Why I’ve Stopped Showing Up on Time at Your Church

You may not have noticed, but it seems a lot of people have stopped showing up on time at your church. Maybe you’re one of them. Which might explain why you haven’t noticed.

Noticing that people have stopped showing up on time at church seems to have been what started the, well, I guess you could call it a rant of sorts. It seems some church-going fellow went off  right in the middle of a worship service recently. Stirred things up quite a bit from what I hear. Some conspiracy theorists have speculated that it might have been the same fellow who wrote this post: Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church.

Until today, however, you really had to be there to know about what happened. But now, for the first time ever publicly disclosed, a secret recording of that service has been received– with the creative suggestions the guy offered to fix the problem —  from an undisclosed evangelical church in an undisclosed location.

The recording was allegedly made by a church usher with angry eyes, wearing Google glasses. Sorry, that’s all we know.

Knowing how forgiving Christians can be when it comes to church matters, all names have been changed and all copies of the recording have now been destroyed.

An unedited transcript follows. [WARNING: May contain material unsuitable for the easily offended Christian.]

________________

[Blaring music, guitars, drums, with thin vocals in the background repeating "Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord, Yes, Yes...." You get the idea.]

[In the midst of the music comes the sound of a piercing whistle. Repeated. That would mean twice.]

Hey! Hey! Over here! Standing on the pew. Right here!!

Don’t know if you can see me from the stage with all those lights in your eyes. Ya, that’s right, this way. No, look toward the mega teleprompter on the left –well, your right, my left — there you go. Now down about 32 rows or so. Yep, that’s me.

Hey. How ya’ doing?

Listen, can we just stop that deafening music for a minute? No, seriously. Stop. Thanks.

Look, I’m really sorry about interrupting such a stirring song. But I’ve just been noticing something of late and, um, even today I’m still seeing it.  If you look around — go ahead, all of you — you’ll see that we’re five minutes into the scheduled start of the worship service and, maybe it’s just me, but I’m noticing that, like, half the church isn’t even here yet.

No, seriously. Go ahead and look around. It’s OK. You’re allowed.

[Long pause. Sound of murmuring voices and nervous shuffling.]

I know it’s usually kind of dark in here, so it’s hard to tell, but I’ve been noticing that it’s not just this Sunday this is happening. It just seems that far too often in the church, worship is no longer an urgent affair. It’s like we’ve gotten used to it, or something.

I mean, that countdown clock on the screen five minutes before we start is kind of cool, actually, especially on those Sundays when I’ve cut it kind of close or forgotten to turn on my iPhone alert. But, uh, look around. I’m thinking that countdown clock doesn’t help the people who really need it the most. You know, the ones who aren’t here yet.

[Unintelligible sound of noisy din, presumably from the rear of the sanctuary.]

Wait. What’s that? Out there. [Perhaps pointing toward the doors? Just speculating here.]

No, farther out. Out past the coffee shop — although that is rather odd that so many people are still there isn’t it? But I meant out in the parking lot. From where I’m standing — on the pews, I know, I know, don’t try this kids — I can see out in the parking lot if I stretch just a little.

[Pause.]

Well, would you look at that! I guess it is true what they say. If you schedule a time to worship the Almighty God of heaven and earth, people will come. They might show up a little late — every week — but they will come. They might still be in their pajamas — but that’s another topic for another day, I suppose.

[Sound of throat clearing.]

Well, listen, my frie — [cut off by shout in the distance]

I’m sorry, what’s th — Oh! Hello, Claire! Nice hair by the way. What was th —? [repeated uninteligible voice.]

Just be happy people are coming at all, you said? Well, I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. I don’t see how that’s a biblical way, but at least it’s, you know, a way. Now I — [repeated voice, only sharper.]

