Late for Church!

Written by: Nathan Hill

My wife’s family has a tradition of showing up on time everywhere they go. I soon discovered, however, that their definition of on time and my definition of on time included slight discrepancies—about 30 minutes to be exact☺. My wife’s family considers themselves late if they have not arrived at least 15 minutes before the scheduled appointment or start time. Prior to marrying into this family, I would define on time as showing up at some point near the scheduled time, and fashionably late was just fine as well. Late, however, is a four-letter word in my wife’s family that is right up there with…well, the editorial team will not allow those other four-letter words to be published here.

So, accommodating to this new standard of time keeping has been somewhat of a challenge for me. Let’s consider a hypothetical scenario where my wife and I are flying somewhere and the flight leaves at 10AM. As a 10AM flight is certainly not red eye, I would assume that we could sleep in and arrive at the airport at a civilized hour. Wrong. Let’s do the math backwards together. We must arrive at the airport two hours early, which means that we should aim to be there around 7:45AM. Therefore, accounting for traffic, weather, and the potential for terrorism we should leave home around 6:45AM. This also means that we should be loading the cars by 6:30AM, which means that breakfast is scheduled for 5:30AM and the bathroom schedule begins at 4:30AM with a 15-minute rotation. Next time we’ll take the evening flight so that we can at least sleep in until 8AM or so.

Now, in all seriousness, there are some great lessons that one can learn from this principle of always being on time—or always being 15 minutes ahead of schedule—and despite how it has cut into my sleep habits I am grateful that after 13 years I am finally catching on. This principle of always being 15 minutes early proves quite a practical thing when it come to the way that we interact with our local church. I have a unique perspective of time at my local church because I am on the platform twice each month leading the worship gathering. Therefore, I get to see who is early at church, who is there at start time, and who arrives near the end of the music. Arriving at the start time or even into the worship gathering means that you have missed potentially encouraging and vital interactions with the church family. The unfortunate habit of being last in and first out means that you do not get to know others, and they do not get to know you either. This is a loss for both you and the church.

Imagine you were invited out to someone’s home for dinner and they said the food would be served at 5PM but you can arrive early to visit. What time would you arrive at their house? 5:15PM? (I apologize if I have ever done that before!) It would be much better to arrive at 4PM so that you can visit and enjoy each other’s company. So, lets try to apply this principle to our church attendance. Try arriving at your local church at least 15 minutes before the start time each Sunday this summer and experience what it is like to know others and to be known. I trust that this will be a beneficial experience for you.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)