Pastoral Perspectives

Be On Time

   Someone said: “The devil gets very busy on Sunday mornings, for he does not want God’s people to attend church. Hindrances come in all forms everyday, and especially on Sunday. The person could have woken up late. Some may have to fight with their spouses before leaving the house for the church.” We can give many more reasons. Some may ask: “What is so bad about being consistently late by a few minutes for worship?” Does the Bible have anything to say about punctuality? I believe it does! To be more specific, I am not talking about one who is occasionally late or whose good intention to be on time is derailed by unforeseen circumstances. I am addressing the practice of arriving for worship late more often than arriving on time.

            There are many who come late for no good reason, like lack of discipline, bad habit or pure laziness. When was the last time you heard the call to worship or sang the doxology with the rest in response? You were held up at the door and entered just in time to join in the singing of the opening hymn. Perhaps, the thought is: as long as I make it in time for the opening hymn, I am okay. Well, it may be okay with you but you will need to ask if it is okay with the Lord. I believe he would be pleased if you were here before the worship and spend time with him before the worship begins.

            Let’s consider this problem from a secular perspective. What happens to a child who is often late for school? The school usually punishes him. Wouldn’t we agree that the teacher has the right to discipline the student who constantly interrupts his class by coming in late? What happens if you are late for a doctor’s appointment or a musical? You could be made to wait for the next opening or refused entry altogether. What happens to the employee who always turns up late?

            What reaction would visitors to the church have if one-fourth of our members came in after the services started? So what does the Bible have to say about punctuality? Does God care if you are often late for worship? God is never late! He sent forth Jesus “when the time had fully come” (Galatians 4:4) – at just the right time. And at just the right time God sent the star to guide the wise men from the East to Jerusalem and then to the house in Bethlehem where Jesus was staying (Matthew 2:1-2,9-10). Again and again we read in the Bible, “At that time, the Lord said…” or “At that time the Lord did…” He has never been late. In prophetic utterances we see his dependability when Ezekiel dramatically announces in chapter 7, “This is now the end. The Day is here, the Day has come, the time has come, the day has arrived.” All as God had planned. Jesus often said, “My time is not yet come”, and then one day he announced, “Now is my hour.” Our Lord was on a schedule, and He kept it!

            What about the five women who were late for a wedding in Matthew 25:1-13. They were unprepared for the coming of the bridegroom. Hastily, they attempted to get themselves ready and then appeared at the wedding only to find the door shut and their entry denied. If these ladies had been on time and with the necessary supplies, they wouldn’t have missed out on the celebration they obviously wanted to attend. Our punctuality is based on who we are in Christ, and nothing else.

            I’m a parent of four children and I know that it is not easy, esp. when they are still young, to get everything together and get to church before worship starts. It takes foresight, planning and dedication but it can be done! There are some routines that work for my family in our endeavor to be punctual. For this New Year allow me to share these practical tips to help you and your family comes for worship on time.

1.        Resolve to get to church ten or fifteen minutes before worship starts. Make your definition of “late” as anything after that designated time, not the start of the worship.

2.        Decide what time you need to leave your house so that you’ll arrive in church by your designated time. Make every effort to leave by that time – even if someone’s hair isn’t fixed properly or someone’s shoes are untied. If you make this consistent policy your family will know what to expect and will adapt accordingly!

3.        Select your clothes and pack your Sunday school bag the night before or an hour before leaving the house.

4.        Prepare breakfast for everyone and give plenty of time to finish it and clean up before it is time to leave.

Here are some advantages for coming for worship on time.

1.      You are calm and relaxed and are not rushing around. So you are able to prepare yourself to seek the Lord.

2.      You can greet fellow Christians before service. Often, those who arrive early are the ones who bond well with one another. If you feel “left out,” try arriving early and see what happens!

3.      You are not causing distraction by coming in late. Not only will your family benefit, but the worship will be conducted in a more decent and orderly manner if every member were to come on time for services (1 Cor. 14:40).

            I was told of a church that counts the number of people in the sanctuary when the worship promptly begins. After that they count the latecomers. From there they work out the percentage of worshippers who are on time. About 20% of the worshippers come in after the worship has started. I wonder what our punctuality index is like. Time is a treasure and an investment that pays off in eternity. We are not to waste or take advantage of others. We are to strive to do our best with all God has given, including the time and opportunities of our own and that of others (Genesis 18:14; Psalm 56:3; 90:12; Ecclesiastes 3:1-11; Matthew 5:25; Roman 13:11-14; Colossians 4:5).Let us all strive to be more punctual in this New Year!

Ps Cheng Huat

January 2, 2011