February 25, 2008

The Early Bird Gets the Word

A little over a year ago, I wrote this for our church. Simply some reminders of the spiritual benefits of arriving on time, or even early, for worship and prayer meeting. I thought it might be worth reposting (hint, hint PRBCers). Maybe it will help the rest of you, too. Fill in appropriate time and place references with your local particulars...and be early.

Periodically I write one of these little articles, or give a mini-speech, encouraging everyone to redouble their efforts to arrive on time for church services. It always seems to work for a little while—like when the teacher used to get the paddle out and whack it on the desk (for those of you born before 1980, that is). But after a while the initial smart of being reprimanded wears off and the classroom goes back to being a frenzy. Same with the church. So, it is time again to get out the old wooden spoon and smack the desk.

Here is my plea—please, please, please make every effort, not only to show up on time, but to get here a few minutes early. It will pay big dividends—for you, for your family, and for the church. Let me give you a few good reasons to show up 10 minutes early. Show up early so that…

1. You will avoid being a distraction to others. There are few things more distracting than sitting in church, trying to focus, and having someone behind you, coming in late, jangling keys, bumping into the back of the pew, rumpling paper, and generally causing a right hullabaloo. So be considerate. Get here early and avoid being a distraction.

2. You will not miss any content. Coming in late means that you miss announcements; or you miss prayer requests in Sunday School; or you miss some of the songs; or you miss the first part of the lesson. You wouldn’t want to miss the first ten minutes of your favorite television program would you? So why do that to God?

3. You will have a cushion in case of the unexpected. I realize that sometimes you get stuck at a railroad crossing where the train, 842 cars long, seems to be creeping along at the speed of granny driving her ‘77 Dodge Dart. Things happen. But if you plan on being here ten minutes early, that 8 minute snafu at the railroad track still won’t make you late.

4. You will avoid those frustrating feelings that come with being late. OK, I realize that some folks don’t really mind being late. But I know that, for a lot of you, dashing in at the last second really is frustrating. It spins off arguments between husbands and wives. It makes you flustered. And it affects the way you’re able to worship. Why put yourself through it? Just make a commitment that you will start to plan ahead and arrive early.

5. You will be ready for your responsibilities. Many of you are involved intimately in making our services go each Sunday and Wednesday. You sing, teach, run sound, greet, etc. But if you are not here—or if you’re rushing in at the last moment—the whole church suffers and waits. So, especially if you have a job to perform, be here early.

6. You will have time for meditation. How our services—prayer meeting, Sunday School, and worship—would be transformed if everyone entered the hour with God on their minds and the word of God stirring in their hearts. It ain’t gonna happen screaming down Ridge Road at 48 MPH. But it might happen if you get here plenty early and leave yourself the time to meditate and pray.

7. You will demonstrate what is really important to you. If Jesus is really number one in your life, then Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights ought to be your favorite times of the week. And whatever events are most important, we prepare for. Arriving early at church shows your family, your church family, and–most importantly—the Lord—what is really important to you. Do you anticipate meeting with God and His people? Do you look forward to church? If so, being early will be no problem!

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