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While on leave, Jill and I had the privilege one Lord’s Day to visit Honeyridge Baptist Church and to sit under the preaching ministry of Clinton Stone. A real blessing!

As we entered a full hall, we looked for seats and noticed several rows with some vacancies. In each case, as we made our way up the aisle, we found that the seats had Bibles or bulletins or a jacket reserving them. After several attempts, we finally found two seats on the side, near the front. It was a helpful experience informing me of how visitors may feel as they enter the hall of Brackenhurst Baptist Church.

The church in Honeyridge is experiencing healthy growth and space is becoming a problem. We are experiencing a similar problem. O the joy of such problems! One particular challenge accompanying space limitations is the matter of seating, particularly for those who are visiting. But this provides a wonderful opportunity for church members to practice grace and hospitality.

When visitors enter our hall, it can be unsettling. After all, they are unfamiliar with our congregation and the way we “do church.” Therefore, as members, we must be sensitive to do what we can to alleviate any unnecessary discomfort. Perhaps especially when they are looking for a “safe space” in which to sit. For visitors to walk up and down the aisles looking for a seat can be frustrating, even off-putting, especially if they are turned away by “saved” seats. Therefore, I am appealing to your empathy to consider what you can do to help visitors as we face this seating challenge. Driven by the love of Jesus Christ, be considerate, and be sacrificial.

Practically, consider sitting nearer the front. Sitting in the front row won’t kill you! I’m often bemused that the front rows are filled when there is a baptism. Yes, I understand that something significant is taking place. But baptisms or not, something significant is taking place every Lord’s Day; namely, corporate worship. I suspect that, if we had members prioritising sitting in the first six rows (right, centre, and left), seats would be readily available toward the middle and the back for visitors.

I realise that many choose to sit near the back because they have little ones, or because of some physical need. No problem. However, if you are clinging to the back because you are unsociable, avoiding others, or trying to hide, then do some heart-searching, and move beyond yourself while considering others.

Furthermore, as you search for seats for your family, consider sitting right next to the next family rather than leaving an open seat. If there is space in the row, consider leaving open seats in the aisles rather than the middle of the row, where visitors may be more comfortable. These may be uncomfortable considerations, but there is a theological principle underpinning them.

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul wrote about giving up his preferences, even his rights, for the welfare of others. He said, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (vv. 22–23). Note that the spiritual welfare of others motivated Paul to be both considerate and sacrificial. Just as did our Saviour. So, Brackenhurst Baptist Church, for the sake of the gospel, let’s consider souls. This might mean fighting against the coveting and hence covering of seats!