A Face In The Crowd

Andy Stanley, among many other prominent church leaders, talks about creating an environment in your church where people want to invite their friends. Too many times, we sit in churches week after week that we would have to make apologies to our best friends for, if they were to come. We might apologize for the poor parking, the dim lighting, the apathetic greeters, the goofy worship leader, or the under-staffed quality children's programs. Then we make excuses for why it would have been better for them to have come "last week." So, to save ourselves this embarrassment... we don't invite our friends. At all.

I had the opportunity to preach at Ridgeview Church yesterday. I was really excited about it. Sunday, when I walked out on the platform I was incredibly surprised to see Amy and Steve Smith sitting next to Erin in the crowd. They live 2.5 hrs away in Athens GA, and their son Tagg was in the bed next to Josiah for 4 months. What were they doing here? Did Erin invite them? I didn't know the answers to these questions. I had only noticed them when I started the intro, so obviously, now my sermon was set. There would be no changing things on the fly. Would my sermon, the way I had prepared it, impact someone I call a dear friend?

Similarly, about a month ago I decided in planning the service, that to lead a time of worship at Josiah's memorial. We just felt that a time of worship that praised God in all things, would be the best way to celebrate his life. When I walked up on the platform, I realised that my main music professor from NGU, Dr. Barry Combs, was sitting in the congregation. I have grown to appreciate his leadership, mentoring, and friendship immensely, and the fact that he had come to Josiah's memorial service although I had not spoken to him in a year or more, means a great deal to me. My music was set, the bulletins were printed. Again, there would be no changing things on the fly.

Thankfully, in Josiah's memorial service I had put the song composer's names in the bulletin. I had told the story behind one of the hymns I was singing, and I talked about some of the key lines in the praise chorus we would sing. I know that these were things that meant a great deal to Dr. Combs. I am so grateful that I had planned a service that would minister to him.

Sunday's sermon I had put in my sermon some illustrations that talked about Josiah, and how his hospital stay impacted our lives. I know that the Smith's understood every trial I was describing, because they have lived through it with Tagg as well. I am so grateful that I planned a sermon that would minister to them.

What about you? Pastors, are you planning a sermon that would have an impact on your closest friends? Worship leaders, are you considering a dear family member when you put your songs in order? If not, you need to be. Why? Because to that person in the middle row, the person next to them is more than a face in the crowd. That is someones closest friend or family member. Don't embarrass them by something you threw together in a few minutes. Beside that, aren't we supposed to bring our very best before the Lord?

When it came to sacrifices, offerings, and the payment of vows, God required that the Israelites bring their best animals and goods to Him. Nothing with a defect was allowed (Lev. 22:20–23). This was because God is a holy, perfect God. He was worthy of the best that His people had to offer.


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