I know, I know. You had a really good reason. Kid #1 had a diaper blow-out. Your roomate hid your car keys. You forgot to set your alarm. It was snowing. It was raining. The sun was too bright in your eyes on the drive in, and you missed the turn. The dog ate your Bible, and you had to buy one on the way in.
The truth is, you only think you had a really good reason.
One of the things we are trying to change in the culture of Calvary Community Church is, rather than being late to church, you should get to church early. Get up early at home. Read your Bible. Spend some time talking with God. Hit the lobby in our building around 10:00 am, and receive some encouragement from a friend.
Then, instead of making your way into the sanctuary between 10:30 and 10:40am (which means the 40% that do so are really late!), head into the sanctuary at about 10:15 am. Settle in and spend some more time in prayer, asking for God to give you a sense of peace. Music begins at about 10:20 am to help you contemplate and meditate, and prepare, for what God is about to do in the worship service.
My good friend and pastor, Joe Thorn, writes about it this way:
I'm a guy that hates being late. Hates being late. I cut others more slack--except for leaders. I will even publicly mock my pastor-friends via social media when they are late for a meet up. Here's one I put up on Instagram when Pastor Ryan Huguley dropped the ball.
I could relax a bit. I know it. And of course there are times when nothing can be done about it. We are all late some of the time.
But many churches (including the one I pastor) go through periods of time where people begin showing up to services late. It becomes a thing. It doesn't sound like a big deal, and of course this isn't the sort of thing that brings fire from heaven or church discipline. But being late can have a genuinely negative impact in more ways than one.
For example, a consistently late arrival may contribute to the leadership's felt need to postpone the start of the service. Or, when a lot of people are arriving late visitors are more likely to feel uncomfortable and isolated. And if you are frequently late to worship you may be missing the opportunity to meet new people. These things (and many more) are true, but I don't want to come down on people for being late, as much as I want to encourage everyone to get to church early. Why?
Well, if the opening of your worship services feature a pastor flying in on a zip-line, or some such nonsense, feel free to be late. Or find another church. Otherwise, you should be careful to get there on time because the beginning of the worship gathering is not a throw-away of announcements (which you should pay attention to anyway). Rather, at least in our case, the beginning of our corporate worship is thoughtfully put together with the aim of directing our thoughts toward God. From the opening Scripture to the closing benediction every piece of the liturgy is a piece to a puzzle that, when assembled, gives us all a fuller picture of the gospel.
And consider this; if you are frequrently late you are missing something you need: perhaps a reading from a Psalm that highlights the character and work of God as the answer to your own fears and doubts. Why does this matter? Well, scripture is one of the primary means of grace God has given us, and by coming in late you may be missing the very truths your heart needs the most. You may be unintentionally side-stepping the very words from the mouth of God that would address your heart, lift your head, and strengthen your faith. The opening reading and prayer of corporate worship is also what God will use to prepare you to listen, sing, and believe the truth of God that fills the entirety of the service.
So, get to church early, and eager. Who knows what God is going to do in your heart this Sunday?!
Calvary is no different than Joe's church family - we spend a great deal of time every week thoughtfully and intentionally working through every aspect of the service. And while we know we can always improve (which we are constantly and prayerfully trying to do), our desire and hope is to tell the story of God's great grace every week. Unfortunately, sometimes we actually talk about not doing things right up front in the service, because we know we'll only hit about 60% of the people.
So let's listen to this great encouragement, and get to church early and eager this Sunday.
See you then family!