I will never forget the Sunday morning two years ago when a 45-year-old man who had been attending regularly for over six months stepped out into the middle aisle, came down front, and put his Lord on in baptism. It was a wondrous moment full of the love and grace of God our Father. In spite of that, however, what stands out to me the most is when his wife of 15 years, with tears running down her face, leaned over to me and said, “Do you think it would be ok if I went down front and sat next to him?”
This woman had been faithfully fulfilling I Peter 3:1 for 15 years, her husband finally responds to the Lord’s invitation, and she is afraid of offending someone by going to sit by him on the, “front pew”?! Sisters, this is a sign of our American culture. The front pew is no longer the, “amen” pew, it is now seen as, “the bad place.” How often when someone goes forward do people wonder what they did? How often do people look at them differently? If people react this way at all it is too often.
Sisters, I submit that a major reason for many of the problems we are having in the church is the way we look at the front pew. “The front pew”, should be a place of love, comfort, and security. It should be where we most show our love and concern for our brethren. It makes me so proud when someone goes forward and my 10-year-old daughter immediately jumps up to sit next to them. She has not been affected by the negative stigma yet & I pray she never is. No one should ever be alone on the front pew.
So, in order to be able to change the stigma attached to the front pew we need to consider the reasons a person would go forward to begin with. The first and most obvious reason would be that they have let God’s Word impact them.
Cut to the Heart
The best example I can think of in Scripture is Acts 2:37. Peter was preaching the first Gospel sermon and those who were listening realized that they had crucified the Son of God! Scripture says that they were, “cut to the heart and said, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They interrupted Peter, begging to know how to make it right! Now, I am not saying that we all need to jump up and interrupt the sermon next Sunday morning. But I am asking if maybe we haven’t stripped the emotion out of our worship services. Do we allow God’s Word to cut us to the heart, or do we harden when it gets a little too close? Do we search for application to our own lives from the sermon or do we think, “Boy, I hope Lacy is listening to this!”? Maybe, if our hearts were a little more open when we were presented with God’s Word we would be more accustomed to people being on the front pew. What difference would that make in the Lord’s church?
Support One Another
A second reason someone might go forward is for the support of the brethren. Galatians 6:2 tells us to bear one another’s burdens. How can I bear your burdens if I do not know what they are? So many times people get upset when the brethren don’t reach out to them in their time of need, yet they never let the brethren know that they HAVE a need. As humans we struggle, we get sick, we get down, we have heartaches. This is what the church is for! It is EXACTLY these times that we need to be reaching out to our brethren. It can be so hard to really open up and admit that we are struggling and need help, but sisters, that is exactly what we are COMMANDED to do. Let’s give our brethren the blessing of being there for us when we need them.
A third reason to go forward is that we are to confess our sins one to another as found in James 5:16. This passage does not say that we should confess that we HAVE sinned, but it says to confess the actual sin itself. Romans 3:23 tells us that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If someone goes forward and says that they have sin in their life and need prayers, guess what, so does everyone else! There is something in every one of our lives that we are struggling with; it’s the human condition. But if there is something in particular that is pulling us down– gossip, alcohol, anger, materialism, pornography–our brethren cannot effectively help us if they don’t know. We need to step out of our comfort zones and open up to each other as FAMILY. Is that not the purpose of the church? And on the flip side, when someone does open up and share their sins and struggles, we need to do everything in our power to completely envelop them in the love of the Lord! Even Paul confessed that he struggled with selfishness in Romans 7:18-24 he says that the very thing he doesn’t want to do he finds himself doing. He was struggling with keeping the Lord first, so why can’t we admit what we are struggling with?
Finally, I believe we should go forward when we have joy to share with our brethren! Romans 12:15 tells us to weep with those who weep, but it also says to rejoice with those who rejoice! When was the last time someone went forward to share something encouraging that had happened to them? Or even to ask for prayers for an opportunity that was coming up? Maybe the front pew has developed a negative stigma because it is only used for negative things?
Sisters, I really believe that the church is one of THE greatest blessings the Lord has given us. But are we really using it in our every day lives? Are we really letting God’s Word impact us when we listen to it on Sundays and Wednesdays? Are we leaning on our brethren and casting our burdens on each other? Are we putting aside our pride and confessing our sins to one another? Are we sharing our joys and our blessings with our brethren? Let’s start a revolution in the church, and turn the front pew from a place of dread to one of joy. And sisters, let there NEVER be someone on the front pew alone.