Church This Sunday?

Up until now I've avoided the whole canceling church services on Christmas controversy. For those of you unfamiliar with the topic, welcome back to the United States. You can read up on it here.

Perhaps I've waited to comment because Echo isn't gathering on Christmas. As a small church plant that meets in the evening, it was a no-brainer. Almost all of our regulars will be attending someplace else on Sunday morning and the church whose building we rent isn't meeting on Christmas either. This means the heat will be off so no, we're not meeting. But if, by the next time Christmas falls on a Sunday, we have Sunday morning gatherings I guarantee we'll meet.

But I really think the reason I've waited to say anything is because of the people involved. There are a lot of good Christian people on both sides of this issue, people with whom I'll be spending all eternity so I'm reluctant to call them out. But this is such a big debate within the Christian community that we really need to honestly evaluate it and draw some conclusions.

There are a lot of excuses being given for canceling services on Christmas. Some are silly, such as "Jesus wasn't really born on Christmas Day, so it doesn't matter if we celebrate on that day." To that I respond, "of course he wasn't, but what does that have to do with the price of Spam?" The date of Easter fluctuates every year because of the Jewish calendar but you never hear anyone advocating not meeting then. Another excuse that makes little sense to me, is that "the Bible doesn't command that we have to worship on Sundays so we're free to worship God any day we want." I can agree with the first part of the statement but there's no overall consistency. If we don't have to meet on Sundays then why do it all the other 51 weeks each year. If you're going to use this argument, then you should change your weekly gatherings to Tuesdays.

While some excuses sound lame, others appear to be more legitimate, such as "we're taking the day off to let our volunteers and regular attenders spend time with families." But really, I think this might be the worst excuse of them all. Too often in pulpits today, pastors are making unbiblical claims on the importance of family. I'll admit that family is important, but I fear that some churches are advocating worshipping families above all else. Rather than elevating families Jesus claimed that He would cause families divisiveness; and he wasn't too warm with his own skeptical family. Is church really hindering our families' relationships? If so, maybe we need to reevaluate how we're doing things.

What I'm really hearing from these churches that are canceling is this:
1) Our services are so complicated to pull off that we need a slew of volunteers to make them happen.
2a) Many volunteers don't want to have to work [volunteer] on Christmas.
2b) Because these volunteers work all year round, they deserve a weekend off.
3) Christmas is the perfect day to cancel and make everyone happy.

If our services have become so complicated that we can't function without hundreds of volunteers, then maybe we need to reapproach how we do church. Not to go medieval on the megachurches here, but if you can't have just one Sunday without elaborate kids programs and high tech audio/video then what are you truly about?

And if you really need to cancel some weekend to give volunteers a break, why not do it in April? Or in September? August is a slow month, so why not shut 'er down to prep for a busy fall? I'm just saying that if you're going to use these arguments, show some consistency. There are plenty of other Sundays when you can call off services.

While we can't buy into these excuses for canceling, I question the motives of some on the other side of these issue. Some Christians loudly and publicly criticized these canceling churches, going as far to use the media to criticize these churches. That's more offensive than canceling in the first place. They should at least have the decency to keep the controversy "in house."

Plus these overtly pious "we're-meeting-on-Christmas-because-we're-righteous" Christians need to get a life. We're not on a sacramental system where you get a gold star for perfect attendance. These people probably need to evaluate exactly why they show up for services.

The saddest thing about this whole controversy is the embarrassment this issue brought upon the church. Josh Harris, of the Kissed Dating Goodbye fame and who pastors a church in Maryland, rescinded his decision to cancel their Sunday services. He admitted that his original decision was a mistake. Jon Weece of Southland Christian in Lexington spent an entire sermon a couple weeks ago just to defend their decision not to meet on Christmas. The intense media scrutiny about these cancelings [concerning a topic that the media couldn't care less about] has overshadowed all the good things these churches are doing for the kingdom of God in America. Shame on us, church leaders, for putting Christ's church in this position.

Is all this worth taking one Sunday off? I don't think so.