“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
For many of us they’re familiar words. And maybe you’ve tried to take them seriously by being regular at church. But is being regular all that this verse is urging us towards? “Not neglecting to meet together” is only one of the instructions in these verses. But let’s consider the next instruction: “encouraging one another.”
How can we encourage one another as we meet together? This is a huge topic, but let’s focus on just one area: getting to church early.
There are a number of reasons we should get to church early. To welcome visitors, or to pray in preparation. But coming early is also an easy way to be an encouragement. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been leading a service where I’ve started on time, and it feels like hardly anyone is there! How discouraged I feel, having tried to prepare well, to set the tone, to prepare the congregation in a small way for the topic of the sermon, and for all the other elements in the service, and hardly anyone is there.
Then we sing, and as I go back to the front, I notice the church is much fuller than before! Everyone’s arrived during the song/s! They missed the verse that opened the service and the prayer of adoration and confession. Not only is this a shame for them, but it’s discouraging for me. I’ve put effort into those things, and they weren’t there for it.
Of course, it’s not supposed to be about me. I’m not suggesting we make it about me, or about any service leader – we come together to worship our Triune God. Yet I’ve put effort into preparing the people for what will happen and why it’ll happen, and they aren’t there.
Of course, I speak as a hypocrite. There are times where I’ve been late to church, purely because I haven’t been organised, or been aware of the time. And there are those seasons of life where it’s simply harder to be on time – when you’ve got very young children, for instance. But let me encourage you: make every effort to not just be on time for the service, but to be early.
Yes, there will be the odd time where something happens and we’re still a bit late – we sleep through the alarm, there’s an unexpected nappy issue, the toddler has hidden someone’s shoes – but we can still aim to be consistently early.
There are lots of ways we can encourage one another at church. But this is one of the easiest – be early. 10-15 minutes is excellent! Don’t be one of those people who are (unintentionally) consistently discouraging for someone at church. Be a smiling face as the service leader comes to the front. Be there and listen to that opening verse that lifts our eyes heavenward, for that prayer that praises God and confesses sin. As usual, you’ll find that as you serve others (by being early), you’ll benefit yourself.
Let me encourage you to be an encouragement. Be early to church.
Jesse Walz is married to Bec, and they have a four-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl. They attend Surrey Hills Presbyterian Church. Jesse is studying theology at PTC, and Bec is a stay-at-home mum.