Every Sunday, an amazing thing happens: People from all walks of life gather together for the common purpose of worshiping the living God. And each Sunday, at least in our church, there is a set time for this gathering to start. Historically, we’ve been notoriously bad at starting on time, but recently we’ve ripped the bandaid off and have been starting the service at the time we advertise. With this change, it could be tempting to try to aim for showing up right at the start time, but I want to give you a challenge. What if you showed up to the Sunday gathering just 10-minutes early? Here are some reasons that I think it would be a good idea to give it a try.
It’s a way to love visitors
If you’ve ever visited a new church, the first thing you do is find out what time it starts. You get ready, you get your family all packed up, and you head to the new church. All nervous and uncomfortable, but willing to put your best foot forward, you show up a few minutes early to the service, and… no one is there. I’m afraid this might happen more often than we’d like to believe. If we are trying to see how close we can get to the start of the service, so many visitors will go unwelcomed, unencouraged, or unevangelized. Showing up 10-minutes early is a way for you to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you” (Rom 15:2). It gives you the chance to take the awkward first step for that new person and introduce yourself and ask or answer any questions. This is a small, practical way to love our neighbor.
It’s a way to fellowship with the church
One very big reason we “meet together” is to “stir up one another to love and good works… encouraging each other” (Heb 10:24-25). Our pastors have always encouraged us to consider that even before we start the official liturgy, the time of fellowship is a crucial piece to the Sunday gathering. That’s honestly why we never started on time, because we wanted to see the people of God encouraging one another and stirring one another up. If you only show up once the service starts, you miss out on a really important reason for assembling in the first place.
It’s a chance to prepare
Showing up early also gives you the chance to prepare. And I mean this in all the ways. I have four kids. If I try to show up right on time, then I’m late. Because invariably, as soon as we get to the building, everyone needs to go to the bathroom, they need a drink of water, we need to find our seats, set up our area, etc… Being early allows us a chance to get settled before the service. And that type of preparation is really so that we can prepare, not just our seats, but our hearts. If it can be said of our gatherings, “God is really among you” (1 Cor 14:25), then our time on Sunday is a time to meet with the living God. Let that sink in. If God is really among us in our meeting, then would you prefer your heart be distracted and rushed, or would you rather “prepare to meet your God” (Amos 4:12)? Being early gives you a chance to handle those distractions and really encounter God through the singing, the prayers, the preaching, and communion.
Every part of the service matters
Every church has a liturgy (or an order of worship). Our church for example has a fairly simple liturgy: Call to Worship, Song, Welcome, Prayer, Songs, Sermon, Song, Communion, Doxology, Benediction. Pretty much every Sunday you can expect the same thing. Showing up early ensures that you are there for every part of the service. And this might be a surprise, but every part of the service matters. Trying to be right on time often leads to being late, especially when we throw in small children, and being late means that you are missing something that is important. The Sunday gathering is more than just a sermon. We start by hearing God’s word call us to worship Him, followed by singing God’s word, and being welcomed by God’s word. We pray according to God’s word, sing more songs, then finally we make it to the preaching of God’s word. If you are missing the first five pieces of the liturgy, then you are missing a whole lot of God’s word! Being early for the Sunday gathering is a great way to show that you believe that every part of your church’s liturgy matters.
If you’ve never considered this, or even if you’ve been routinely late, don’t fret! Make a commitment to value that time. Try showing up just 10-minutes early next week. This isn’t a law from on high, but I really think this could be a prudent way to make the most of a Sunday morning. Most of you would never think of showing up late to your job, your doctor’s appointment, or your hairstylist. Don’t communicate to the world that the church gathering together to worship God is less important than those things! Let me be the one to encourage you to show up just 10-minutes early to your next Sunday gathering.
Jacob Crouch 2023
One thought on “Four Reasons to Be Early to the Sunday Gathering”
Totally agree, I love to get there early to have a chance to talk to other members before services officially start. Makes me feel welcome and informed.