attempt to make this a Jesus Church instead of a church that’s suited to our picky, personal preferences.
So I thank you for being involved in this beautiful experiment. I thank you for your cooperation…”
All at once the pastor was interrupted by a middle-aged man on the third row.
“You do realize, three families left this morning, and there may be more who won’t come back next week?”
The pastor paused, and then spoke in a gentle, metered tone.
“I do. I also understand that the way we’re doing church is driving more people away than bringing them in. I believe those three families will return when they see that what’s happening here is meeting the needs of human beings.”
The questioner shook his head and sat down in disgust.
Meningsbee said a prayer and started to walk away, then stopped in his tracks, turned and spoke to the back of the room.
“Deacon Smitters, we will look forward to you joining us front and center next week. Good day to all of you and God bless.”
The Garsonville Church sat quietly for a moment, as if trying to wake up from a really bad dream.
Undoubtedly the week ahead was going to be filled with vigorous discussion and angry dissension.