Skip to main content

Front Vs. Back of the Church

Hands raised in praise
Q: There seems to be a feeling that the front of the church has a greater value than the pew we set in for prayer and worship. Is there a difference? It disturbs me that some like to go to the front of the church to worship, which I think causes God to disregard their worship and may cause less of a presence of God in the service.

A: In the Old Testament, we see much significance invested in particular “places” of worship. These places were significant because of the manifest presence of God. A few noteworthy examples: Jacob and his dream (Genesis 28:16-22), Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-9), on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:18-25), the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 33:7-11), the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-38), and the Temple (1 Kings 9:1-5).

One of the most significant realities of the New Testament is that God no longer “dwells” in tabernacles made by human hands but in the “temple” of His people (see Acts 17:24-25 and 1 Corinthians 6:19). Jesus explains this when talking with the woman at the well:

The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:19-24, NASB)

When Jesus completed His work on the cross, the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the tabernacle was torn from top to bottom, signifying that there was no longer a barrier keeping God’s children from entering boldly into His presence. Just as it isn’t a matter of “this mountain” or “that mountain,” we also shouldn’t make such a distinction between the front or the back of the church building. God’s presence isn’t more manifest because of some specific location.

However, just as we shouldn’t be restricted by thinking that a particular location is “holier” than any other location, we also shouldn’t restrict the freedom that worshippers have to worship Him as He leads. All throughout the Scriptures we see that posture plays a role in worship. The lifting of hands, clapping, dancing, laying prostrate, and other such gestures are not intended to make a person “holier” or get someone closer to God; yet there is a tie between our physical actions and our inner spirit.

It is good to humble ourselves before the Lord by kneeling or lying prostrate. Our posture helps to humble our spirit. Likewise, we should not be embarrassed to follow the Lord’s leading … and if He is leading us to come forward in an act of adoration and praise, we should not stifle this leading because of what others may think. Likewise (and this is related to the previous question: “Should We Worship in Secret?”), we should not be going forward in order to be noticed by others and to make them think that we are particularly pious!

The Scripture does warn us to not quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19) and the context relates to the corporate gathering. However, the specific command is tied to despising the prophetic and not allowing the Spirit to lead. By extension, this same principle can be applied to any area that the Spirit is leading … and it cuts both ways.

It is possible to quench the Spirit by failing to follow His lead by going up front if He’s leading us to stay put in our pew, or likewise to quench the Spirit by staying put in our pew if He’s leading us to go up front!

We don’t want to put the Lord in a box. He has given us parameters for worshipping Him but also freedom within those guidelines, and we should not be too judgmental of our brothers or sisters who come to the Lord in a different style than we do. There is no place in Scripture, that I’m aware of, that would prohibit coming forward in an act of worship, so it seems that on this particular issue we must entrust the individual worshipper(s) to God, knowing that He judges justly.

On our end, we should remain committed to being led by the Spirit and being willing to follow His lead … even if He makes us uncomfortable! He is worthy of our purest devotion and obedience.

Comments

Popular Posts

Prayer vs. Petition

Q: What's the difference between prayer and petition? Phil 4:6 for example.

A: An excellent word study question! When attempting to study words from the text it is necessary to analyze the word being studied in the original language (in this case Greek) as attempting to look up the words in English will often produce erroneous results.

For example, in English the word petition has within its range of meanings things that are certainly not within the scope of meanings for the Greek word (i.e. “a sheet that is signed to demonstrate agreement with some principle or desire for some social action to be taken” is part of the range of “petition” but not of the Greek deesis from which “petition” is translated).

The word most commonly translated as “prayer” in our English Bibles is proseuche, which appears 36 times in the New Testament (NT) in one form or another (for the purposes of this study, we are only examining the usage of these words as nouns – the verbal forms will not be included…

Christianity Isn't Moralism

Do this. Don't do that.

Shop here. Don't shop there.

This is acceptable. That is an abomination.

Don't get me wrong. Christianity does have a moral code. That's undeniable.

And that moral code is not popular. Not by a long shot. The Bible is clear that the moral code is contrary to the flesh. By definition it goes against the grain of fallen human nature.

But Christianity isn't moralism.

The moral code is not the end. It's only a diagnostic. The Bible calls for rebels against the King of heaven and earth to be reconciled to Him through His Son, Jesus the Christ. The Bible calls for people to turn from their rebellion and live for Him. This means that we stop pursuing the various lusts and impulses of our flesh. It means we start living in obedience to our King. We live for the glory of His name.

The diagnostic helps us to see that we are off track. But living according to some external sort of rules is not the end goal. That was the mistake the Pharisees made. Yo…

Hallowed Be Thy Name

Growing up, I said the Our Father prayer a lot.

A lot. Multiple times a day.It was part of my religious tradition. Most of the time, I mumbled it as quickly as I could.

For what it's worth, my Dad tried to help me understand that mumbling the prayer without understanding what it really meant wasn't the goal. He wanted me to understand it. He wanted me to mean it.

I remember sitting with him in the car one afternoon while we went through every phrase. He did his best to explain to me what the terms meant. Why we would say these things. Why it mattered.

It didn't take.

Although I became better equipped to describe the meaning of the phrases, I still mumbled them as fast as I could so I could move on to the next part of my day.

Fast forward many years. After being born-again by the grace of God I started to read my Bible. I desired to know God and His Word. I remember when I stumbled upon Jesus teaching the disciples to pray the Lord's prayer in Matthew 6. I was both excit…

Christ Died For Our Sins

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures
(1 Corinthians 15:3)
The truth of the gospel includes this important phrase: Christ died for our sins.

You've probably heard it before. Many times.

Sometimes familiarity leads to a diminished sense of importance. The more you hear about something the more ordinary it may seem. Common. Ho-hum. Boring.

But this truth is anything but common.

Another difficulty arises with this truth. Beyond being common. It may happen in your ears without you even realizing it.

When the truth is declared that Christ died for our sins, you may think you hear the truth. But what you really hear is a diminished version. A partial truth.

Instead of hearing that Christ died for our sins you may hear a slightly different version of this truth. You might hear this: Jesus died for your sins.

Do you see the difference? You should.


These statements are similar. Both may very well be true…

Self-Centered Theology

I have a problem.

Maybe you do, too.

I bet you can at least relate.

I'm self-centered.

By nature, I think from my perspective. Often, more often than I'd usually like to admit, I pursue my agenda.

I like to do, what I like to do, when I like to do it, where I like to do it, how I like to do it, and with whomever I like to do it.

I think you do, too.

Sometimes we are good at hiding this self-centeredness. I believe that it is possible to have genuinely altruistic moments. Moments where we put others self-interest above our own well-being. Sometimes powerful emotions like love, hate, and disgust, can cause us to act contrary to our self-centered notions.

Sometimes.

As Christians, we are given the gift of God's grace through His Son, Jesus Christ. We receive this gift when we repent of our self-centered ways and trust in Christ alone. In the noise that is "Christianity" - if you take the time to really listen - you will often hear a false gospel that appeals to the …