`... get me to the church on time ...' is an old musical song. It is not only brides or even bridegrooms who get to the church late. Every Sunday it is a problem for some.
There are different types of latecomer
Such people have been late so often it is now the norm. They are hardly embarrassed at turning up ten or fifteen minutes late and more. It is their regular pattern.
Others are quite embarrassed when they arrive late. Once every six weeks, six or seven times a year, it happens. The norm is to be on time but sometimes not.
We all have our days
Perhaps there is no-one reading this who has never been late. Maybe it was not your fault or may be it was. We all need to consider the subject. Most of us could arrive earlier than we do.
People are late for various reasons
Most arrive late because of bad organisation. God is a God of order. We are in his image and he expects us to be orderly too. Some mistakes are common. People fail to allow for:
No matter how near or far from the church you live you need to allow time to travel there. This is why so often the nearer people live to the building the more likely they are to arrive late. Those far away allow plenty of travelling time but those who live near forget this factor.
This is equally obvious but often forgotten. This is one reason why it is more difficult for a family to arrive on time than for an individual. Children also have to be got ready.
Oversleeping, a little accident at the breakfast table, an unexpected telephone call, a traffic jam. All sorts of unexpected things can cause delay. Your routine must make allowance for such things.
Trying to do other things before church
Sunday School lesson preparation, a chapter of a book, a telephone call. Whatever it is, if it is allowed to interfere with the routine of getting ready for church a late arrival is likely.
Getting up late
If you want to be in church on a Lord's Day morning, the time you rise is crucial. Use your alarm clock. Many like a little lie-in on Sundays but evidence points to the benefits of rising at the same hour every day of the week. If you love the Lord's Day you will want to be up earlier, not later, anyway.
Going to bed too late the night before
One reason some are slow to rise on Sunday morning is a late Saturday night. 'No work tomorrow', they think, so stay up late, then wake up late and arrive at church late.
A disorganised lifestyle
Some are not just late for church but for everything else. Such a lifestyle is a pain to others and dishonouring to God. It must be dealt with.
A low view of the importance of order and punctuality
Further back is a failure to see lack of order and a lack of punctuality as sin against God, a failure to reflect his image.
A low view of the Lord's Day
Another problem is a low view of the Lord's Day and corporate worship. Christians disagree about aspects of the Lord's Day but all agree it is a special day. The last thing it should be is a day for lying in bed. Like our Lord we should be up early and doing on his Day. When we have agreed to meet with fellow believers we should be especially prompt to fulfil our duty and enjoy our privilege.
There are other problems. In multi-cultural churches sometimes it seems that those of certain cultures are more likely to arrive late. This may be deceptive as, where some say 'Better late than never', others say 'There on time or not at all'. In my experience stereo-types are often proved wrong. Whatever our culture we must not be bound by it but in Christ rise above it. Another matter worth considering, where families are concerned, is the matter of harmony and team work. Without this such families are likely often to be late.
Late arrival at worship meetings is a bad thing because of the effect it has on -
You miss out on parts of the worship
The minister has carefully prepared each part of the meeting. If you arrive late you inevitably miss out on some of that.
You come in unprepared
At the start of a meeting, allowance will be made for the fact we often come with cold hearts but if you are late, and come in at a point when it is hoped hearts are warmed, you may find worship difficult.
No matter how careful you are you almost inevitably disturb others in their worship
The last thing one needs is distractions but if you are late you give the devil one more opportunity.
You are likely to discourage and disorientate the preacher
In most assemblies the minister will know if you are late. It may encourage him to know you are there but it cannot encourage him to know you are late. It may disorientate him for a moment as he takes into account your presence.
Your bad example
encourages others to be slack and gives the impression that God does not matter. This may not be your intention but it is likely that this is how others will react.
Get a right perspective
It is clear from what we have said that a high view of the Lord's Day, of corporate worship and of orderliness as part of a holy life will do a great deal to deliver from the sin of lateness. A careful study of our Lord's lifestyle could do wonders to our thinking by God's grace.
A little preparation on Saturday night can make a big difference. Cleaning shoes, choosing clothes, peeling potatoes. All can save precious minutes. Do not go to bed late either and remember to set the alarm for your usual rising time. Plan a routine, remembering to allow for the unexpected and not attempting too much before church. Above all get into the habit of arriving in good time. You will enjoy it.
This article originally appeared in Grace Magazine