When a new post commander arrived at an Army base, he was surprised to see a couple of his soldiers standing sentry over an empty bench.

It seemed like an odd thing for soldiers to be doing, so he asked a sergeant who had been on base for a few years why the bench was being guarded.

“I don’t know why,” the sergeant said, “but I’ve heard we’ve had men assigned to that bench for the past 35 years.”

The post commander dug back through personnel files and found the name of the man who was in charge 35 years ago. He grabbed a telephone and called him up.

“I’m the new post commander, and I have a question for you,” he said. “Why is that bench so heavily guarded?”

The old retiree was shocked. “You mean the paint still isn’t dry?”

I’m sure we’ve all noticed how some people do the same old things over and over again, whether it serves a purpose or not.

Churches are notorious for doing things in the same way, without asking why. For example, in our neck of the woods, the usual start time for Sunday worship services is 11 a.m. That’s a holdover from the days when nearly all church families were full-time farmers, and they had a lot of work to get done in the mornings before they saddled their horses or hitched their wagons for the long ride over rutted dirt roads to get to church. Nowadays, we can jump into our modern vehicles and be at church in a matter of minutes, without having milked a single cow, shucked even one ear of corn, or slopped any hogs.

Please don’t hear me saying you and your church should consider an earlier start time. It’s none of my business. But, if we’re going to reach our unchurched neighbors, we’d be well advised to ask what time they’d prefer to be in church.

The Bible doesn’t set the 11 a.m. worship time. Yet, we hold to it as if it’s scriptural. In fact, the Bible tells us anytime is a great time to worship. “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the Lord’s name is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3).

Could it be that we’re like those soldiers guarding that bench? They didn’t know why they were doing it. They were accomplishing nothing. But they kept right on doing it.

Roger Alford is pastor of South Fork Baptist Church. Reach him at 502-514-6857 or at

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