Worshipers who arrive late for the Sunday morning worship service should be willing to minister to others by waiting in the narthex for the designated seating times. There has been some question why we do not seat late-comers during hymns. The reason is that worship is whole-hearted, whole-minded concentration on God. And hymns are one of the few elements in our worship when people themselves are speaking to God aloud. It is almost impossible for us to keep our attention on God and on the truth we are singing to him if people are moving into the sanctuary and finding seats and turning pages and taking off coats, etc.
The issue is: Do we believe in real worship? Do we make the concentrated effort to get to God in our services? Do we close our eyes when possible in order to think of him alone, rather than architecture, clothes, faces, hairdos, etc? Do we try to mean every word we sing and mean it to God? Do we pray continually that our hearts be stirred in a way appropriate to the truth before us (joy, fear, guilt, hope, gratitude, trust, admiration, etc.)? Do we discipline ourselves to worship? Does it matter to us when communing with God in a precious moment of fellowship if someone wants to brush by us to find a seat? Or more to the point: Should a late-coming Christian feel right about breaking into such a sacred moment? Do we believe in worship?
Our love for one another should make us eager to help one another get to God. I repeat: Christ-like people help each other get to God! Now how can late-comers help their brothers and sisters get to God? How can they assist in the ministry of worship? How can they promote and encourage real, deep, intimate communion of the worshipers with God? My answer is: by the ministry of waiting.
The ministry of waiting should include the gift of silence and prayer. If late-comers want God to be worshiped, they will want him to be worshiped by others as much as by themselves. This desire will express itself in prayer for the worshipers in the sanctuary. What a great ministry, if one must be late, to pray that those in the sanctuary will really make contact with God.
Worship is not entertainment to be observed. It is a transaction between you and God. A transaction easily ruined by distraction. We have much to learn at Bethlehem. I am praying that God will give us all a heart for worship. For some reason many have never formed the habit of seeking God in the sanctuary. Even more have never thought of assisting another person’s effort to seek and commune with him. This is a shame for us. We must change for God’s sake and for the sake of love.
One place to start is the ministry of waiting. If you must be late to worship, minister in love to those who arrive on time by praying in love for them and for yourself. Then enter quietly at those points designated to cause least distraction.