Oh, come now, Claire, that’s uncalled for. I said I liked your hair. Anyways, all I’m saying is I’ve been reading this book, see. Right here. It has like verses and stuff. Here’s a few I’ve stumbled across:

The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him. [Habakkuk 2:20] and

So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.”[Isaiah 6:5] and

Honor the Lord with your possessions (I’m thinking that means our time, too.) , And with the firstfruits of all your increase. [Prov. 3:9]

You know what I find even more strange are the verses I don’t read. Like these:

And on the first day of the week, as was his custom, Jesus blew in late to the synagogue with bagel crumbs still tumbling off his toga. or

Jesus said,  “Martha, Martha. Mary, has chosen the better — wait. Where is Mary? Hey, anybody seen Mary?! ” or

The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth sleep in.

Well, look, my friends. I know all of us can show up late to church sometimes, but it sure seems as if most of us are OK with it anymore. If we get there, we get there. God’s forgiving right? Like you said, Claire, God should just be happy we’re showing up at all. Besides, if we get here too early, someone might ask us to help out in the children’s ministry, or give more money, or something. I get it.

And, let’s face it, busyness is a sign of importance these days, right? Of course, it’s also a defense mechanism to ensure no one has time to get to know anyone. If they time it right, they can politely slip out afterward with a few nods and smiles, a harried glance at a watch, and a strategically chosen parking spot.

This way they can check off church attendance and put their faith back in that — what’s that Blankschaen fellow call it — The Salvation Box? Then next time Gallup calls, they can truthfully say, “Why, yes, we are a church-going family!”

Hey, I understand all that. There have been times in my own life when I’ve thought that way, too. They weren’t good times. But I’ve been there.

But what I’m sugges — [vague but louder male voice, presumably from the stage.]

Well, yes. Yes. Sure. Go with the flow you say? Well, yes, I can see — [male voice interrupts again.]

Chill out, you old  — ? I’m sorry, but I couldn’t make out that last part. My ears are still numb from that scintillating guitar solo you were jamming on a minute ago.

But I get that thought. Really, I do. Maybe it is just me. Maybe I’m just more punctual and uptight abut being on time. That’s just my thing, right? I shouldn’t impose my values on someone else — especially all those seekers. You know, the ones who have been coming late off and on for the last five years. Wouldn’t want to offend them, I suppose.

What? No, don’t worry. They’re not here yet. We’re good.

I guess I was just thinking that worship isn’t about me, necessarily, or them. But God. But maybe I do need to relax a bit on that point though. Nice shorts, by the way, pal. Enjoy that beach party after church. [terse male voice retorting.]

Oh, there is no beach party? Heh.  [Awkward pause.]

Well, listen, I’m just thinking outside the box here, but maybe the reason you guys play your music so loud is to hide the fact that, like, no one is here to sing yet. See, this way, whether people are on time or not, it sounds the same. The volume level doesn’t change when they all straggle in later. Clever, really, if that’s your plan. I’ve got to hand it to you. Most Sundays when you’re cranking those amps, I can’t tell the difference between when we start singing and when I turn around later and realize everyone finally got here. And they’ve been singing! Who knew?

[Another voice, this one female. We think.]

What’s that? I — I can’t quite –

[Repeated and joined by others.]

Oh, I see. If I’m going to complain about it, maybe God wants me to just find another church that fits my anal way of life? Hmm, nicely put, but — playing the God Card? Really? I’m just surprised because I noticed you’re not all that eager to play it on the late-comers.

Well, two can play that game, I guess. I’ll see your God Card and call you: what if God wants you to find a church where actually showing up on time out of respect for the infinite Maker of all things is normal?

But really, now. Is this what Jesus meant when he prayed that we would be one? If  someone dares to point out that half the church doesn’t show up on time, get out? See, I’m actually here. What’s it going to take, a little child pointing out that half of the pews are naked when the countdown clock hits the big 0:00?

[Rising din in the background, now interrupted by a thin but louder voice, assuming from the stage once again.]

