Making a Quick Exit

And all who believed were together and had all things in common (Acts 2:44)

In any given church on any given Sunday, there are a good number of people who have mastered the art of the quick exit. You may be one of them.

I don’t say this with the slightest tone of judgment. I’m not pointing fingers or making accusations. What you’re reading here is not offered as a pastoral rebuke. I’m simply noting that get-in-and-get-out is a common strategy for Sunday church attendance. Honestly, that’s better than not showing up at all.

This quick exit strategy might be summarized as follows: find the bet parking spot closest to the building entrance that provides easy access to the worship area or sanctuary (or school auditorium as the case may be). Likewise, find a seat that’s close to a door that will allow you to draw as little attention as possible when you decide it’s time to bolt.

Some practitioners of the quick exit can be aggressive, making a move for the doors during the pastor’s closing prayer, perhaps hoping that the bowed heads and closed eyes provide just the right moment to slip out. Others are more patient, enduring to the final word of the benediction but never hanging around long enough to risk a traffic jam at the doors.

If you’re thinking I sound very well acquainted with the quick exit, you’re right. There have been seasons in my own life when I was pretty good at it.

Check the Box

I developed my quick exit skills during my student days, both in college and even in seminary (gasp). I look back on those days and as best I can recall there were two things driving my run for the parking lot.

I’ll call my college years the ‘check-the-box’ years. The point of church in those years was largely about saying that I had done it. I liked being able to report to my parents that I had been to church. Going also made me feel good about myself. So I’d get to the service right on time, get parked, get seated, and then (usually after the benediction) get going.

Years later when I moved to Texas to study theology and prepare for a ministry vocation, I had grown enough in my faith that church was no longer about checking the box. But in these years as I searched for a church to join, I was ‘checking things out.’ I had gotten to place in my life where I had opinions about sermons and music and church buildings. As a guest in these churches I was perfectly happy to be anonymous and evaluate what was going on.

Those twos periods of my life were different – but the way I related to church and church attendance was very similar. The common denominator is that church was an ‘event’ and not a community. It was a weekly thing that I did, something to attend, or a production to observe.

When church is an event, the quick exit is typical. When all you want to do check the box or see the show, showing up and then disappearing works just fine.

But that’s not at all what church is supposed to be.

Stay A While

When we read the New Testament and listen to the way it speaks of the earliest churches, we don’t see much about church as ‘event.’ The language around church has more to do with community, words that speak of followers of Jesus as family. The early church was a growing body of people who shared life together. They didn’t just sit a room together for an hour or so.

Admittedly, we are not like the early church in many respects. Ours is a very different world. But the life of faith is not lived well as an individual endeavor. We need a community, people who know more about us than our name. People who have more to say to us than ‘Hello.’

As long as we’re making the quick exit, that will never happen.

This does not mean that your best friends must be church friends. This does not mean that your only friends are church friends. But something is wrong if we can show up at a church week after week, and no one has a clue about us beyond our names. Our lives remain hidden.

This week we’ll be thinking about life-giving relationships, what it means for us to live the ‘one another’ commands of the scriptures: pray for one another, encourage one another, bear one another’s burdens.

Have you mastered the art of the quick exit? It can be hard habit to break. Maybe a place to begin is simply to stay a while. Next time you’re at church, slow your pace on the way out. Linger a moment or two and look for the community, not just the event.


Lord Jesus, your call from the very beginning was to follow you. You never invited people to simply attend an event, check the box, or watch the show. Teach us that following you will mean connecting with others who are on the same journey. Open our hearts to life giving community with your people, and forgive the ways we have avoided that, we ask in your name. Amen.

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