So Why Do I Get Out Of Bed Sunday Morning, Or The New Standard

I’m skipping church this Sunday. I know, I know, you’re wondering how I can still call myself a Christian and have the audacity to continue to write a blog on spiritual topics.

Even crazier, I already told the pastor.

This Sunday while maybe even my wife sits in church I’ll be watching football. Specifically my beloved Seattle Seahawks – who clinched their division and entered the playoffs despite a losing record. Last week they majorly upset the Super Bowl champions, and well, it was awesome . I’m still floating (though a little bit lower since Oregon lost the BCS on Monday).

In recent years tons of churches have picked up on the small group trend, which effectively doubled the unofficial yet pretty darn official weekly church attendance expectations. Suddenly you couldn’t just get away with going Sunday mornings, but then had to also be apart of small group. It became the new standard.

And trust me, this is not a post picking apart the small group movement. I’m totally on board. I’m apart of a small group and I love it.

I think churches realized that the Biblical definition of church is not a building, a sermon, a worship set, or programs – but the church at its core is community – and its hard to participate in community when you are sitting, watching a church service happen in front of you. A slogan emerged of “don’t go to church – be the church.” So now every church in America tries hard to get you to sign up for a community/growth/small group.

So, in essence, we realized that true church happens in the small setting where people gather to support and encourage one another, “do life together” (I did a series of tweets on Christian buzzphrases, this one being a heavy hitter lately) and pursue Jesus.

So my question is – what is the point of Sunday morning? Why do we still have them around? Do you see what I mean? Churches in essence realized that their Sunday gatherings weren’t what church was designed to be, so they began to place heavy emphasis on small groups – but didn’t do anything to question Sunday mornings.

I admittedly have a slant here, as for years I’ve not enjoyed Sunday morning services no matter what church I went to – because all along I’ve felt that the church is a gathering of people who know each other – and lately church services have gotten bigger and bigger (more performance oriented), and more and more consumeristic (because we simply take it all in and aren’t invited to give back in any way other than clapping during certain songs).

If I’m not actively participating, for me, then its not really church. That’s not a rule for all people, but something true for me. So if someone asks me if I’m apart of a church, I say yes referring to my small group. They actually know me there.

So, give me your thoughts – why do we still have Sunday morning services if “true church” happens in the small group setting (or is that a false assumption)? What do you get out of Sunday services? What value do they still hold?

PS: GO SEAHAWKS!

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26 Responses to So Why Do I Get Out Of Bed Sunday Morning, Or The New Standard

  1. David says:

    Interesting thoughts and experiences, Charlie.

    True church is where humans come together in the name of Jesus – at least 2 or more. We know that there were prayer meetings (Acts 1, 2). We know that there were public meetings where the Gospel was preached. (Acts 2) We know there were meetings in prison (Acts 16) and we also know that Christians met in homes. All that is to say, I don’t think there is a perfect church paradigm. We all have different tastes, needs and temperaments.

    My point is this: we need Jesus in whatever package we can receive him. Personally, I like to worship and hokey acoustic campfire tunes don’t do often do it for me. I like good teaching – rarely do small groups have that – its usually some book that takes place of the Bible. I sort of like people :), and enjoy trying to get to know them; therefore, I hate small groups that are packed with worship and Bible study and no social time. I’d rather take my chances in the mega-church lobby.

    Different segments of society have different needs; the church needs to address them. Sometimes it’s a friend to walk though a tough time, and other times it is a group that goes out and builds a house for the poor. This is where hearing from God, and doing it comes in. There are millions of good things that we could do (we are failing, but the opportunities are there); but there are only a few things God is doing in a small-group.

    Creating paradigms that fit into our good ideas be they from culture, business or Scripture are doomed to fail unless someone hears from God.

    The Bible is very clear about spiritual gifts (not just service gifts), but how many actually train their flock in what they are, how to use them, and disciple the character that needs to go with them? Few here in America.

  2. It’s hard to let go of the need for preaching. And in most situations, what we define as “preaching” doesn’t happen in small groups. It’s so personal that the “pastor” doesn’t feel the freedom and authority of a “pulpit” where he is protected from questions and backtalk. Most feel that some sort of authoritative “sermon” is a necessary part of Christian existence. This doesn’t happen well in small groups, in our current modus operandi.

    • interesting perspective. I wouldn’t consider myself in that camp – I actually think we are over preached. I think if there were a stronger emphasis on community and discipling one another – we wouldn’t need weekly kick in the pants from people with powerpoints and microphones. Most Christians are in information-overload, and hear so much every Sunday that its too much to do anything with.

  3. jay @ bethegospel says:

    First off, I think it is amazing how every time you have a long time and give two options with a cute little “or” thrown in the middle. Nice job. I’m patient enough to think those my titles that much.

    I think our Sunday Mornings has some reminisence of OT gatherings for holidays and special occasions at the temple. You know, corporate singing, priests performing things, etc. I’m not saying that it needs to be as close to the OT as the Catholics maybe do. But I know of some churches who only get together once a month and resort to having house churches every other week.