Yes, Yes, I — Well, no I don’t think I know it all. But I –

[Thin voice continues for a moment then pauses. Silence ensues.]

What exactly am I proposing? That is a good question si — [quick interruption once again.]

Oh, now was that comment really helpful? Who are you anyways? You’re hand is covering your face to block those spotligh — oh, my apologies, Pastor. Didn’t know that was you. Thought you were still on sabbatical.

But, now that you mention it, I do have a few ideas for fixing our little problem of people not showing up on time to our church. Glad you asked.

Could you just cue the Multi-Media Ministry of the Visual Arts Pastor up in the sky-box booth? I put together a little PowerPoint presentation, just in case.

Thanks. Oh, can I come up there and borrow your mic. OK, hold on. Um, everybody can just have a seat for a minute, here, and … [trails off.]

[Grunting. Shuffling.  Now volume fading back up.]

Here, let me just get that mic off from around your ear, Pastor, and I’ll — oops. Sorry about that. I’ll give you back the shirt when I’m done. Tropical’s not really my style anyways. Were you, like, a Magnum, P.I. fan or something back in the day? Well, no matter.

So, are we ready up there? Good. Here they are:

Suggestions for Getting People to Show Up at Church on Time

  1. Lock all the doors. I picked this one up from my kid’s teacher at school. Give a clear call to worship at the starting time — if you miss it, that’s it baby! Try again next week. Then to all who made it in, pass out bumper stickers that read: “I got to church on time at ________ _________  Church. Did you?” This way we get some promotion for the church out of the deal, too. Always thinking win/win, Pastor. Nice tan, by the way.
  2. Give detentions. Now this idea came from a friend of mine, a former school principal. Kind of a weird fellow, I grant you, but he swears it works. Just have, like, hall monitors (ushers and greeters will do just as well, I suppose) who pass out detention slips to those who arrive late. It would need to be on the honor system, but the offenders could even do work detentions so that we’d have someone to pick up all the discarded bulletins, communion cups, gum wrappers, and coffee spills between services.
  3. Levy fines. Why not? Think about it. If we’re late on a car payment, we have to pay a late fee. Surely being late to worship should get more than just angry eyes from that usher in those Google glasses. And speaking of those glasses, just think of the fundraising potential here! The money from the fines could get us all Google glasses! We could create the ultimate 3-D worship experience! Imagine it. Just like in a theater. Which brings me to my next idea.
  4. Show previews. It works in theaters to give people time to get in without missing the main attraction. Of course, it may be that our songs lack so much substance already that previews are what people think they are. I don’t know. I’m just saying.  Ooh, there are those angry eyes I was talking about. Better keep moving to my next suggestion.
  5. Post tardiness on-line. We can find out all sorts of stuff about each other on the Internet anyways, so why not put it out there for some loving accountability? We could even get an app for that.  This way when someone comes in late and tries to get down my row during the offertory, I can just give my smart-phone a quick tap and say, “Hey Al — he said I could call him that — Al, I see you’ve been late a whole bunch of Sundays, man. You might want to show some extra love in that offering plate headed your way, if you know what I mean.” See, Pastor? Win/win.  [Thin voice interrupts, presumably the pastor.] What if I don’t know their name? Well that’s a — I can see you’re starting to think strategically here, Pastor. That’s good. And that’s a good point. Since they are usually arriving late, I may have never had chance to talk with them to even know who they are. I guess that brings me to my next suggestion.
  6. One word: GPS. Or is that three words, technically? See this is where those Google glasses would really shine. I could look the person up based on his or her location, get an identity and attendance record, and, without even missing a “Yes, Lord,” say, “So good to see you, Alice! You might want to pick up the pace next Sunday, Alice.  So you don’t keep God waiting, Alice. And now if you could just get off my foot — Thanks, Alice!” Talk about being seeker-friendly! Who could ask for more? But if all that won’t work, I can think of only one more proven idea.
  7. Tasers. Now, before anybody goes and gets all freaked out on me because we’re electrocuting our church members, just remember that Jesus did tell us that if we’re called by his name, we’re sure to suffer some. The way I see it, it’s either them or my toes. And, frankly, I was here first. I think the Apostle Paul even tells us to beat our bodies into submission, you know, so they do what we tell them to do — like get to church on time. But I’m thinking tasers would leave less of a mess for the Sanitation Pastor and his stellar team to clean up afterwards. A little more paperwork, maybe, but I suppose we can all suffer a little to get this done. Besides, I’m thinking it will only take a few cases to let people know we mean business and they’ll be here on time.

