Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Gracious Punctuality

Why early for this?
(Credit: http://www.clevelandorchestrablog.com)
One of the modern peeves in any Church is the tendency of some members to come late. It is such a common occurrence that many leaders are at their wit's end on how to handle the situation. Sometimes, it can be a no-win situation. Do nothing and the whole worship service begins late, rushed through, and ends late. Do something firmly and the leadership gets accused of legalistic measures. Angry worshipers call for an end to such selfish behaviour. Nonchalant people asks, "What's the big deal? It's only a Church service. After all, aren't Christians expected to show grace and understanding to one another?"

Wait a minute. Is Church a lower priority than an important business meeting with a client? Is being punctual at churches less important than going to a concert? I check out the venue policy of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and here is the latecomer policy.

Q: What if I arrive late at the theatre?
A: Most venues have a latecomers policy that allows latecomers to be seated at an appropriate break in the music, chosen by the conductor, at the back of the theatre. Latecomers can then move to their originally purchased seats after intermission.
(Link: VSO)

Yes, the Church is expected to be gracious to one another. Members are expected to be gracious. With regards to punctuality, it is also important that being punctual is a gracious act in itself. It is gracious to the worship team working hard to get ready to lead the call to worship. It is gracious to the faithful workers behind the scenes, setting up the tables and chairs, the sound systems, the refreshments, and the ushers. It is also gracious to any guest speakers and visitors.

I understand. Some of us will always have some kind of difficulty in coming on time. That said, if it becomes a weekly occurrence, the problem is not the Church. The problem is most likely the latecomer. After all, church times do not change. It is always exactly 9am, or 10am or depending on what service times your church offers. People all know in advance. Yet, they arrive late.

How then do we handle the problem of punctuality in Churches? Maybe, one way is to be a server ourselves. I have always believed that every church member ought to be an usher at least once in their lifetime. That way, they will get to meet latecomers face to face, and to see the problem of punctuality. While it is no big deal to the latecomer, it can be distracting to the early comers.
  • Why should early comers be penalized?
  • Why should the rest of the congregation be made to wait just because others come late?
  • Why should the church tolerate chronic latecomers?
  • Why should people be early for concerts and late for Church?
  • Why the double standard when people are ok with latecomer policy in concerts but not in churches?
....and not punctual for this?
(Credit: http://www.turbophoto.com)
We need to speak the truth in love. Again, I say that there is a difference between being nice and being loving. Being nice is not necessarily loving. Being loving is not necessarily nice. Speaking the truth in love means to start punctually without apologizing, start prayerfully with prayerfulness, and to be gracious both ways. To those who implement punctuality policies, be patient but firm. To those who are usual latecomers, for whatever reason, think more about others than your own selves.


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