This isn’t a post so much as it is a promise.
Nah, it’s more of a threat. And here it is:
If I speak at your church, and I catch you leaving early during the closing prayer, I’m calling you out from stage.
There, I feel better already.
At some churches, it’s pretty common for folks to want to sneak out early before the service ends. In the south, this happens because if you show up late to Sunday lunch at Shoney’s, someone will stab you with a sharpened spoon over a piece of strawberry pie. If you go to a big church, this happens because you’ll sit in church traffic for a while trying to get home. If you’ve got your kids in sports leagues, this happens because apparently the Lord’s day is the only day they can schedule tournament games. (I was going to say “Sweet Baby Jesus’ Day,” but that felt like even too much fake guilt for me.)
And so, during the last prayer or song, it’s common for people to duck out early. To get a little headstart on the crowd. When I’ve personally done it, my thought was, “I don’t need to hear the altar call. I’m already in. I’m saved. Time to bounce.”
But a few weeks ago, I spoke at a church and noticed that people were jetting during the salvation prayer I was doing at the end. Now at this particular church, they have commitment cards you fill out, which basically gives the church a chance to follow up with you and reach out if you want to talk with someone. I was supposed to say, “put the commitment cards in the boxes by the exits.” I did this for three services. But, by the fourth, I could no longer contain myself and instead said, “Please drop off your commitment cards in the boxes, which are right next to the people who are sneaking out early.”
The church erupted in laughter. It was a fun moment. And that might happen if I speak at your church in the future.
How can you prevent getting called out by me?
1. Yell “Ambulance.”
Maybe it’s an emergency. Maybe you just got a call from someone at the hospital. Maybe Lassie slunk into service, pulled at your pants leg, and gave you the “Timmy’s in the well, again,” eyes. Who am I to call you out for that? So if you could just yell “Ambulance! Ambulance!” while you walked out, that would alert me that there was an emergency and save both of us some embarrassment.
2. Be a visitor.
Isn’t calling someone out from stage a great way to let people know they are welcome at your church? Isn’t that warm and friendly and ragamuffin gospelish of me? Of course not. If you’re a visitor, I promise not to call you out, ever, for anything. If, on the other hand, you’re going to read the title of this post, skip this paragraph, and then basically tell me “this is why people hate church” in the comments, you’re getting a double call out. Like a double decker bus in London or a Double Stuf Oreo in the seventh grade.
3. Go fast.
If you’re able to exit the service like a sleek jungle cat through palm fronds or a coyote sneaking up on a chicken (if you prefer Grand Canyon similes instead of Tropic of Capricorn similes,) I can respect that. When I open my eyes after praying and all I see is a dust outline of you, like in the Road Runner cartoons, I’ll shake my head and simply say to myself, “Well played sir. Well played indeed.”
There you go. Three perfectly legit ways to avoid a sneaking out early call out.
If you still sneak out and don’t do one of the three things I’ve mentioned, well, I’ve got one thing to tell you:
“It is on like a taller-than-you’d-expect gorilla.” (Nintendo trademarked, “On like Donkey Kong®.” My hands are tied people.)
Have you ever ducked out of church early?