Mark's Minute

Apr 13 2017

In an episode of The Crown (on Netflix, if you’re unaware), a character explains the protocol for seating at state dinners. Turns out where you sit matters. And not just at Buckingham Palace either.

Having never been invited to attend any state dinners (but, Mr. Prime Minister, if you’re reading this, message me and I’ll send you my address for the invitation), I’m only going on hearsay with this, but apparently there’s a lot of significance placed on where a person sits in relation to the head of state. Sit closer, and you’re an important person; sit further back, and, well, at least you’re there (which, again, is a step up from me, so good on you).

Seating matters in other contexts as well. That’s why the price for tickets at centre ice in the lower bowl are more expensive than tickets behind the net in the nosebleeds. It’s why floor tickets for a concert cost more than the ones in the rafters behind the production equipment.

But there are a couple of contexts I can think of where the opposite is true; where the seats farthest from the action are the most desirable. One is my first-year university classrooms at SFU. You had to get there early if you wanted the seats way at the back where you’d get the points for attending, but you could sleep with relative impunity because the prof was too far away to notice.

The other is most churches I’ve been to. Sure, there are some exceptions, but that’s a pretty good general rule. The back seats fill up first, and most people will only sit in the front part of the sanctuary under extreme duress. 

Trust me: I get it. I’m an introvert and I don’t like sitting at the front because it makes me uncomfortable to know that people in the seats behind me are starting at the back of my head the whole time. It makes me self-conscious because I feel like I’m on display, so I avoid it whenever I can.

But I know that sometimes I need to get over myself and take one for the team. And today I’m going to ask you to do that.

Easter Sunday is a pretty big deal for Parkland and for every Christian church. On Easter, we celebrate the most important moment in human history: the victorious resurrection of Jesus. If we can’t get pumped about Easter Sunday, I’m not sure we’re paying enough attention.

Easter is also the day when people who don’t go to church are most likely to go because it’s such a big deal. And I’m not just talking about people who used to go to church but don’t anymore: I’m also talking about people who have never gone to church before.

This week, we made a short promo video for Easter Sunday and posted it to Facebook. As I write this (Thursday afternoon), it’s been viewed 2200 times. For a church our size, that’s pretty amazing.

Not everyone who viewed that video would be in the position to attend Parkland this Sunday (which is good because I have no idea where we’d put them all). But I believe that some of them will.

And it’s important that those people feel safe. If newcomers are anxious or unsettled, there’s a chance that they’ll be so busy thinking about the fact that other people are staring at them that they won’t be able to hear the message of the gospel. And that would be really sad.

So, Parkland, let’s make sure we do our part. I know you don’t like to sit near the platform, but if sitting up front makes you uncomfortable as a regular attender, imagine how much more uncomfortable it will feel to someone who’s never been before.

Where you sit this Sunday matters, not because proximity to the stage elevates your importance, but because sitting near the stage and leaving the back seats empty provides an opportunity for someone who doesn’t know Jesus to relax and listen to the gospel message.

We can’t make anyone become a Christian—only the Holy Spirit can do that. But we can sure get in the Holy Spirit’s way. So let’s commit to doing everything we can to give the Spirit the best avenue by which to do his work, including taking it for the team and sitting near the front.

Who knows? You might even like it…

See you Sunday.