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Are you going to Sunday school tomorrow?" Lucy asks her brother Linus (in a Peanuts comic strip, December 15, 1990).

"I guess so. Why?" Linus responds.

"The teacher wanted to know why you weren’t there last Sunday."

"The zipper on my Bible was stuck," Linus replies.

As a pastor, I heard lots of creative excuses for missing church — and I have kept a file of them. But I really can’t publish any of the more creative ones — the parishioners who invented them might read this column and they’d know I was talking about them.

But here are just a few of the more common excuses — ones every pastor has heard frequently and many readers have used more than once:

"I had company and couldn’t leave."

"I saw that we couldn’t be on time and I didn’t want to come in late."

"I had nothing clean to wear."

"The kids were cranky."

"We had (another function) that was scheduled at the same time."

"I was too tired."

There are logical responses to each of these. Take this brief test:

• How many of the above excuses have you used?

• How many other excuses have you used? List them.

• What’s the most creative excuse you’ve heard (or used)?

• Pretend you’re the pastor. Now, go through each excuse and give a reason why people could/should come even if these things are true.

There are, of course, legitimate reasons for missing church — but I believe they make up a very small percentage of the actual excuses used. The point is not legalism but rather that, for the most part, people will find a way to do what they consider important. Like the guy who couldn’t come to church because of rain but spent the next Saturday fishing in a torrential downpour.

Think about the excuses you make — or hear. And ask yourself if you would have found a way to go if it had been fishing, a ball game, time with a friend or something else you really enjoy. Remember, there is a difference between an excuse and a good reason — and God sees the heart.

In Luke 14:15-23, Jesus tells of a man who prepared a great banquet. But those who had been invited gave all sorts of reasons for not coming. They seemed to be good reasons. But the master turned his attention to the poor and misfortunate, vowing that those he invited would not even get a taste of the leftovers.

We can have good reasons for missing church, but we’ll usually find a way to be where we want to be. Christians should be concerned when they find themselves falling into a pattern of excuse-making for skipping church. Concerned because it says something about their priorities. And because, like the invitees in Christ’s parable, they just might miss a banquet.

— Ken Horn


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