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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Subscribe via email before November 30, 2013, to be eligible for a free book One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World by Tullian Tchividjian. Just enter your email in the upper right of this blog to get regular updates from FaithWalkers AND be in the running for the free book.