Hurry Up and Give the Benediction Already

April 19th, 2012 Post by

When you talk to some people, you might get the impression that they view their attendance at church services simply as an obligation.  They go, because God expects them to go.  Yet, when they go to church for God, they have no intention to exceed God’s expectations.  As long as they put in the minimum time that God requires, they believe that they are good.

I can’t help but wonder: What is the minimum amount of time that God expects of our attendance at worship services?  An hour?  Forty-five minutes?  Half an hour?  If we could squeeze it all into fifteen minutes, would God say that we have got ourselves covered?

If I am going to church, simply to ‘punch a time clock for God’, then I might very well wonder: Have I put in enough time that God should look upon me favorably?  What if I only put in forty-five minutes, but God really wanted an hour?  What if I only put in an hour, but God really expected two… or three… or all twenty-four?

As I think about people who express such views about their attendance at church services, I think that they really miss the point.  Church services are not simply an opportunity for me to meet my obligations to God.  Church services are an opportunity – most especially – for me to receive the gifts that God so graciously gives to me.

I do not think about myself as a rich man who goes to church to sacrifice a little bit of his time to God.  I go to church as a beggar. I go to church as a poor, miserable sinner.  I go to church as someone who is sick and dying, and yet, there at God’s house, He is giving away the medicine that I need for free! There at God’s house, He is filling the hungry with good things. He is exalting the lowly and lifting up my head from the dust and ashes of death. There in the services of His house, God serves me and washes away all of my sins in the blood of His Son, Jesus.

When I think about my primary reason for attending church services, I like to think about the words that are printed below. (Even though they were written specifically about confession, they most certainly apply.)

“If all this were clearly explained, and meanwhile if the needs which ought to move and induce us to confession were clearly indicated, there would be no need of coercion and force. A man’s own conscience would impel him and make him so anxious that he would rejoice and act like a poor miserable beggar who hears that a rich gift, of money or clothes, is being given out at a certain place; he would need no bailiff to drive and beat him but would run there as fast as he could so as not to miss the gift” (From “A Brief Exhortation to Confession” in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  T. G. Tappert.  Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959: 459:23).

When I consider the length of a church service, I do not consider it a burden if the clock goes past the one hour mark.  I consider it a blessing; God is going above and beyond my weak expectations. God is working overtime to bless me with His good gifts of grace, given to me for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

 






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  1. Dave Likeness
    April 19th, 2012 at 09:13 | #1

    The motivation to attend Divine Worship is because we LOVE
    the Lord. We want to go to receive His gifts of Word and
    Sacrament. The wrong motivation is to go because we have
    to(LAW). The clock watchers are there due to the Law and
    the ones who truly go out of love for the Lord do not look
    at the clock.

  2. Jean
    April 19th, 2012 at 09:27 | #2

    @Dave Likeness #1
    We are not always going to LOVE to go to church. Some days it is the LAW that will get us there. Hopeful that by the time the benediction comes around, the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament has shown us our sinful attitude and reminded us that we NEEDED to be there and how much we LOVE and WANT to be there.

  3. Dave Likeness
    April 19th, 2012 at 09:50 | #3

    Jean, I agree that sometimes the Law motivates us to
    attend worship. However, I would hope that on a
    given Sunday, the majority of members attending your
    parish are motivated by their LOVE for the Lord. This
    would indicate a healthy and vibrant parish. If the
    majority of members attend a particular parish on Sunday
    due to the LAW, then it would be possible for apathy to
    set in as they simply go through the motions.

  4. April 19th, 2012 at 10:41 | #4

    @Dave Likeness #3

    I would suggest that it is not OUR love for the Lord that brings us to church or motivates us. If we are focusing on OUR love then we are in danger of falling back into pietism and perhaps even Osiander’s error of Jesus in us, rather than Jesus for us. So, I believe we are better off focusing on the Lord’s love FOR US and His gifts TO US, through Word and Sacrament which brings us to church. I for one would rather keep my love out of the equation because my love is fleeting and weak. Yes, the it might take the Law to drag our sorry heinies out of bed on any given Sunday, but it is the Gosple which continues to bring us back. Consider the Meaning to the Third Article of the Creed.

