Saturday, May 13, 2017

What to do with the empty pew?

There’s an empty seat today. Someone is missing, and I miss them. It tears at my heart. Was it something I said or did? Was it something my husband said or did? Why did they leave? We invested so much time in them. We discipled them. We shared life with them. I thought we were friends.

Have you ever thought those things or had those doubts? I sure have.

Any time a seat is open or a ‘special spot’ is left vacant – for any reason - Satan is quick to whisper in my ear. Planting seeds of deception, doubt and despair. It’s as if all the others that are present disappear from my view and my heart becomes heavy with sadness and a sense of emptiness.

When someone leaves the church, whether by decision or death, it is natural to grieve. We grieve the loss of a dear friend or the dreams of what could have been. That gaping hole robs our hearts of God’s grace and peace. In our human weakness, we fall prey to the enemy. Regrets of time lost or broken relationships overwhelm our minds. Their absence each week is a reminder of our loss, and it hurts.

Sooner or later, we each have to face the reality that people come and go from our churches. The list of reasons are endless. Some church attenders, and even members, are in the habit of shopping around for the next new thing while others may just not be able to live peacefully with individuals of differing convictions. Others leave because of unresolved grievances toward the pastor or church leadership. College, job relocation or opportunities to serve on the mission field also bring about changes in our church family. Regardless of the reason, their absence each Sunday grieves our hearts.

So, what do we do with that empty pew?

Pray! 

Yep, pray.
  • Prayers of thanksgiving for the season of life God gave you to share with this individual or family – the love, the laughter and the tears.
  • Praises to God for the opportunity you had to share God’s Word with them or to worship alongside of them.
  • Prayers of self-examination. Ask God to show you if there is any area of offense from your life that could be tied into the reason for their departure from the church fellowship. Psalm 139:23
  • Praises to God for who He will bring to fill that open pew, seat or chair - and for future friendships.

I know God will answer these prayers, because I have seen Him do it over and over again in my life. In fact, three pews came to my attention just a week ago. My one empty pew (along with even more pews) are now consistently filled with new families. The heartache has eased and God has given me a brand new view. I rejoice in God’s faithfulness and am humbled to witness a part of His plan!

Psalm 34
I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.   v. 1
I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.  v. 4
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.  v. 8
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.  v. 14
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry.  v. 15
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  v. 18
The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.  v. 19

I wonder who God will bring into your church, and mine, in the days ahead? May we each find a special spot for them to come and find rest for their soul and peace for their future! 



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