    • I agree that we probably mirror the OT more than the NT church – from what I understand the churches in Corinth, Jerusalem, etc weren’t gathering weekly at a set time to sing songs and hear a prepared sermon – as the church became less guerilla that emerged, and I think you’re right is more in line with OT Temple days.

      • Chris says:

        Hey Charlie,

        Your understanding that “the churches in Corinth, Jerusalem, etc. weren’t gathering weekly at a set time to sing songs and hear a prepared sermon…” may be a little off and, I think is a little more complicated than that.
        Very early descriptions of what the church was like do exist in documents like the Didache. This is a document that dates to the first century, meaning the very beginnings of the church, possibly under the consent and auspices of the apostles. The Didache describes a regular weekly gathering of believers. It also describes a fairly prepared, set form of worship. It wasn’t just friends getting together for a brew and chat. The approach to worship of these first century Christians could probably be described as liturgical and formal, and with people holding official positions like bishop or presbyter, meaning – yes, religion. There is also mention of itinerant preachers who come and go and how these preachers should not be profiting from Christ’s name. All-in-all, as I say, to make blanket statements as to what the church is or is not can be problematic. I suppose it could be argued that as soon as Christ died people, including the apostles started to mess things up by bringing in religion, or religious practices, and that these once again started to create barriers between God and man. But if that’s the case then we have to ask why the church managed to grow “like a brushfire” as you say. I just don’t quite think it’s valid to say that informality is a better approach than formality, or vice-versa.

      • oh wow that is definitely news to me Chris. I’ve heard recently about the Didache (via Tony Jones, who wrote a book on it that is only my wish list) – as you’ve seen I’m very interested in the early church (to a fault) and I’d love to learn more. From what I’ve heard about the Didache its a very practical book, which I appreciate.

        I would say that over time we’ve heaped more and more religion on top of what Jesus taught (and in many cases reversed some of what he taught), but you are right in that it still caught on – I could come up with a hundred explanations that could all be partially true, but ultimately I crave the simplicity of that time (though not the persecution) especially in light of our huge church productions these days.

  4. Larry Hughes says:

    Well I would think the Sunday morning ritual of going to church is more tradition than any thing else. It is a good place for Christians to gather and pay homage to the Lord. Certainly fine for those seeking salvation as new attendees.

    The one thing I enjoyed is the music worship sessions where you are free to let your emotions pour out in worshiping God for a predetermined time The sermons however did not captivate me much as I do study the bible frequently. So the sermons only reinforced what I had already known.

    A few months back I quit going to church and statred wandereing in a symbolical desert. Here I was an outcast and came in contact with those that do not or have not ever attended Churches for one reason or another ( other outcast).

    Then came a still silent voice that said “bring the church to them”. At the time, I didn’t have a clue what it meant but people began to approach me asking if I was a minister or a pastor. No I wasn’t but that did not deter them. A few asked me about Christ, others asked me to pray for them, and one asked me if I could heal their daughter. I said only God can heal but I could only pray for her healing.

    I still get people coming to me for help and seeking salvation. Some say they don’t feel like they will fit in at a church but I always say when two or more are gathered in worshiping God that is a church. Now I get the message what bring the church to them meant.

    • I think lots of churches have tried to take the angle of “we are a church for people who don’t fit into church” but from what I’ve seen that hasn’t really worked. It still ends up being a gathering of career Christians only this church feels more hip because its inclusive. But that’s not always the case, just what I’ve seen.

      So bringing the church to those people hasn’t meant starting up your own version of music and worship – but moreso pastoring, praying, etc? Or did you end up starting a “church?”

      • Larry Hughes says:

        Charlie:

        I have heard that phrase too many times before.

        Not really my own version of worship and music. All the songs are readily available on You Tube or I have the CDs of the latest worship songs which I listen to frequently as background music. I don’t even go out preaching as the proverbial side walk preacher but yet people drop by to ask for spiritual help frequently.

        I run two communities where I come in contact with numerous people daily. In my offices there are books on faith and Christianity which I now keep close by to glance in for references should the need arise.
        I am not a pastor, I didn’t start up a church, nor am I a minister but the people still come by to seek answers or help which I try to provide if they ask.
        In one instance last year, I was in Florida vacationing on the beach and was approached by a total stranger seeking salvation which turned into a nightly gathering on the beach sharing fellowship with his family and friends. I wrote a blog about it.

        Yes I have thought about starting a new church but that is only my thoughts. I don’t think God has led me in that direction. Being available for those that wouldn’t normally go to a church is where I felt led to be.

        To say I am a reluctant, out of the box thinking, messy Christian could be an understatement.

      • well I’d love to hear more stories of the out of the box stuff, because as you can tell by this blog I’m bored within church walls. I think God is able to move in hearts with the least amount of resistance when he’s not confined to religious structures.

    • >>Certainly fine for those seeking salvation as new attendees.

      Hmm. I did not know that church saved people.

  5. Bernard Shuford says:

    We may be over preached, but the preachers, who basically have the presumed authority, keep claiming that we have to listen to them or else we’ll stray.

  6. >>So my question is – what is the point of Sunday morning? Why do we still have them around?

