…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14
At a recent sumptous meal, some were expressing their disappointment and frustration at folks who were not punctual for church on Sunday. While the discussion went on and on, … as a layman, I quietly enjoyed the meal.
Finally, someone asked … “What’s your view?”
Sometime back, I was at a church which had a noticeable number of people who arrived late for church. Out of curiosity, I went and asked my friends to understand their perspective of things; a ‘view from the pew’.
From my small sample, the response I received was — ‘the most important part of the service is the message’.
Viewing it from this perspective, then …. they were technically not late, but on time to listen to the message :-).
I guess no one has explained to them what the singing part (worship) is about. After all, when they first came to Christ, a message was presented to them (without any singing 🙂 ).
Recently while chatting to a visitor in church, I invited him back for the following week. He asked me twice, “Around what time, does the preaching start?”
Let’s remember, most folks did not grow up in church, so its not fair to assume everyone should understand about church, its practices and cultural norms; especially new believers. Sometimes, … some of us may have been immersed in church culture for so long, that we forget what’s it like for someone new, … plunging into the waters, for the first time, … without a clue how to swim or navigate through ‘christianese’ jargon and “christianland” rituals.
So, …. if we would like to encourage more folks to arrive punctually for Sunday service, we should explain about the singing part of the service, i.e. worship, and its importance. Just think, … when was the last time we heard a message about worship?
Here’s examples of what the Holy Spirit can do during our worship time …
Acts 13:2,3 (NIV)
2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Acts 16:25-26, 29,30 (NIV)
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked,
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
If things like these happen during the worship time … would we be late and ‘wanna miss a thing’?
Here’s a glorious example from the Old Testament,
2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (NIV)
When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 2 The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. 3 When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying,
“He is good;
his love endures forever.”
While we are explaining about worship, … it would also be good to explain every part of the Sunday service liturgy (offering, Lord’s supper, etc), to help people understand and participate wholeheartedly to experience and celebrate the Lord’s presence in our midst, … rather than just view them as perhaps rituals, fossils of tradition/history.
Or maybe, to a visitor, since the message part of a service is often longer than other parts of the service, perhaps its an indication of its relative importance.
As a side point, the New testament seems to indicate a church life that’s much more Holy Spirit led, empowering and participatory.
1 Corinthians 14:26, 12:7 (NASB)
What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
12:7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
When visiting a new area with a street full of restaurants … my best bet is to try the restaurant with a queue outside. What’s being ‘dished out’, if its very good easily draws the crowd. Hence, like restaurants on a street, … on Sundays, some churches are packed, while others are not. Then, there are some churches where people queue up expectantly early on Sunday before the church doors open.
Hence, let’s get away from the ‘them & us’ mentality about punctuality … and work towards bridging the gap. Let’s be careful not to harbor a critical spirit towards our fellow believers, if we are serious about serving them.
Perhaps, punctuality is just a symptom of something deeper, fundamental ? (for both sides)
Matthew 7:3-5 (NIV)
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye
then you will see clearly …. Our large plank alters our perspective to see clearly where the tiny sawdust really is. Possible planks are mindset, background, culture, unspoken expectations, bias, etc
pay no attention to the plank your own eye … sometimes we unconsciously forget the planks that hinder or alter our vision.
To remove the tiny sawdust requires delicate precision,
… to remove the plank requires effort.
Imagine trying to remove a tiny speck of sawdust in someon’e eye when there is a plank in front of our vision … there’s a good possibility of hurting the other person’s delicate eye while trying to remove the speck.
take the plank out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly
to remove the speck
Moving away from the tiny sawdust of punctuality, what are possible planks?
It would be good to continuously review and improve the content, quality and relevance of our service delivery, rather than simply point a finger at people who are late or do not come to church. May be a visit to some of these packed churches may help us see areas of improvement at our church.
In the marketplace, companies regularly benchmark themselves, and continuously update to keep up with industry best practices.
If the Sunday message in church is Biblical, … but hard to follow, … or pitched at the wrong level/audience, … or too academic/jargon, … or irrelevant/impractical … lay people, especially visitors or new Christians, may feel lost or dis-engaged, unsure how to apply the content on Monday in the world … demotivated for the next session.
One of the first things to do in preparing for a business presentation, is ‘know your audience“.
Let’s also remind ourselves, about Sunday service .. its a service, i.e. to serve others,
service – noun; the action of helping or doing work for someone
Hence the service is not for ourselves, but an act of helping someone else.
Sometime ago, one of my marketplace boss shared about dealing with staff with job performance problems – be objective, ask if its an aptitude or attitude problem. An aptitude problem is quickly addressed by training/education. Sometimes, a staff may under-perform due to the boss or environment.
Its so easy to blame others, and assume an attitude problem, … as it absolves us of the responsibility to do anything on our part to examine, review and improve ourselves.
Here’s an example of a crowd that came very early for a meeting with Jesus, and Jesus graciously responded. 🙂 🙂
13 As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. 14 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
by 林弟兄, bro Lim
December 28, 2014
Copyright © 林弟兄 bro Lim, Laymanointing, 2014-2016 – All Rights Reserved
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