Worthy of All Worship?
I was taught from my youngest days that one way that one can show utmost respect for others is to be punctual. Being late, tardy, delinquent, overdue, belated, dilatory or behind are not to be viewed as virtues. Of course, people sometimes say that they prefer to avoid being jammed, pressured, hasty, stressed, and harried rather than “obsess” about being “on time.”
In our overworked, over-scheduled, exhausted lives, we have learned that there are some things that are not worth the effort to be punctual. Of course, there are some things that we consider necessary. We will be on time to work, school, coffee dates, movies, concerts, T-Ball games, gymnastics classes, and a host of other events that will not “wait” for us. We’ve learned what events we can allow to fit into our schedules and which we must fit into its schedule.
For the Christian, the assembly of believers cannot and should not fit into the former. Are we truly able to say: “I don’t need to be punctual to church - I’m not missing anything really important.” Some might say: “Well, I’d rather be late than not come at all!” Of course that is true, but is it really the standard we ought to use? Think about it this way: the spiritual leadership structures services with cohesive plans that allow saints to assemble and worship the Lord. Believers gather and are in place when a general greeting and “call to worship” is spoken and an invocation is offered to the Lord asking Him to work in our hearts to draw us closer to Himself and enable us to bring great glory to Christ. We are then led in a song of praise to God and the ministry of saints who are called upon to edify one another by speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs is underway. God is being exalted and worshipers are giving Him glory. Yet there are those who are chatting in the lobby or outside of the building. Still others haven’t even arrived yet. Imagine a lull in sound as a song resolves and the worship leader begins to pray and the cacophony of voices and laughter from outside echo through the auditorium as people are striving to bow humbly before the Lord. Then, after several more of these offerings of praise are brought before the Lord, scores of additional people filter into the service. They attempt to pick up the momentum of worship that the others have established, yet their thoughts are scattered. Their ability to worship will take some time to focus on the glory of Christ. By the time the morning message begins, perhaps they’re able to listen and focus.
They’ve “skipped” half of what is being offered to Christ by way of adoration and praise. Their participation has not prioritized giving everything that they could to the Lord. I don’t believe that there is a deliberate affront, but by means of their lack of punctuality, they’ve communicated to God that participating in the worship of His name by the congregation of His saints is a low priority. If the lack of punctuality is a sign of disrespect, what does consistent tardiness in worship convey to God? I’ve heard of some who say that since they’re going to be late, they’ll skip it altogether - this is even worse!! To be late conveys that God is not worthy of all of what I can offer Him; to absent yourself altogether conveys that He’s worthy of none of it.
I’m convinced that we rarely think about this subject like this. I don’t believe that late-comers intend to express disrespect to the Lord. They simply don’t think about it in these terms. Yet, I am proposing that they should. Since we desire to give to the Lord our best, to give Him the glory due His name, to express ourselves to Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, to come before Him with praises - should we not strive to give Him our all? That is, if He is worthy of any of our worship, He is worthy of all of our worship.
Here are some suggestions to assist us with this:
- Spend time as you close the week on Saturday to prepare for the beginning of your week in worship on the Lord’s Day. When our children were small, we would lay out their clothing, bathe them, and then pray with them as they went to bed that God would be exalted through our participation in worship the next day. They went to sleep understanding that the greatest event of the week was going to happen when they woke up. Our week ended on Saturday night and began on Sunday morning.
- Recognize that spiritual discipline is absolutely essential to Christian growth. One way that such discipline “shows up” is in being able to get up early enough to be in place at church before the service begins. For us, this meant that we would have breakfast on the table at 8:00 AM Sunday mornings. The children would be 80% dressed (tee-shirts for the boys and “slips” for the girls so that their shirts or dresses would not get dirty at breakfast). We would eat purposefully and then finish getting dressed so that we could leave on time to get to church. Everything revolved around the time we needed to leave, not the time that church began. If you absolutely need a time to sleep in and have a leisurely morning, Saturday is the day to do that. Activities that prevent that on Saturday should be negotiable, not the worship of God on Sunday.
- Arrive at church with the heart that you want to miss nothing of the worship of God. Don’t dally in talking to friends and trying to spend time “fellowshipping” with one another before the service begins. To miss any portion of the worship of God because you are preferring someone else diminishes God’s primacy and honor. Be deliberate about getting your children into their nurseries or classes in time to get into the auditorium in time to participate in the very first offering of praise to the Lord. It may even be very helpful to have a time of personal prayer and meditation upon God’s grace to prime yourself for worship with the rest of the saints. You thereby communicate to Him in yet another way that He is your God and you are there to worship Him.
- Decide that God is worthy of anything that you must do to make Him the priority. Don’t allow yourself to be lax because you assert that God will understand. Realize instead that He understands altogether the significance of whatever impedes our ability to show respect for Him by our preparedness for worship.
My prayer is that we as a congregation will be commonly in place, ready to go when our worship leaders first call us to worship. May we see great attrition in the number of people who miss any of what God desires that we give to Him on the Lord’s Days. Blessings to you.