Canceling Church

Dan Williams tells the story of two preachers who were visiting over a cup of coffee.  The first preacher said to the second, “I cancelled our Sunday night services about five months ago.”  “You did?” the second preacher replied, “What do your church members think?”  The first preacher said, “I suspect they’ll be pretty upset if they ever find out about it.”

The meeting times for worship, study, and edification are not meant to be arbitrary requirements that test the spiritual discipline and commitment level of Christians.  Rather, these opportunities are intended to be functional; to encourage, inform, and strengthen those who are trying to walk worthily in an ungodly world.

Why is it that some people will say with exasperation, “Oh no, we have church services tonight, and I’ve had such a bad week,” instead of saying, “Wow I’m thankful it’s Wednesday night and we have church services tonight because I’ve had a bad week?” 

The difference in the two is the difference between “form” and “function.”  If one views church services simply as a “form” that must be checked off our “to-do list,” he will see that assembly differently than the one who acknowledges the “function” and purpose of the assembly.

Maybe church members need to re-evaluate the way they view these assemblies; and see them not as an arbitrary requirement, but as an opportunity.  And maybe church leaders need to re-evaluate function of these assemblies to insure that the assemblies fulfill their intended purpose.

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Comments 13

  • You are absolutely correct. Especially with the closing statements.

  • I don’t know why this change in ways of looking at the assemblies is so difficult among us, but it surely seems to be a large problem. I hope you don’t mind that I link to your article.

  • […] Canceling Church Filed under: Attendance — lemmonsaid @ 1:24 pm A nice article from Steve Higginbotham can by read by clicking H-E-R-E. […]

  • Thanks, Jeremiah and David. I remember years ago while I was a student at Freed-Hardeman (David, you might remember this)but brother Hugo McCord spoke to the student body. He had been President of the student body 50 years earlier, and told how things were when he was on campus.

    Anyway, one of the things he said is that due to his preaching, separate eating arrangements that kept the boys from the girls, he rarely got to spend time with his wife-to-be. So when he had an opportunity to spend time with her, he didn’t ask, “Do I have to,” because he loved her and wanted to be with her. Likewise, when we ask if we “have to attend all the services of the church,” we unknowingly reveal more about our love for God than we realize.

  • Do I HAVE to read your blog? 🙂

  • No Caleb, you GET to! 😉

  • This is thoughtful. Members should see the opportunity to worship as a blessing, but as leaders I think we have done a poor job of teaching this as an blessing instead of a duty. We sometimes preach that you need to be there, this is based on the negative, that it is hard to be there. If we present the Sunday night worship in a positive light, the minds of the people will change.

  • If the Sunday night meeting is vibrant and meets the needs of the congregation as well as being an opportunity to worship our Lord, people will come. The meeting doesn’t have to mirror the morning meeting.

  • You know this is interesting. I work in manufacturing and read a publication called industrial psychology. It talks about modes of behavior. The reasons that people do or do not do the things they do. Mike Armour wrote a book on how this relates to the church called “systems based leadership”. There are reasons more people come on Sunday morning than on Sunday evening or Wednesday evening. Some may be old enough to remember that Sunday nights and Wednesday nights have only been a part of our tradition since the early forties because there was no electricity in rural America. America is no longer an agrarian society. Sunday nights and Wednesday nights were added due to the industrialization of America especially during the second world war; people especially women could not come on Sundays mornings because they were making bombs, tanks, and cars. So one thing we must do is evaluate our traditions in relation to assemblies the light of a fresh understanding the post modern commercial/industrial society in which we live. For example the majority of those who work in food service industries work on Sunday all day to serve the people that come out of church between 11:00 am and 12:00pm their lunch they were thinking about during the sermon.

    Here is another example. There is a town in Russia that has one factory in which they all work 12 hours a day rotating shifts. The recent converts there assemble once a week on Tuesday evening as this the time the majority of them are not working.

    There are reasons that many see the assembly as a burden rather than a joy, and it is not because they are selfish, or lazy. It would do us well to understand why. There are no easy perfect answers but there are questions that have perspective. So before we assume to know people’s motives let ask why with brutal honesty.

  • Joe, I think you are right when you say that much of how and when we do our assemblies is culturally determined. However, I’m not convinced that making our assemblies more convenient is the “only” or “major” factor that causes people to come or keeps them away.

    Somewhere in the mix is this matter of the heart. Think of how convenient our assemblies are. Air conditioning, padded pews, no more than an hour long, paved parking lots, good lighting, restrooms, good sound systems, staffed nurseries, age appropriate Bible classes, up-to-date Bible curriculum, heated baptistries, and even Bibles in the pew so you don’t have to carry your own. You could say that everything has been done but “chew the food for them” AND YET…

    I would also add that your example of a Russian community that has chosen to meet on a Tuesday because of shift work is fine if you’re not talking about the Lord’s day assembly. I believe Scripture gives us an obligation/opportunity that is unique to the first day of the week.

  • Steve I agree that the facilities in which we assemble have become “plush” or “cushy” they are more comfortable.

    Convenience is just one example or factor. I was rather referring to the relational and or social and theological aspects of the assembly. In my observation cultural ideas such as getting dressed up (I.E coat and tie/Dress etc.), listening to speakers that we would all have a hard time listening to have contributed to an uptight atmosphere at any but not all of the churches or assemblies.

    It has always interested me that the early church met almost exclusively in homes and or free public places, and in latter part of Acts 2 they met daily to break bread house to house. Obviously this brings perspective to the convenience idea from both sides one the frequency and the other the place. Most likely people would not get dressed up to walk down the street to someone’s house, but the idea of being in each others homes daily in our culture would sure be inconvenient.

    Even in Acts 20 when Paul goes to Troas to teach they were all packed into a small upper (room yet again a house) while he preached all night. Just a side note this is also the first time when someone fell asleep during a sermon. The young boy fell out of the back window of the house and Paul revived him. Anyway something was drawing them into this, they wanted to be there (because it was inconvenient by any culture), they found meaning for their life that is suggested by packing into peoples houses all the time.

    I was not attempting to argue a theological point with the example of the Russians even though that is their only assembly per week where they take the Eucharist. I was rather attempting to show how their culture and society has affected their assembly, that they wanted to assemble so rather than quit their stable jobs which are few and far between there in Russia and move away they chose to meet in a home (non dressing up as they don’t have clothes to dress up) and a very much come as you get off work and leave as you have to go to work mentality. The result is a vibrant assembly that is partiipated by everyone. Just a question not trying to pick an argument, when the Acts 20:7 scripture refers to first day of the week is it the Roman calendar, Jewish Calendar, or intended for the calendar of the respective culture that reads the Bible 2000 years later in rural and eastern cultures that have completely different calendar systems than those countries based on Greco Roman day numbering? Do you know that Sunday as we know it was a pagan holiday based on the Roman calendar that closely represents the one we use today?

  • Hi Joe, Thanks for your comment. I didn’t take it that you were trying to argue a theological point, and I understand very well the point you are making about the cultural aspects that have become normative.

    To answer your question as to what time I think was under consideration in Acts 20:7. While I don’t think this is the place to get into a discussion of this, I will say that I do not see any compeling reason to believe that the “breaking of bread” by Paul after midnight was anything more than getting something to eat, not the Lord’s Supper.

  • Last Sunday am sermon I heard was (1) on this topic coincidentally; (2) the best I have ever heard / preached / or studied. (3) top shelf all the way. And no I am not sharing the outline I made of it (until I have a chance to preach it 🙂 ). But you can have the title and text and write your own; “As His Custom Was” (Luke 4:16-21) Points out Jesus was there when the doors opened!!

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