Thursday, December 08, 2005

More thoughts on Christmas

In the post immediately below this one, I wrote about some mega-churches that decided to cancel the Sunday morning worship services on Christmas day. This article quotes some "mega-church officials" from around the country. Mega-church "officials"??? Here's one: Willow Creek spokeswoman Cally Parkinson said, "It's more than being family-friendly. It's being lifestyle-friendly for people who are just very, very busy. Organizing services on a Christmas Sunday would not be the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources. The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was 1994, and only a small number of people showed up to pray."

Yeah, sure wouldn't want to waste staff resources if less than 500 show up to do something as meaningless as pray. Please wait a minute while I take my tongue out of my cheek!

From that article, a different perspective comes to light: Fuller Theological Seminary professor Robert K. Johnston worries that another Christian tradition is fading. Fuller went on to say that "What's going on here is a redefinition of Christmas as a time of family celebration rather than as a time of the community faithful celebrating the birth of the savior. There is a risk that we will lose one more of our Christian rituals, one that's at the heart of our faith."

David Wells, professor of history and systematic theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in South Hamilton, Mass, brought the point home clearly: "This is a consumer mentality at work: `Let's not impose the church on people. Let's not make church in any way inconvenient,' I think what this does is feed into the individualism that is found throughout American culture, where everyone does their own thing."

Dr. Ben Witherington had some scathing remarks:
Our culture does not need any encouragement to be more self-centered and narcissistic or to stay at home on Sunday. It is already that way. Christmas above all else should be a day when we come together as the body of Christ to worship and adore the Lord Jesus. Christmas should be the day above all days where we don't stay home and open all those things we bought for ourselves INSTEAD of going to church. Christmas should be the day when we forget about ourselves for a few hours and go and honor the birthday of the great King, our Savior.

What we are dealing with here are churches whose priorities are so askew that they somehow think it is more important for the church to serve the wants of the physical family than the other way around. This is a far cry from the pattern of the original disciples of Jesus who were seen leaving homes, relatives, jobs to come and follow Jesus. What kind of message does it send to our culture when churches close on one of its highest holy days? That it is o.k. to stay home and do one's own thing even on Jesus' birthday?

All of this made me think:

  1. If these churches are cancelling Christmas, shouldn't the Christians in that church be upset and threaten to boycott the church. That's what they would do if Wal-Mart was closed on Christmas. What? Wal-Mart IS closed on Christmas Day? Now I really am mad - what if I need that last minute gift for my second cousin?
  2. I wonder if it is the same "Christians" who go down to Lowe's and throw a conniption about "Holiday Trees" who later complain about being too "busy" to attend church on Christmas day? Isn't it interesting that as they are fighting for a holiday whose observance is not commanded in the Bible, some Christians are blatantly ignoring commands that are explicit in Scripture?
  3. If church members need "family time" on Christmas day, then what about Easter? That's a major time for families to gather. What about Mother's Day? Father's Day? Super Bowl Sunday? Shouldn't we be considerate of our families on these days as well?
  4. If people are too busy to attend church on Christmas day, they won't. But what about the many who desire to attend to the spiritual aspect of this allegedly Christian holiday. Cancelling Christmas services does not hinder those who would miss. It only hurts those who want to attend but now cannot.
  5. I read another make this interesting observation: Many churches place a major emphasis on the belief that church is to be designed for the "seeker" or non-believing attender. These "seekers" are the ones who are not connected in any way to the church and feel no obligation or desire to be in church when it is inconvenient. Therefore, since a majority of their "focus group" will not be in attendace, let's just cancel. All of that brings up a MAJOR problem - church is designed for the worshipper, the believer, the Christian. It is not designed for evangelism, although evangelism does and should take place when the service and text call for it. When unregenerate people are dictating how and when the Body of Christ meets and worships, we are hopelessly adrift.
  6. Many churches are rationalizing their decision by saying that they are having a service on December 24th. But a Christmas Eve service is "in addition to" not an "instead of" type of service.
  7. I also realize that it is a distinct possibility that the majority of people who complain about their own churches cancelling are the same people who most likely do nothing but sit in a pew on Sunday mornings and "enjoy the show." They know nothing of serving in a nursery or preschool classroom or teaching a group of adults or singing in the choir.
  8. It is my opionion that a church that would cancel all of Christmas services is not a church I would want to attend in the first place. Maybe we should encourage them to close more often - maybe permanently.
  9. I have to admit that the Bible nowhere demands that we worship on Sunday mornings or even Sunday for that matter. It is a convention drawn from principles and precedents seen in Scripture. Paul also noted that some have special days and others do not - to each his own, basically. However, what is the image put forth in the community by churches who do this? Even the lost know that churches meet for worship on Sunday. What must they think about churches that close their doors? Maybe they think "Christianity must not be all that important to these people if they can't be bothered to worship on even THIS day that even I realize has some importance behind it!"


Jim Pemberton said...

Also, what about the C & E people: those members whose typical annual attendace amounts to showing up only on Christmas and Easter? They may be in the military, in school, or in a career that takes them abroad. They may simply have an occupation that requires they work on Sundays (like Wal Mart). They may have simply moved away and find travel to the homes of their loved ones on holidays an opportunity to have a church homecoming. If the church closes on Christmas, these people will lose an opportunity to come back to the church they love for a Sunday.

Nathan White said...

Hmm, I share some similar thoughts on this subject on my own site, and oddly enough it comes under the same heading. Looks like you got to it before I did though. Nevertheless, good thoughts.