I think George Strait* attends my church. I’m almost sure of it, because many church members will quote one of his song lyrics, especially as they enter the sanctuary. Eager to get into their usual place to sit, many church members will notice a visitor, guest, or stranger, sitting in their familiar spot and speak these lyrics…”Excuse me, but I think you’ve got my chair!”
Most always, the guest will then get up and move, either choosing to scoot down, move to another seat, or in some cases just leave. Rarely does the guest return to visit that church again, much less join. What a tragedy for both the guest and the church.
While the world has a lot of great advice on social etiquette concerning HOW to deal with this situation, let’s first look at the scripture to know WHY we should handle this situation better with hospitality.
Matthew 25:31-46 – For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the king will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
This is Christ speaking about the one seat we should be concerned about, the judgement seat. As the King, He will be able to identify those who are His followers, not just by their faith alone, but how they lived out their faith toward others. How we respond to people in need and welcome strangers, is a direct reflection of our heart’s attitude toward Christ himself. The stranger sitting in ‘your seat’ at church is representation of Christ in a position of needing to be welcomed.
Now, HOW should we respond when someone is sitting in ‘your’ chair or seat? First of all, that’s not YOUR seat. It’s only the place you have grown accustom to sitting on a regular basis. Maybe you sit there because your friends sit nearby? Maybe you sit there because it’s at the end of the aisle and you can easily get out of church early to get to lunch before the other churches let out? Whatever your reason, we should always be mindful of showing brotherly love toward strangers. If we can’t do that within the church, we probably aren’t doing that outside the walls of the church either.
So, this coming Sunday, let’s start a new practice. If someone is sitting in the seat that you normally sit in, walk up to them, extend a handshake, and say, ‘Hello, my name is …‘(Yes, give them your real name!). The guest will then introduce themselves to you. You respond with ‘It’s so nice to meet you and I’m glad you could come worship with us this morning. Would you mind if I sit with you today?’
You will then slide in next to the guest and have a seat. You’ll enjoy the conversation until worship begins when you both are joined with the other worshipers as God is glorified. You will be blessed when you return the next Sunday to find your new friend sitting in your familiar place because they felt welcomed by you. And friends remember, as George would sing it… "I like you, I do, but to tell you the truth… that wasn’t ‘your’ chair after all."
*For those of you not old enough to know who George Strait is, google it!
Hospitality In Action Tip #8
Remember, there are not assigned seats at church. When a guest sits in your regular spot, don’t ask them to move, instead, make a new friend.
Hey! You in my Pew!
By Elaine Bayer
I walked into the church full of God’s grace when a look of shock came across my face. Oh, Lord tell me it's not true!
I see someone sitting in my pew. I walk up to the guest who’s obviously unaware that this is my pew and hers is over there.
They politely got up and moved somewhere, And I sat down in my pew, my spot, my chair.
I never saw that visitor again I assumed they didn't like the sermon But as I sat there in my pew, God made me very aware I was the reason she wasn't there.
That day she didn't see Jesus on my face All she saw was a selfish Christian upset because she was sitting in my space.
God gave His only son to die for me and you And we can't seem to give up "our" precious pew.
It doesn't matter what they look like, where they came from or what they do,
That pew belongs to all of us not just you.
So for everyone who chose to join us and hear Gods word, Move over and welcome them to sit down with you in everyone's pew.