Updated: Jul 28
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.”
I just read a chapter that I think would be excellent for everyone to read called, ‘Do I have enough time?’ It’s in a great book written by Kelly Kapic called, ‘You’re Only Human.’ So go out and get it and read it. What I want to consider today is specifically one way there are unintended consequences of the invention of standard time. Of course, having standardized time means we can hyper schedule our time, and decide on meeting times and places pretty conveniently, but it also hinders our worship. Just think about it for a minute. When before we would have set our Sundays aside as a time of worship and time in the word with the saints, we now have very full Sundays. Some churches, if the clock strikes noon, as a preacher you are expected to be done, and if you’re not, no one is listening anyways. The clock, along with other things, has allowed for the innovation of multiple services, which as far as time and worship goes, makes life move at a different pace. No longer do you linger, you move out of the sanctuary for the next set of people to get their dose of church and leave. Multi-service churches have to have more strict time tables in order to accommodate the people, and thus make sacred time a hurried time. A music leader can’t decide to add a song or two, a preacher can’t decide to preach an extra 20 minutes because Sundays are no longer unhurried sacred time to meditate on the resurrection and God’s word, but it is scheduled time to do church and leave. My family growing up went to the 8:30 service. I’m not sure we knew the eleven o-clockers, and maybe that’s not the point anyways? Granted, John Stott encouraged movement to multiple services as an accommodation to limited church building size in times of growth, but I don’t think it ought to be the normal expression of a congregation.
In our church in Louisville, we only had one service, and Sunday school before it, and even a place like this can feel the push and pull and fall into the wrong pace, losing the sacred time of the gathered congregation. We had a fellowship time between Sunday school and service, but for one reason or another, it was taken away, and all of a sudden, we didn’t have that time to relate to the body of Christ in a personal way. Once the service was over, people booked it out of there. We were talking to someone recently who mentioned, ‘Oh, you guys are a small church, people actually linger after the service and talk to one another.’ That’s not always the case, but it is something intentional that we’ve encouraged and I think we are better off because of it.
I’ve intended at ANBC for the Sunday gathering to go against the grain of scheduled time. Now we try to start on time, but forever after that, it’s sacred time. So the sermon is the length the text needs it to be, the time between the service and Sunday school is spacious, nearly 30 minutes, the elements in the service are flexible (as much as I have attention to give to incorporating various other things). I’ve never really described this all as sacred time, but maybe I should have. But I have encouraged it this way. The aim is that we are unhurried in our gathering so that we can fully dig into all that God has called us to be. In a similar way, personally, I try not to come to Sunday morning with an agenda of people I need to talk to. It would be easy to do that as the pastor. Instead, I intend to be fully present in the moment as much as my mind, my children, and my responsibilities will allow me to be. And you too, I hope that when you gather together with the church, you realize your limits and take the unhurried approach to our gathering. God appointed the sun and the moon as signs for seasons. He appointed Sunday as a day for the church to gather, to celebrate the resurrection. What could be more important than that? And why should we have such a new-fangled idea like standardized time control such a joyous occasion?
Remember the gathering in Ephesus as Paul and the church enjoyed one another’s fellowship and Paul’s teaching. Even though some fell asleep, they weren’t constrained by time, they were controlled by their eager love and desire to learn about Christ. What greater thing is there?