If you were present during second service here at Sligo last Sabbath, then you will recall that I shared something with the congregation that had been weighing heavy on my heart for quite some time. I honestly hadn’t planned to share anything on the subject until I stood up to preach. That was when I felt compelled that it needed to be said, and that I needed to say it at that very moment.
For those of you who weren’t in attendance, I shared my concern regarding how so many in our church family come to Sabbath worship services late each week. Now, I’m not referring to something that happens every now and then, but it appears as though late arrival has become an epidemic of sorts. Each Sabbath the attendance at the start of both the 8:45 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. services is half of what it is just prior to the sharing of the Word. Now, I understand that “stuff” happens from time to time to keep us from reaching our weekly appointment with God by the appointed time, but in many of these cases, it seems as though no plans were made to arrive on time. Allow me to pause and say that this is not something that takes place with the laity alone, because I know of some pastors who arrive at their churches about 30 minutes prior to them preaching and then in some cases leave soon after they have greeted at the door at the close of service. Trust me when I say that none of us is exempt.
This situation is not isolated to Sligo, or even to the Adventist church for that matter. After doing a little research I quickly discovered that it is a situation that exists across the nation as well as across denominational lines. As a matter of fact, I recently came across a pastor right here in the Maryland area that made an impassioned appeal to his congregation at the end of one their Sunday services. Joshua Harris, the senior pastor in 2010 of the Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland urged his congregation to approach the weekly corporate worship of God being “eager, expectant and early.” And mind you he didn’t frame this in the context of coming to hear a sermon or a song, but in the context of coming to experience an encounter with God.
There is so much more I would like to say on this subject, and I’m sure I will at a later date. Meanwhile, I encourage you to watch a brief video presentation that Pastor Harris shared with his church. I challenge each of us to prayerfully consider our reasons for showing up late for the most important appointment that we have on our schedule each week. And as we begin to examine ourselves as well as our reasons for arriving late, my prayer is that we will be more determined to experience God not just during the sermon, but during the welcome, the hymn of praise and yes, even during the prelude. Now, that’s a thought.