April 1, 2001
This is about going to church. For those of you not so inclined, it's not a sermon, so go ahead and read it.
A lot of people think church services should not last much more than an hour (as in, starts at 11:00 a.m. and finishes by not later than 12:05 p.m.). And I agree with that notion, for a lot of reasons.
A friend, however, thinks that's a sad thing. I'm rather sure I startled my friend this afternoon when I didn't agree with the idea that it was sad. I pointed out that I had known a lot of dedicated church members over the years who had very good reasons for needing to be outta there by noon. I told my friend that I only hoped those leaving before the end of a service would do so quietly.
My friend enjoys being involved in a congregation, and doesn't mind if the service runs longer. And I applaud that. Many times I have been to services that lasted well over an hour, and have not noticed the amount of time, because I wanted to be there. But I do truly understand there are days when time does matter. I've had a few Sundays like that myself.
Church attendance is voluntary, people. The truant officer isn't going to show up at your house if you stay home. Unless you're the congregation's presiding minister or the music director, you're not likely to get fired for skipping it. And if you need to leave early, that's allowed.
A different, but related point: it annoys me beyond reason that people so frequently confuse doing God's work with doing that of the church. Trust me on this: it is entirely possible to do God's work without making huge donations of time or money to a church. It's even possible to do God's work in a way that has nothing whatever to do with a church.
The bottom line is, if you want to belong to a congregation, then you should support it as you can---be it time or money---but you should do it because you want to, not out of some guilty feeling imposed by someone else.