The discouragement of an empty pew

Published 9:04 am Friday, May 27, 2022

At each worship service we find empty pews. These are pews that are empty due to a heart problem. Not the physical heart, but the spiritual heart. The evidence is luke-warmness and in some cases full-blown apostasy. The pews that I am speaking about are the ones that are empty because someone decided in their heart that they had something more important to do rather than worship God and assemble with the saints.
These empty pews are not a result of physical sickness, injury, travel, or unforeseen circumstances. The pews in question are the ones that are empty because someone made different plans, plans that did not include obedience to God and meeting with the saints to worship God.
This is a problem because the empty pew cannot fulfill the commands of God. These pews cannot sing, pray, edify, teach, and exhort those in attendance. And while the empty pew is physically silent, it speaks volumes to the world about the local congregation and the Church as a whole.
The empty pew does not sing; it does not pray; it does not edify; it does not teach or exhort. These empty pews scream with a unified voice about the problem of the heart that some members of the Church are suffering from. It speaks to the quality of the people of God. In fact, it screams a great deal about the quality of some of the Lord’s people and some of the congregations that they make up.
One problem that the empty pew causes is that it discourages the faithful members. The empty pew shows a lack of concern for spiritual goals that all members should have. The culmination of those goals is the edification of other members (Ephesians 4:11-16).
As Christians we assemble that we may grow thereby. But the empty pew declares “I don’t need to develop myself spiritually!” As Christians we assemble because we have a concern for the body of Christ. Yet the empty pew says, “I am not concerned for the church!” As Christians we assemble to learn how to reach the lost. However, the empty pew reveals that many are not concerned about reaching the lost. Christians assemble because we see the need for sacrifice, The empty pew reveals an unwillingness to sacrifice. Christians attend services because they are interested in going to Heaven, but the empty pew shows that some people care more about living in this world than they do about living in Heaven. It shows that they have, what they believe is something more important than doing what God has commanded; The empty pew shows that some care more about worldly interests and less about God.
The empty pew is a powerful discouragement to preachers!Prophets like Elijah also experienced this discouragement. Some even felt as they were in the fight for God all alone and went through a period of discouragement (Romans 11:1-4). The empty pew causes preachers as it did prophets of the past to feel betrayed by others. If the preacher feels this betrayal, what must God feel as He looks from His throne above and sees the empty pews of our congregations.
The empty pew is also a discouragement to potential Christians!Christians have a responsibility to those who have never obeyed the Gospel of Christ. Furthermore, Christians are stewards of God’s Word, or His saving message and if we live in such a way that takes the gospel from the hearts of men, we fail in our mission of stewardship. The empty pew says to the non-Christian, “it is not really all that important to do what the Bible says.”
With all the discouragement that comes with the empty pew, you might be interested in knowing that it can also give a sense of encouragement. The empty pew in fact can encourage the Devil. We need to remember that Satan wants us to be lost (1 Peter 5:8). As he sees the empty pews, he is encouraged that his wishes are coming true, he is encouraged to continue in his quest to draw people away from God. He, with all his fiery darts is working to keep the pews empty by convincing people of God to forsake any if not all assemblies. But we are not left without hope against his continuous onslaught. We have the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12). Paul declares the power of God’s Word in Romans 1:16; it is a power through which we can be saved.
While the empty pew declares to the world that many are lost or being lost, we do have hope in Christ Jesus. This alone should encourage us to more faithfulness. Remember that God wants you to be saved and He has done His part. Will you and I do ours? I want to encourage you to more faithfulness and in attendance in all aspects of your Christian life as we all work together to fill every empty pew and prepare lost souls for eternity.
(Tony Hoss is minister of Centerview Church of Christ, Elizabethton)

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