Well, like I said, I don’t have all the answers, I’ve just noticed that it showing up on time at church seems to be a problem, so I thought I’d speak up. But maybe I’m the only one who’s noticed or who thinks it’s a problem.

[Silence.]

I can see from all those angry eyes out there that perhaps I have, shall we say, misjudged the moment. Fine. I’ll just sit down and put my ear plugs back in. I guess it must not be that big of a deal — and certainly not worth our asking each other to step outside or down the street to yet another church that formed because somebody disagreed about some other something or other.

Here’s your mic, Pastor. And your shirt. Nice mustache. Thanks for listening. But if you do use that fundraising idea, could you take a cut out of my offering quota? Or at least let me have free coffee for a month. Now that I think of it, do you think I have time to grab a cup? There’s nothing like a fresh cup of French Roast when a worship service is brewing in the background — or so I’ve been told.

And besides, everyone else is doing it. I wouldn’t want to offend them.

[Sounds of footsteps walking away. Silence. Finally a drummer begins laying down a slow beat, steadily increasing. Now joined by a guitar. Now by seven guitars. Now by the woodwinds. Now by a brass section. And now by the strings. Finally, a driving bass beat kicks in. And now what sounds like the beach party guy:]

For all of you just coming in, Welcome! We’re so glad you came!

We’ve been waiting for you!!

[Singing begins to fade back into the background:  "Yes, Lord, Yes, Lord, Yes....]

 ——————————–

What do you think? Was this guy nuts or have you seen the same problem? Maybe this clandestine recording has triggered creative ideas of your own on how to help people show up for church on time.  Leave a comment and your thoughts with a click here.

 

[Disclaimer: Any resemblance to any actual church, pastor, worship leader, Multi-Media Ministry of the Visual Arts Pastor, or usher with angry eyes may be purely coincidental and unintended. It depends on just how angry those eyes really are. And no Google glasses were actually harmed, or used,  in the making of this recording.]

And for all of you conspiracy theorists out there, here’s that other post: Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church.

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About Bill Blankschaen

Bill Blankschaen is a writer, author, and communicator who empowers people to live a story worth telling. As the founder of FaithWalkers, he equips Christians to think, live, and lead with abundant faith.

His next book entitled Live a Story Worth Telling: A FaithWalker's Guide is scheduled for release in May 2015 from Abingdon Press. His writing has been featured with Michael Hyatt, Ron Edmondson, Skip Prichard, Jeff Goins, Blueprint for Life, Catalyst Leaders, Faith Village, and many others who shall remain nameless.

Bill is a blessed husband and the father of six children with an extensive background in education and organizational leadership. He serves as VP of Content & Operations for Polymath Innovations in partnership with Patheos Labs. He is the Junior Scholar of Cultural Theology and Director of Development for the Center for Cultural Leadership. He works with a variety of ministries including Equip Leadership (founded by John C. Maxwell) when he's not visiting his second home -- Walt Disney World.

  • Dhaley

    I see the start of service as being when the message is delivered not when the singing starts. I can come in right as “worship” is ending and be happy that I made it on time. The reason is because I don’t typically worship God through singing or attending concerts. I am not a very good singer and my worship time is intensely personal. I praise God several times per day. I praise God on my way to the service. I am constantly praising God so it is odd for me to think about rushing to church to praise God. I see my body as the Temple. My body is a moving tabernacle. In one sense I can never be late to church because I am always in church. Church for me is a place to learn not to worship. I do that all the time anyway.

