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A Heart For God: Why I'm Showing Up Late for Church

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Why I'm Showing Up Late for Church

(This is a continuation of a thinking process started with the post: "Why I'm Wearing Pajamas to Church.") There's a movement towards the "casual" in our day. We're casual in our speech. We're casual in our showing up for events and appointments. We're casual in our clothing, too. It's that second area of casual I want to talk about.

Fashionably late. It's the term/phrase (euphemism?) used for and by some who tend towards not being on time. Do you know anybody whose "MO" that is (method of operation)? "Well, you see I don't like to be there first," or, "I don't want to arrive ahead of my friends. It makes me feel awkward," or, "They always begin late anyway. What's the difference?," or, "I'm late for everything. It's just part of my nature." I remember a fellow applying for a pretty significant ministry position who was delayed in his arrival to the interview. He didn't think it a courtesy to call ahead and then wondered why they wouldn't even talk to him when he did get there. I have to wonder along with him (tongue in cheek). What was the big deal? Didn't the world revolve around him?

Which brings me to what I really wanted to say. I've been thinking about showing up late for church (fashionably, of course). Do you think that's crazy? Everybody else is. (Does that irk you that someone would actually notice? I've done my job then.) Me showing up late for church will especially help me emphasize (among other things) how insignificant, unimportant and useless what goes on during the time before I arrive actually is. (After all, God never chooses to show up in the initial five, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes of a church service, does He?)

My point here isn't that I'm never late or haven't been late or that I don't understand real life circumstances and how all of us are delayed from time to time (even for church). But if it was the 49ers or Giants game (or whatever the ladies like event), watch out. For us guys, even if we're on our deathbed, we not only won't show up late, we'll be there for the pregame bratwurst and burgers. Can we offer anything less to the King of kings?

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Blogger dennis said...

I'm a pastor and I think it's great that people can be on time too, but I think better than being on time is the fact that they are there at all. We don't know what battles they have had to fight to just be there. Shouldn't we just celebrate that they made it. Just a thought

10:30 AM  
Blogger Laura Brainard said...

We show up late quite often, but it's because we seriously object to the performance at our church that they call "worship". Why do Christians want to pretend they're at a rock concert? Should we be mimicking the culture, or should we be set apart? I'm all for great music, but let's use a Biblical model of worship.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Gregular said...

Thanks for sharing about something close to my heart. The service I've attended for the last several years appears to start 10:40, 10:45, 11:00, 11:15 and/or 11:30 based on how the worship center fills up week after week.
As for Dennis; of course the fact that we DO gather as the body is a great thing. However, I ask you to consider your usage of the word "just" in the next-to-last sentence. While I would contend that this is largely a cultural issue (I can still remember as an older teen being frustrated while on mission to Mexico where a seven o'clock start time might mean things got rolling by 8:30), I draw the line at "just". God is a God of order and intention. I think what we are called to celebrate is God and His character.

Laura; I would like to suggest that you strongly consider why you remain attached to a particular body with which you have such a strong disconnect. Corporate worship is meant to be one of the most energizing part of our human experience. If you are unable to fully participate because of your stance, maybe finding another place where you can fully participate is in order? As for your stance on music, how do we conclude that one style or another is appropriate for worship? God is the author and perfecter of all things, why limit him to what music he may use to minister?

6:38 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

I agree. I think being late to anything shows disrespect. Why should we not be on time, if not early, to worship God? If God treated us the way we treat Him, we wouldn't like it very much.

4:03 AM  
Blogger prying1 said...

I have an advantage over many in our congregation due to the fact that I (as a lay member congregant not 'paid staff') have pre-service ministry duties. As a result my church time starts well ahead of the service time. Although one disadvantage is that When church starts I'm usually in 'Martha Mode' doing busy work and it sometimes takes a few minutes to switch to 'Mary Mode' where I'm ready to sit at His feet and listen.

I would encourage pastors to seek out those that are continually late, figure out their gifts, find/make helps ministries that would fit them and as Ephesians 4:11-13 suggests, put them to work (hopefully prior to church/services starting times).

From the pulpit I think pastors should also encourage people to get to church early not with events or for Bible studies or meetings with agendas and such but just for the opportunities to fellowship with friends.

Pre-service times can be a great opportunity for people to minister to one another with the unique gifts and fruit of the Spirit that God gives to each of us. Sharing these with one another in the 'safe' environment of the church can only help us when God calls us to use these same gifts and fruits outside of the church.

After all, the Lord does not call us to be 'self centered' but 'other centered'. Getting to church on time is just one of the ways we can fall in line with God's calling.

6:06 AM  
Anonymous Derian Julihn said...

I have a hard time with this article. While I understand the respect issue, you are taking western modern cultural values and placing them on God. Most of human history has been event orientated (ie harvest, solstices, weddings) Being on time, managing ur time, and time efficiency didn't exist in a world who's only clock and calendar was the sun.

God existed before and outside of time. Even as a man on earth Jesus wasn't time-management orientated. His life was orientated around his purpose. His mission was one single event that his entire life was to culminate in. Everything he said and did was filtered through this event. He used phrases like "it's not my time yet" or "the kingdom of God is near" and "it is finished."

So the question we should be asking is "Is attending church the purpose/mission/event that God put us on this earth for?" I would suggest that attending church is not the mission God has sent us on (Acts 1:8)

4:16 PM  
Blogger Rebecca Mecomber said...

Good post. It all goes back to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart...." and "Love your neighbor as yourself," doesn't it? :)

4:31 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

At times Im so anxious to get to service to worship and hear the word and be in the atmosphere Im up early to make sure Im on time. If you can be on time for work surely you can be on time to Praise God ,he is the one that gives you the ability to go to work . Im so glad.the lord doesn't treats us like we really deserve. Thank God for Brand new mercy everyday.

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I miss when the kids were younger. Right now they are 3 and 18 months. It's terribly difficult to get then to eat, clean again, and dressed on time.

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