Yesterday my family and I were late for church. This is a common occurrence, for we have kids. Many days it takes longer to prepare our kids for a trip to anywhere than it did to prepare for Operation Overlord. That is part of being a parent. We have come to expect to be late. Yesterday, however, we were late for a different reason. Addie's car seat broke, and we had to go buy a new one. As we were driving to church with the new car seat, I asked myself the question, "Are we going to arrive in time for church to count?" I began pondering this topic very intensely. At exactly what point are we "forsaking the assembling of ourselves"? I did some research on this. I studied all the major Baptist and Reformed confessions. I cross-referenced the writings of Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Edwards, Warfield, Piper, Jones, and at least 2 dozen other theologians. I have thus been able to establish several rules/guidelines for church attendance.
Since we are not always able to attend the whole service, we have various options to get our weekly church attendance "in the bag" (Calvin's words, not mine). Following are the possible configurations:
A. 75% (minimum 45 minutes) of any church service is considered by most theologians to be sufficient.
B. You can fulfill your requirement with one of several combinations:
1. 2 songs and the Scripture reading.
2. 3 songs and at least 2 prayers.
3. A musical special and a prayer or Scripture reading.
4. The offering and one other element of the service (Some theologians consider contributing to the offering to be an "insurance pass". Thus, you are set as long as you contribute at least 10% and at least one person sees you do it.)
C. Many of the more modern theologians agree that serving in the church can be used as a substitute, or "wild card" (Warfield's words). Following are examples of serving in the church:
1. Ushering people to their seats and taking the offering (You must do both in one service).
2. Serving in the nursery (This counts even if you served only during Sunday School).
3. Singing in a musical special (including the choir).
4. Driving the bus for Sunday School (You must attend one other church element).
5. Playing a musical instrument during church (This includes the prelude and the postlude).
6. Teaching a Sunday School class.
D. There are special occasions that qualify as an entire "assembling of yourselves together." Following are some of them:
1. A missionary speaker (Includes testimony and slide show).
2. A children's holiday program (Example: Christmas or Easter)
3. A pastor's birthday celebration.
4. An extended session of prayer.
E. There is one element of the service that nearly every theologian considers to be the "trump card." If you are present for the invitation, and if you go forward during the invitation, then you need not have attended any other element of the service.
I have tried to be exhaustive here, but I have surely omitted several options. Before executing any option not listed here, I would strong suggest you get the option approved by your pastor and/or deacon board. I welcome any comments or questions on this matter.
That is all.