When Does the Service Begin?

Ray H. Hughes Jr.

I was recently listening to a Willis Canada tape when a song came on about a man who was visiting a church for the first time. The gist of the song was that things were slow getting started and the visitor became impatient. Whereupon he stood to his feet and politely inquired, “When does the service begin?” Everyone waited in silence while the preacher contemplated his answer. When he finally spoke the congregation was shocked to hear him say, “When you turn out the lights and leave this place, that’s when the service begins.”

Too often we as Christians spend much of our time gathering together for worship and praise or some other function of the church. We then leave the meeting and do nothing positive for God until the next time we come together. James Garlow writes that, “Perhaps the greatest threat to the Christian Church today is that of `ingrownness,’ so focusing on itself and its own needs that it fails to remember the purpose for which it was called into existence.”

The church should be a place where each member is encouraged to discover their spiritual gifts and learn to put them into practice. When this happens, the church is “scattered” and ministry to the needy actually takes place. The “gathered” church then serves as an equipping and refreshing station so the saints can continuously minister in the community.

One church, which recognized its obligation to serve, responded by placing a large sign above the sanctuary exit which read, “Servants Entrance.” If the church is to continue to be effective into the next century we must all become servant ministers for Him. When does the service begin? When the members are scattered throughout the community serving those in need.

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