    So how do you get people to the church earlier? Give them something they really want. Give them something that they want to get out early for. It appears singing is not what they want.

    • http://www.BillintheBlank.com/ Bill Blankschaen

      Thanks for the comment! And I would agree that it would seem many people don’t really want whatever the music is offering. But the call to worship as a group in singing is, I think, quite biblical. Worship is more than preaching and when we worship together, we glorify God in a uniquely biblical way.

    • Rick

      “So how do you get people to the church earlier? Give them something they really want. Give them something that they want to get out early for. It appears singing is not what they want.”
      You may be right, and the “worship wars” about the style of music may have missed the point. I wonder if there are any studies on the topic.

  • Rick

    “Show previews.”

    Northpoint does that to a degree by doing their announcements, in an entertaining fashion, in a video right before the service starts (“The 10 Before”).

    • http://www.BillintheBlank.com/ Bill Blankschaen

      Now that is good idea! Before the service starts, get that stuff done. In many evangelical churches, the announcements are part of the liturgy.

  • Jean

    I don’t see why we are so worried about whether or not anyone shows up at our church at all – on time or otherwise. Our only concern should be proclaiming the gospel to whoever we come in contact with. Worrying about who’s showing up puts the focus on our church’s success – and the church is not Christianity. Do you think Jesus was worried about who showed up for temple? Likely not. He went to the people wherever they were and shared himself with them. The focus these days on numbers and on getting people in the door is detrimental to the gospel. We need to take the gospel to the people, instead of trying to set bait to get them in the door. Churches need to stop focusing on being seeker friendly and get about the business of feeding those they already have. The church is meant to equip believers so they can go out and spread the gospel. Believers are supposed to be fishers of men, and that involves going out to the environment where the fish live – we don’t expect fish to jump out of the water and onto our tables, do we? So why are we looking for non-believers to come to our houses of worship to get saved?

    I find this troubling and offensive. Enough so I felt like I had to comment – in length! The tone of the entire thing is disrespectful – and could be a stumbling block to others. Imagine if you were searching for a new church, and were visiting on the day this happened – I bet you wouldn’t return! Or if you were not yet a believer, and had reluctantly come with a friend to visit the church they loved – I bet this wouldn’t help your impression of believers. The speaker also sounded critical of the worship style in the church – worship style is preference – nothing in scripture tells us we can’t wear Hawaiian shirts or board shorts. I personally think that Jesus would have liked Hawaiian shirts. I don’t think he would have felt he had to dress up in a suit to commune with His father. Some people like loud music, it helps them tune out the other people around them and really focus on worship. other people find it distracting. We’re not supposed to worry about what others around us are doing as we worship – it’s not about us, or about them. It’s about God.

    Each believer is indwelt with the Holy Spirit, and it is the Holy Spirit’s job – and ONLY the Holy Spirit’s job to convict. As fellow believers, we do have an obligation to confront a other believers if we recognize unrepentant sin in their lives, but scripture is clear on how we should do it – not publicly, but first alone, and then with another believer privately, and if they are still hard hearted, then scripture also instructs how to deal with them (Matthew 18:15-19 and Titus 3:10-11). And be sure to remove the log from your own eye first. And, confronting another will sure be more effective if you actually have a relationship with them, first – more than just a cursory Sunday morning acquaintance with them.

    It seems like the point was to slam others for being late, drinking coffee, dressing casually, loud music – none of which is anybody’s business but their own. We don’t answer to God for anyone but ourselves.

    I don’t know, maybe I missed the point of what the writer was trying to say. But what was said really got my ire up!

