I'm a guy that hates being late. Hates being late. I cut others more slack--except for leaders. I will even publicly mock my pastor-friends via social media when they are late for a meet up. Here's one I put up on Instagram when Pastor Ryan Huguley dropped the ball.
I could relax a bit. I know it. And of course there are times when nothing can be done about it. We are all late some of the time.
But many churches (including the one I pastor) go through periods of time where people begin showing up to services late. It becomes a thing. It doesn't sound like a big deal, and of course this isn't the sort of thing that brings fire from heaven or church discipline. But being late can have a genuinely negative impact in more ways than one.
For example, a consistently late arrival may contribute to the leadership's felt need to postpone the start of the service. Or, when a lot of people are arriving late visitors are more likely to feel uncomfortable and isolated. And if you are frequently late to worship you may be missing the opportunity to meet new people. These things (and many more) are true, but I don't want to come down on people for being late, as much as I want to encourage everyone to get to church early. Why?
Well, if the opening of your worship services feature a pastor flying in on a zip-line, or some such nonsense, feel free to be late. Or find another church. Otherwise, you should be careful to get there on time because the beginning of the worship gathering is not a throw-away of announcements (which you should pay attention to anyway). Rather, at least in our case, the beginning of our corporate worship is thoughtfully put together with the aim of directing our thoughts toward God. From the opening Scripture to the closing benediction every piece of the liturgy is a piece to a puzzle that, when assembled, gives us all a fuller picture of the gospel.
And consider this; if you are frequrently late you are missing something you need: perhaps a reading from a Psalm that highlights the character and work of God as the answer to your own fears and doubts. Why does this matter? Well, scripture is one of the primary means of grace God has given us, and by coming in late you may be missing the very truths your heart needs the most. You may be unintentionally side-stepping the very words from the mouth of God that would address your heart, lift your head, and strengthen your faith. The opening reading and prayer of corporate worship is also what God will use to prepare you to listen, sing, and believe the truth of God that fills the entirety of the service.
So, get to church early, and eager. Who knows what God is going to do in your heart this Sunday?!