Then Jonathan said to David: ‘Tomorrow is the New Moon festival. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty.’ - 1 Samuel 20:18
Growing up, I was made to go to worship. Every time the church doors were open, I was there. My mother would (almost) let me miss school before she’d let me miss church. It was engrained into my mind that I would be there.
This carried over to later in my life when I found a purpose in worship. I found that it wasn’t just about me getting what I could get out of it, it was about participating in the worship of our Lord and giving what I could to Him.
I think that maybe a lot of us fail to understand that these days.
As a youth minister, I see it a lot. If there is something better to do, then that certain kid won’t be at worship services, whether it’s sports, a concert, or homework. So what are we raising our kids to think their priorities are?
Without getting too much into the actual importance of being at worship, I just want to say one thing: that when you’re not there, believe it or not, you are missed.
In 1 Samuel 20 Jonathan says this to David, talking about the New Moon festival. Without reading the context of this verse, we may think, “Aw that’s sweet. Jonathan was concerned for his friend.” But if you read into it, you’ll understand that David was staying away from the festival because he was sure that Saul would try to kill him.
Every true worshiper needs to understand this verse – You will be missed, because you seat will be empty. If they do not understand this, perhaps the rest of us need to remind them.
As Christians, we have a lot of things in our job description. Be an example of Christ. Care for those less fortunate than you. Preach the Gospel to everyone. But another part of our job that we sometimes overlook is something I like to call Retention.
During my time spent in the Marine Corps, I learned that every base of large unit has something called a Retention Officer. This officer’s only job was to make sure that Marines were staying in the Corps past their allotted time of duty. He would call us from time to time to see if we were thinking about reenlisting and what those reenlistment options were. Sometimes, big incentives were given to high-value occupations.
As Christians, in our local churches, in our local communities, what are we doing to keep people there? Do people know you care? Do people know that they are missed when they’re not there?
I encourage you - members, youth ministers, ministers, what have you - to start making an effort to see where the empty seats are located. Christians need to be with other Christians. Christians need to worship.
It may sound like just one more thing we have to do, but the rewards of finding that one lost sheep among the ninety-nine will be incredible.