    Yep. I reckon we keep Sundays around for the “Sunday-only christians”. I mean, what would they do on Sunday mornings if they didn’t have the theater and circus of man’s tradition’s to run to and put in an appearance?

    Oh, sorry, did I say that out loud?

    I’m digging your stuff, Charlie. I found your blog through…dang…I don’t remember who it was through, now. Oh, it was through ‘aliens and strangers’. I’m glad I visited.

    Blessings,
    Donald in Bethel, CT

    • thanks for the compliment Donald. But truth be told I think if there were no circus Sunday mornings and instead community gatherings we’d get far different attendance. And as I’ve said before, maybe some shrinking isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

  7. Brian says:

    I agree with you on this. Once you have heard all the sermons on every topic in 20 years of Christianity, Sunday morning becomes a rerun. I am not going to any church at this time, because I am forced to passively receive most of the time. Once you are able to listen to any preacher and predict the outcome of sermon points, you know that the only purpose you serve in that setting is role of passive listener. You then serve the purpose of being a feeder of a religious leader’s self concept. This perpetually dependent clergy/laity relationship keeps immature believers from really achieving God’s eternal purpose. Thanks for this encouraging word.

    • Chris says:

      @ Brian

      I’m not sure why you would perceive your only possible role as that of passive listener.
      If all you’ve done in 20 years is sit in the pew to listen to sermons so that you could predict and critique them, then you may have missed the boat. Somewhere probably around 10 or 15 years ago you should have become a leader in the church so that you could begin the process of discipling and sheparding others. Thinking not just of what you are getting from the sermon, but what you may have gotten at some point in the past and that someone else might now get out of it. There are many seemingly menial tasks that take place on any given Sunday. Even just welcoming people and being the warm, inviting face of Christ.
      It’s so easy to look outwardly and complain about what is wrong with everything. It’s much more difficult to take an inward look and to ask: “Where might I be wrong, and where might I be of service?”

      • I can definitely understand your point Chris, however some churches (and I don’t know about Brian’s) may encourage consumerism Christianity where he shows up and takes it all, and never made a point to encourage fellowship or discipleship. I know I’ve been to churches where you were expected to show up in a similar way to being expected to show up at a funeral – to pay your respects, and that’s all. The only difference is that church demanded you pay respect 52 times a year.

      • Brian says:

        @ Chris,

        Quite the contrary. I have held many different ministry roles as a Christian- Assistant Pastor, Street Preacher, Evangelist, and Bible Teacher to name a few. I can say that my experience has not always been one of passivity. I was given unhindered liberty to teach in my former church, but I believe I was called away from that setting. My purpose in what I am about to say is in no way an attempt to undermine the work of pastors of Bible teachers, but it needs to be said that in the institution, there is an over- dependency on teachers, in so much that we think of the sermon as the central focus of the church meeting. While there is a need for teaching and lengthy teaching sessions, that require passive listening, I am convinced we mistakenly call this church. Four years ago, a group of friends invited me to have a fellowship meeting in their home. We began the morning with eating pancakes and discussing the issues of faith over the breakfast table. Later, we had prayer and Bible teaching. I was able to share my spiritual gift with others. This is the fulfilling of the admonition to speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. This was the beginning of learning about having “open meetings.” Unlike the institution, whoever has the gift shares it with others, and not the one who is most well postured for speaking. While it actually edifies to be part of traditional service with three songs, two prayers, and a sermon, you will never see that kind of meeting encourage mutual participation. Yes, you are passive in this setting, if this is your only experience with the people of God (which includes the vast majority in Christendom) However, meetings take the glorious liberty of spiritual gifting out of the hands of the people and into the hands of the government. Its kind of like the difference between Laissez-Faire government and Communism. In the Laissez-Faire system, the economy is the hands of the people to make or do. In this system, the government only steps in when destructive economic practices are taking place. In Communism, however, the government takes the experience of a free economy and call the shots in regards to the direction. In the institutional church, the leaders are always the focal points and usually call the shots in these meetings. It is a leader dominated system. The issue at hand is who owns the communication? A friend has wisely said he who controls the communication in the meeting, rules the church meeting. In an IRC (Institutional Religious Corporation) or a “church,” the dominant factor is the one who controls the communication. If you give the control of the communication into the hands of the people, that is the brotherhood, and no dominant factors are hoarding it, you have the whole body of Christ expressing itself as it should. The dominant factor is usually the one who controls the microphone. As gifted as some pastors are, it may not be that particular pastor’s turn to minister his gift. The will of the Father is that every one impart their gift to one another. The IRC imitates spiritual gifting in very mechanical methods called programs. Many mighty people who move in the Spirit are hidden in these situations. (The least truly will be the greatest.)

      • Brian – I apologize it took me so long to reply to this. I just read a great article about this today in fact, so its perfect I returned to this post and read your comment. Anytime you have a dominant person or party controlling and doing the communication – then you marginalize. I’m definitely with you Brian.

        http://frankviola.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/guest-article-the-new-testament-is-plural-not-singular/

  8. Angela says:

    19 comments and only half of them yours! Charles Paul, you are blowing up. Send me some blog tips man.

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