The Beauty of the Back Row

Anyone who has spent any time in church circles knows what the ‘back row’ is.

The ‘back row’ are those people who arrive at church 20 minutes before the service begins. Usually, dressed in suits and ties, dresses and perhaps the odd hat. If they pray audibly in a service they use ‘thee’ and ‘thou’. When they pick a hymn they pick one you’ve never heard of that has nine verses. And to be honest, some of them don’t smile very much!

You might then be wondering what someone like me – a jeans and t-shirt wearing, arrive when things begin, loving songs with bridges and chorus (that are often repeated) and, in the view of some, irreverently laughing and chatting in church buildings kind of guy – likes about this ‘back row’.

Image by Ivan Vicencio
Image by Ivan Vicencio

How is there beauty in the back row?

1. There is beauty in their example – One area in which I constantly find the ‘back row’ being an example is in Christian living. I am struck by their hospitality, their demeanour with others (especially younger people), their handling of their family and the care they express for others. Again and Again I find myself just standing watching, or listening, with admiration at how the ‘back row’ conduct themselves. Personally, I also find their prayer life a great example. In particular what and how they pray. They are not confined to their own little world, but have a bigger vision for the world and they pray with such a reverence, respect and expectancy!

2. There is beauty in their encouragement – I am assuming I am not alone in this, but so many of the ‘back row’ brigade have encouraged me. It has ranged from a “pleased to see you”, to a nudge in the right direction, to a welcome compliment after being at the front of church, to a constant interest in what I am doing with my life. This has been pivotal in my maturing as a Christian.

3. There is beauty in their challenge – So often I find myself convicted at my lack of Scripture memorisation and understanding. I listen to the ‘back row’ talk and pray, and it is permeated with Scripture. I find myself challenged to commit myself again to knowing Scripture better. I also find myself challenged by their reaction to the difficulties of life. Those who have lost close family, struggled with illness, suffered hurt and abandonment or any other number of a variety of adverse life circumstances, again and again display submission to God and his greater plan for their lives. This is incredibly challenging. More than that, as I have been a privileged recipient of their gifts and generosity I find myself challenged at my lack of generosity for others.

4. There is beauty in their joy – The ‘back row’ are some of the most joyful people I have ever met. They love God, love others and love life! I watch them as they observe baptisms, listen to testimonies and hear accounts of mission across the globe, and as these things fill their hearts with joy I know I need to share in this joy too.
These are just four quick areas in which there is beauty in the back row.

What should we do with this? Allow me to suggest two things, one you should do now and one next Sunday.

First, take two minutes to think of the ‘back row’ in your church and thank God for their faithfulness, often over many, many, years.

Secondly, give a little back on this Sunday. The ‘back row’ would be absolutely delighted to have you walk up to them, shake their hand (or give a hug if they are ok with that) and let them know you are glad to see them out this week.

You’ll more than likely know that not all of the ‘back row’ are of this kind of calibre, but this should not stop us appreciating those who are the beauty of the back row!


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