“And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23 ESV).
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you” (Luke 14:8-10 ESV).
We’re praying and preparing for a full house on Easter weekend.
We’re preparing great music and a gospel-centered message. We’ve designed and printed invite cards, door hangars, and signs to help promote our services. We’re planning to utilize social media and Facebook ads to send out invites. We’re offering four services instead of our usual two to make room for everyone.
Yet, there are key two areas where our church members are best suited to help us prepare for a full house this Easter (Hint: It’s about who you invite and where you sit):
1. Invite people to attend our services.
In Luke 14, Jesus told two banquet parables. One was about a wedding banquet and the other was about a “great banquet.” The great banquet parable illustrates our call as servants of God to be busy inviting people that the Master’s “house might be filled.”
In this parable, Jesus described a master who sent his servant out to invite people to his banquet. But everyone the servant invited gave an excuse for not being able to attend. So, the master told the servant to go out and “bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame,” that his house might be filled. The servant reported that he had done as commanded, yet there was still room at the table. So, the master sent the servant back out to “compel” people to come.
The truth is, most people who visit our church have come because of a personal invitation from a family member or friend. Look at these statistics explaining what prompted someone to visit and attend church (From evangelismcoach.org)
- 2% by Advertisement
- 6% by the Pastoral Invitation
- 6% by organized evangelism campaign
- 86% by friends or relatives
So, most church visits are prompted by a personal invitation. Yet, a troubling statistic is that “only 2% of church people have invited an unchurched person” (Thom S. Rainer).
Preparing for a full house requires church members who are willing to be servants who “compel” (“to urge with urgency”) people to come, with a special emphasis to focus on those who are “poor, crippled, blind and lame.” In other words, we should focus on inviting those who have the greatest physical and spiritual need because they are usually most receptive to the gospel.
2. Make it easy for our guests to find a seat.
In the wedding banquet parable, Jesus taught that we shouldn’t choose to, “sit down in a place of honor.” He described those who would choose a seat based on their own preference, rather than the preference of the host. He said that they might be embarrassed when the host asks them to move.
We can apply this parable’s teaching to how we treat our invited guests who arrive and search for a seat in our worship space. Consider the following questions about where you choose to sit:
- Should you choose the back seats and aisle seats, so that those entering feel there is no room for them?
- Should you climb over the ropes reserving seats for our late arrivals, placed there by the ushers?
- Should you ignore the instruction of our ushers who try to help you get a seat?
- Which seats being filled best “honor” and encourage the pastor and worship team?
- Is it best to choose your seat on what “honors” you or based on what “honors” others?
The answers to these questions seem clear when we base the answer on what is best for our guests, rather than our own preferences.
Our worship space has 214 seats. Most services we average around 100 to 160 people in those seats. We often have attenders thinking we are full when there are actually 40 to 100 seats still available. The problem is to find those seats, you have to go down towards the front and step over other people to find them. We’re expecting over 600 in attendance on Easter weekend, so you can see how important it is to make room for everyone.
We recognize that we are fast approaching the need to expand our facilities, both for our adult space and our children’s worship space. But in the meantime, we want to be good stewards of what we have. Let’s fill up the house God has given us! Then, we’ll expand when it’s really needed.
As we prepare for a full house not only this coming Easter weekend, but every weekend, would you consider helping us in these two key areas? Will you invite people far from God to come near? Will you take the seat that best honors both our guests and our Host?