  5. Dutch
    April 19th, 2012 at 10:45 | #5

    The chief issues, I’ve seen (S.S. teacher, former kid, etc) the worst offenders, are who? Adults. Life Long, time card punching, wood warming, …adults. My 2 year old falling asleep & snoring in Oma’s lap, understandable, naptime is naptime. Adults, fidgeting, & yes falling asleep, or ck’ng their watches, something all together different.

    I’d rather deal w/a multitude of crabby, hungry, or unruly little ones, than a few wood warming/time card punchin’ adults. Kids can be easily corrected, adults, not so much.

  6. TK
    April 19th, 2012 at 11:09 | #6

    It’s a rather subjective evalution of the value of weekly worship. As always we are in the dialectical tension of Law and Gospel. Of course there are times when worship is boring, worship is poorly done, or worship is long. But beyond that is the marvelous mystery of the gospel by which our Lord delivers forgiveness, life and salvation. Somehow I don’t think time constraints are the most critical piece of evaluation. However if the worship moves us into an “ex opere operato” type understanding, then we who lead and organize the services would do well to examine the content and form of the services. And if your preaching for more than 1/2 hour then your a better man than I am…

  7. Richard Lewer
    April 19th, 2012 at 12:41 | #7

    We also go to church to encourage one another by our presence and our participation as Paul writes.

    Perhaps I am not that different from others when I confess that often I do not pull myself out of bed on a Sunday morning with great yearning to go to church. However, having gone, I feel blessed in the gifts of God’s Word and Sacrament, the music, and the connection with my fellow members before, during, and after the service.

  8. Nathan Redman
    April 19th, 2012 at 16:27 | #8

    Going to church to watch the clock, not listen and then sprint out the door seems pointless to me. It’s good that people go to church but you go to hear the word, receive forgiveness and the body and blood of our savior. You’re only doing yourself a disservice by half arseing church going.

  9. Pastor Charles McClean
    April 19th, 2012 at 16:57 | #9

    I am in no sense a “Jungian,” but in the collection of his essays entitled “Memories, Dreams, and Reflections” Carl Jung quotes “the ancients” – it is not clear whether he means the ancient Romans or the Church Fathers – as saying, “Omnis festinatio ex parte diaboli/All hurry is of the devil.” We live in an utterly frenzied world in which as one wag has put it, “We are no longer so much human beings as ‘human doings’” and here again the world with all its madness has invaded the church.

  10. Carl H
    April 19th, 2012 at 18:05 | #10

    @Rev K Johnson #4

    “O LORD, I love the habitation of your house
    and the place where your glory dwells.”
    Psalm 26:8 ESV

  11. Tim Schenks
    April 20th, 2012 at 00:09 | #11

    I’m seeing many more people taking off right after Holy Communion. They have no interest in remaining for the Benediction or closing hymn.

  12. John Eberhart
    April 20th, 2012 at 03:59 | #12

    It’s Lutherans way of doing penance. A whole week of “worldly” with a dab of Sunday church.

    A little dab ‘ll do ya

    .

  13. Denton White
    April 20th, 2012 at 10:31 | #13

    @John Eberhart #12 I’m afraid you are closer to the truth than fiction. At times, because we hear God’s graciousness through the ears conditioned by a culture that thinks of “grace” as “tolerance,” the wonder of a Forgiving God is replaced by an ex opere operado of “doing my thing to make sure God’s thinks of me as good.” As a minister, I pray that I will do my very best to ensure that ancient heresy doesn’t sneak its way back into the ancient liturgy.

  14. Ginny Valleau
    April 20th, 2012 at 10:34 | #14

    #8 (Nathan Redman) – I agree with your comments. If people don’t WANT to be in church on Sunday, perhaps they should stay home. Myself, I would like to hear loooooonger sermons; fifteen to twenty minutes is not enough.

    Then there is the whole other issue of why people don’t also attend Sunday School & Bible Class. I am sure there are some valid reasons but it just makes things more complete to also dig into God’s Word under the Pastor’s leadership.

    God’s Blessings,
    Ginny Valleau

  15. helen
    April 20th, 2012 at 12:31 | #15

    @Tim Schenks #11
    I’m seeing many more people taking off right after Holy Communion. They have no interest in remaining for the Benediction or closing hymn.

