Empty Seats

Wilma J. Beecher

“No, I made jelly yesterday, and I’m tired. I’m faithful enough to stay at home this cloudy morning.” Mrs. Clark curled up on the couch with the Bible she had not opened for a week, but it soon dropped from her hand. She was aroused by a strange voice saying:

“Now, my good imps, what have you done today the weaken the kingdom of God?” The voice came from a suspicious looking personage seated on a throne of human skulls. Around him was gathered a crowd
of terrible beings, each with a crown of fire, in which gleamed some name, such as malice, envy, pride, hatred, and kindred passions.

“We have been busy today, making empty seats in churches,” began one.

“Nothing could please me better,” answered their king.

“I persuaded one man that he had a headache, and kept him from a sermon that might have changed his whole life,” said one.

“I induced one good man to slip to his store and fix up his books,” said another, with a horrid grin.

“Good!” said the king. “He’ll soon give up the Sabbath altogether.”

“I was able to get one devoted young man to visit old friends, “said one imp.

“I worried a good sister about her old bonnet until she decided to stay at home until she got a new one,” spoke up the imp labeled “Pride.”

“And I made several poor women who were hungry for God’s Word stay home to repine over their trials. I just said to them, ‘Oh, these rich people don’t care for you; you can’t wear fine clothes so I wouldn’t go where I was looked down upon.'”

“I induced a good many men and women to think they were not strong enough to go out,” said one called “Indifference.” “Of course, all these men will be at their business tomorrow, even if they feel worse. But they could not go to church, where they would have no special mental or physical strain. And the ladies would have been able to clean house or go calling; but I made them think they couldn’t walk to church unless they were perfectly well.”

“Very good,” said the king, with a sulfurous grin. “Sunday headaches might often be cured by getting out in the air, and backaches forgotten by thoughts drawn to higher things. But you lying imps must use every weakness to the flesh to help make empty seats.”

They all smiled, for in their kingdom “lying” was a great compliment.

“I’m the weather imp,” said one gloomy fellow. “I go around persuading people it is going to rain, or it is too cold, too damp or too hot to venture out to church. It is enough to make even your gloomy majesty laugh to see these same people start out the next day in wind and weather. One would think it a sin to carry umbrellas or wear coats to church.”

“I have a better scheme than that,” said another, “I have a plan that empties seats of the workers in the church.”

“I make these people overwork on Saturdays. For instance, I make some good man the preacher depends upon, or some devout Sunday school teacher, make Saturday the busiest day of the week. I just keep him
rushed with neglected things till late at night, and then he oversleeps or is sick the next day, and can’t get out.

“Splendid plan!” cried Satan.

“Yes, it works well with delicate women. If they clean house, or have Saturday company, they can be kept at home without knowing they have broken the Sabbath the day before. A church party late Saturday
night helps with empty seats.”

“You are doing fine, my imps,” his majesty said warmly – for his breath was a flame of fire. “Preachers may work and pray over their sermons all week, but there will be no results in preaching to empty seats. One of the most important things we have to consider is how to keep people away from churches on Sunday. Your plans are excellent, but I might suggest another good point. All preachers have human imperfections — some fault of manner or speech. Get Christians to criticize their pastor, especially before their children. If you can stir up a spirit of fault-finding against the preacher, or among the members, it will help empty seats. People who get mad at each other do not care to go to church together. If the seats are empty, the
minister may be a saint and preach like an angel to no purpose.”

“See the result of your labor on High Street church today. Not only did the 200 people who stayed at home lose a blessing, but each empty seat did its work against the Lord’s kingdom. The preacher made
unusual preparation, and went with his heart on fire, but the empty seats chilled him, and he did poorly.”

There was a special collection, but the best givers were away, so it was a failure. It isn’t a smart preacher, nor a rich congregation, nor a good location, nor a paid choir, that makes a successful church.
It is the church members always being there that draws in the unconverted, and makes an eloquent preacher. As soon as a Christian begins to stay at home, from one excuse or another, I know I have a
mortgage on his soul which if he does not shake off, I will foreclose on the judgment day.”

“You have none on mine!” cried Mrs. Clark, who had been listening with baited breath; “I’ll go to church, if only to defeat you.”

“What’s the matter, dear?” asked he doctor. “Have you been dreaming?”

“Perhaps so; but I’m going to church if I get to my seat just in time for the benediction. I’ll cheat Satan from this day out of one empty seat.” She has kept her word, and influenced many others to let nothing trifling keep them from God’s house; and one “downtown” church has begun to grow, and will soon be a great power for God, because of no “empty seats.”


Computers for Christ – Chicago