Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Back-Row Believers

I recently sat on the back pew for a Sunday morning worship service. While that may not sound earth-shattering, it was quite the paradigm shift, as I’m usually on the first row of the church choir. But on this particular day, I slipped into church at the last minute and became the stereotypical "back row Baptist."

It only took a few minutes of sitting on the back pew to realize I was not enjoying myself. I felt isolated, hidden, and quite removed from the actual worship experience. Singing the great hymns of the faith wasn't a lot of fun, as my fellow back-row believers didn't want to sing. As I looked around I noticed many folks seemed disengaged from the act of worship.

The longer I sat there observing distracted, sad-faced worshippers, the more frustrated I became. I wanted to interrupt the sermon and yell out, “Hey, pay attention, people. We are here to worship – not clean the pews with our coattails.” But as I mentally completed my Oscar-worthy “holier than thou” spiritual speech, God quietly and patiently whispered in my ear, “But Lori, you’ve made me a back-seat God for a while now, so how can you criticize the very thing of which you are guilty?”

Ouch. Reality hit hard as the words of Matthew came flooding into my heart:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33 NIV)

Sitting on that back pew, I had to admit I hadn’t been seeking very much of Him in recent days. My time in the Word and prayer was hit or miss, I wasn’t actively serving in a church ministry outside of choir, and couldn’t remember the last time I shared the Gospel with a non-believer. I was guilty of turning into a back-row believer; a believer in name only who chose to avoid a meaningful and purposeful relationship with my Lord.

Perhaps, like me, you realize you have settled too deeply into a back-row relationship with Jesus. Intimacy with Him is just a thing of the past and the ministries of the church mean very little to you, as church attendance is more an after-thought than a priority. Maybe your back-row relationship has led to less tithing, fewer Bible studies, and a diminishing passion for the Savior. If that’s the case, don’t despair. There’s room for change.

The good news for back-row believers like myself is we serve a God who understands. In Isaiah 1:2-3 (NLT), He says to the wayward believers in the nation of Israel:

“The children I raised and cared for have rebelled against me. Even an ox knows its owner and a donkey recognizes its master’s care – but Israel doesn’t know its master.”

This verse reminds us that God grieves when we walk away. But, he knows his people are sinful and may yield to the temptation to become back-row believers who forget the one who gives purpose and passion to life. Yet, God loves you as much as he loved the Israelites and he’s not giving up on you. He loves you too much to let you wander in the wilderness for a long season.

Wherever you are this day in your walk with the Lord, remember that there is hope for change. God wants you to grow with him, and he will patiently guide you to deeper levels of intimacy if you’re willing to be led. So, make it a goal this week to start slipping off that back-row seat and inch a little closer to the front, telling God and your church that you’re ready to grow and serve. Let’s all make an effort to move from back-row believer to front row faithful for a stronger impact on the kingdom. 

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