  • trskms

    As a family, we struggle mightily to get to church on time. We really, really dislike the music. REALLY. So, it requires a great deal of personal and collective self-discipline to do things promptly, when the “reward” that will get you is more time with the music portion of the service. ;-p

    I don’t know what the answer is. A few people really seem to enjoy the music. Personally, I’m not against modern Christian songs. I even like them. But, new music every week (with no notes or help to figure out the tune), mashed in with older hymn pieces that have had their tempo and melody changed, mashed in with songs that are difficult to sing and then which have their last lines repeated ad infinitum … and all at really high volume? Ugh.

    And, the whole “Ask your neighbor ____________ this week as you shake hands!” Fill in the blank with some inane question that shares information that we introverts may not care to share … .

    And, yeah, getting to church just on time to hear the message seems very appealing. SIGH

    • http://www.BillintheBlank.com/ Bill Blankschaen

      I feel your pain. Look for my post on the whole intolerance of introverts coming soon.

  • WorshipLeader

    I see many people commenting that they don’t enjoy the music. I feel sad that so many who call themselves disciples of Christ, really do not know what worship is or its role.

    From a Biblical standpoint, Worship is the meeting & interaction of God with man, individually and corporately. The height of worship was when God walked and talked with mankind in the cool of the day. When Isaiah & John see God in His heaven, He’s enthroned in praise, there are lightnings, thunderings, voices, shouts, harps, bowls. Its a musical filled atmosphere in which our God chooses to surround Himself. He is enswathed in praise, music, shouts, dance, beauty, etc.
    In the days when Israel went out to war, their first line was the Levites (worshippers) blowing those trumpets, singing to God, and in their understanding because the fathers of their faith had seen it in their visions of God, that in so doing the Angelic Hosts and armies of God went out with them (2 kings 6:17). The battles were won in the heavenly realm and so on earth. Forces of God opposing and pushing back the darkness in the land. Sure singing to God is to give Him glory, but it is also warfare. If the worship portion of the service is only seen as music, no wonder we quibble about style & our worship leaders become performers. No, worship is spiritual warfare, having been redeemed from out of darkness and sin, into new life and victory in Christ, we, who were once broken & lost, proclaim, God’s goodness, kindness, & mercy. We invite His manifest presence to come fill the heavenlies in an area because we know, as Israel did, that to push back forces of evil such as greed, blood-lust, pride, & perversion from our congregations, communities, cities, is a battle that belongs to the Lord. Our songs confessing who God is, directly combat that mocking voice of the accuser that says we are not redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. It is true that God is literally enthroned on our praises. I mean, who else is gonna proclaim, “Jesus, You’re the rightful King, we want You to make ‘Your will be done in earth as it is in heaven,” if not us?

    • Dogs Mum

      Great. Can you do it without several amplifiers and a dozen speakers?

  • rvs

    I enjoyed the “show previews” suggestion in particular. Due to noise pollution, I stopped showing up to church on time, and I’m not a grumpy old man. Yet. I don’t like entertainment-Christian-worship culture, but I validate others who find it meaningful. I simply chose to meditate at a Starbucks instead.

  • Dogs Mum

    I go late to miss the music – too loud, no music to read, just words on a screen and for the most part, very, very simple ones. I am also avoiding the the loud, pointless pre-church chatter; I don’t watch football or have kids in school, (that’s what people like to talk about) so there is really not much for me to talk about. I can’t go from the noisy “cocktail hour” to worship in the blink of an eye. I go for the sermon.

    Yeah, I’m an introvert. Interacting with people at all is difficult and exhausting; I do it when it’s necessary. I avoid it when I can. Maybe I need to be in a more formal church, but my pastor is the only one in the area who preaches the Gospel, so I am staying.

  • http://www.BillintheBlank.com/ Bill Blankschaen

    Thanks for the kind and passionate words Carol!

  • http://www.BillintheBlank.com/ Bill Blankschaen

    I agree. You wouldn’t happen to have any extra doughnuts there would you? :)


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