    While in college I attended a Norwegian-American congregation which had a hymn between the Service of the Word and the Service of the Sacrament. If you were not going to communion, you could leave then. [Since the Pastor's sermon was anything from 20-45 minutes, many did.]

    But he did not want people to take communion and then leave, and one Sunday preached a little longer on that theme. ;) Unfortunately, that was a Sunday another Pastor needed me to babysit during his second service, so I had to leave before the end of that sermon addendum. And the door closed noisily. :( :(

  16. PC
    April 20th, 2012 at 13:02 | #16

    Longer doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m getting fed more-I have 3 young boys (7, 4, 1)and my wife plays the organ. When a regularly used liturgy is scrapped for new liturgies each week they spend the whole time coloring, drawing, and eventually fighting. Even on a good day they can’t last more than 1.25 hours. Church services that are longer just because of a 30 minute sermon and liturgies that my kids don’t know do not serve my family any better. If anything it makes it worse because I begin dreading going to church and struggling to keep the kids from running in the isles. Long services could be good if they are kid-friendly, but longer does not necessarily mean better for me and my family.

  17. helen
    April 20th, 2012 at 13:08 | #17

    @PC #16
    Longer doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m getting fed more-I have 3 young boys (7, 4, 1)and my wife plays the organ.
    If your church had a regularly used liturgy, your boys 7 & 4 could have it learned by now.
    In any case, a child who can read can follow the hymnal (or …shudder… the screens) :(

    Your role as father, PC!

  18. A Beggar
    April 20th, 2012 at 14:21 | #18

    Thoughtful comments! Agree!
    @Ginny Valleau #14

  19. sumbody
    April 21st, 2012 at 09:05 | #19

    #17

    It is loud AMEN TO Helen. Just who is in charge of behavior..THEY are!

  20. Nathan Redman
    April 21st, 2012 at 15:06 | #20

    @PC #16

    do you sit up front? I struggle with not wanting my kids almost 4 and 1 1/2 to bother other people – i had a member tell me once that they would rather see us keep our kids there during their loud moments then take them in and out of church – also i had a member say sit in the front row so the kids can see the pastor – its kind of like having another parent watching them.

  21. helen
    April 22nd, 2012 at 13:48 | #21

    @Nathan Redman #20
    – also i had a member say sit in the front row so the kids can see the pastor –

    From 6 yrs-confirmation, we sat with our Sunday School teachers in the front rows under the pulpit. (And the Pastor was not “Buddy BillyBob”…)
    Behind us, our fathers, uncles (and grandfathers if we had any above ground).
    Between one thing and another, the SS teachers didn’t have much trouble!

    PC, you might appeal to one or another of the older women in the congregation to play “grandma” to your little one, so you can concentrate on teaching the others how to participate in the service. [In a congregation in which I had no relatives, I nevertheless had willing helpers when we had to manage more than one.]
    They can color their SS material at home during the week.

  22. PC
    April 23rd, 2012 at 16:20 | #22

    @helen #21
    I’m right with you all and my oldest really does very well now that he’s learning to read and sitting up front certainly helps the big kids. My point was just that longer does not always mean better. I would much prefer a 1 hour service with regular liturgies my kids can participate in and a direct sermon that has good use of law and gospel. When I’m wrestling with the youngest the last thing I want is a series of 5-minute stories that are tangentally related to the point of the message. They’re kids. There’s still a limit to their attention span.

  23. Carl H
    April 23rd, 2012 at 17:41 | #23

    From the main post: “Church services are not simply an opportunity for me to meet my obligations to God. Church services are an opportunity – most especially – for me to receive the gifts that God so graciously gives to me.”

    And since God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23) we might find in our daily blessings ample motivation for gladly praising God in the company of his people.

    Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!
    Psalm 100:4

  24. helen
    April 24th, 2012 at 15:18 | #24

    @PC #22
    When I’m wrestling with the youngest the last thing I want is a series of 5-minute stories that are tangentally related to the point of the message.

    I remember a Pastor who told fishing stories… very tangentially related! He just liked fishing and knew a few members did, too. Even 10 minutes got “long” when you weren’t interested in fishing. :(
    [But we only had a real problem when he told a story that I knew something about and it was all wrong. If you must tell stories, have your facts straight.] :)
    With 10-15 minutes, your stories had better be pertinent or they are stealing time from the Word.

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