On your way to church on Sunday morning, pray about where you will sit.
This advice that I was given many years ago continues to shape the way I view Sunday mornings. Our tendency, I think, is to view our Sunday gatherings primarily as a time when we are recharging our spiritual batteries, a time when we are strengthened by word, sacrament, prayer, enabling us to “experience the life-changing love of Jesus.”
And that is a great and truly necessary part of what needs to happen on Sunday morning. But I’m struck by how the Bible’s emphasis points us in a different direction. Hebrews says we gather to “spur one another on” and “encourage each other.” Colossians tells us that we are to “teach and admonish one another.” God calls us on Sunday mornings to an attitude of mutual service, where each of us are both being encouraged in the gospel and also seeking to serve and encourage others. We “experience” and “extend” the love of Christ at the same time.
And that’s the point of the advice about praying where to sit. Praying this way encourages us to see the people around us as those to whom we have the opportunity of extending Christ’s love. Perhaps you will sit next to a newcomer and have the chance to make them feel welcome. Perhaps you might sit near someone going through a hard time, and you’ll have the opportunity to give them a hug after the service. Or maybe it’s next to a dear family with young kids, and you enjoy helping a frazzled parent by sharing a bulletin with a five-year-old.
When we begin to see Sunday morning as an important time for showing love to others, it’s likely we’ll consider other ways we can be intentional in how we serve:
- We might find ourselves praying, not just for where we sit, but for those preaching and leading, for the people who are attending, and for yourself, that together you may be brought nearer to Christ.
- We might begin coming earlier, since the time before the service starts is one of the best opportunities to meet newcomers and welcome them.
- We might spend the informal time after the service with greater intentionality, since one of our primary ministries to each other is that of listening and encouraging.
I realize that for many of us it’s a truly radical idea that we might sit somewhere different on a Sunday morning! And for some of us, it can be an even deeper shift to see worship as a time when we are “on” rather than simply passive. But I believe that the more we can live out on Sunday mornings our calling to mutually serve one another in Christ, the more we will become the beautiful body of Christ. And that is a goal worth pursuing.