To Pew or Not to Pew

To pew or not to pew, that is the question.

This is the most pivotal question that American churches are facing today, seriously, we lose members over issues like this! But the greater question is this: Why are the pews in the front empty?  
District Superintendent, Fred Vanderwerf, visited us recently, pointing to the declining numbers in our pews all across our denominations, even in our own church.  Then, he noted the empty pews– in the front.   No one wants to sit there, not even church goers of 50 years!  We clamor for the back pew taking up the ‘best seats in the church’ and mark our pew as our own.
Ever wonder why Jesus never built a building for his ministry?  I’m wondering if it had anything to do with pews? 
Pews give permission to sit, stay put and become passive participants in what was designed  to be an active church body, each person contributing their energy, voice, and gifts to the worship service and mission outside the wall of the building.  Yet, we come early to get the back seats where we can be invisible, quiet, and withhold our singing voice except for a concert in the cities or shower back home.
Let me ask this:

Would Jesus’ disciples take the back pews or grab one in the very front?

While Jesus was teaching, they grabbed the front seats, close to their teacher   Yet, when engaging a newcomer, they would find them in the back and bring them to Jesus.  While the disciples hungered for Jesus and huddled close to him, they found those in the back and brought them forward–to meet Jesus and be saved.

The back pews are for the unsure, the newcomers, and those who are checking out Jesus.  It is safe in the back for beginners to find their home place.  Why would we steal that from them?
It is radical hospitality for the church to save the best seats in the house for the guests-the ones in the back third of the church. It is there where we greet our guests, strike up a conversation and ultimately bring them to Jesus through friendship.
It is radical discipleship to be engaged in the service, move right up to the front and be part of the worship and not an observer.  Sing with your whole heart, mind and soul to God. 
 OK, so this is where some say, “Pastor, you don’t want to me to sing!” 
Actually, it’s not what I want, but what God wants.  God wants us to be a whole disciple, from our head to our toes and everywhere in between, even our voice and our seat up front.  
Let me ask this: How long has it been since you found Jesus in your life?  And, how many years have you been sitting in the back with one foot out the door? It’s ok, you are not alone on this one.  But, if not now, when will  you ready to stand with Jesus? 
Be radical. Sit up front (all the way) and save the best seats for the guests; and then participate with your whole heart and voice. Remember, it’s a pew, not a cross.   If moving pews is uncomfortable, just look up at the cross.  Radical hospitality hung on a real cross (not a pew) saved you and me from ourselves and the sins of the world. The best seats  are ready just beneath that cross-up front.  
Pastor Terri