Cut the number of worship services in half.
Sound far fetched? It’s possible to do, and it would cut workload considerably. Of course, then you may have to justify your salary. Ultimately, it may be the best move to re-connect with a post-Christians culture.
If we look at budgets and responsibilities, the majority of money and time in a church is devoted to the worship service. The Sunday morning gathering is the primary demand on resources because it’s also the most important feature. Should it be this way? And why is it this way?
Should the Sunday morning gathering be the most important feature in our churches? - Rohadi Click To Tweet
The Question Why
The “why” we do Sunday morning is steeped in history. Why we continue with a weekly church service without considering its value is one worthy of question. Of course, this assumes the debate starts in the right place. We can’t have this conversation if it starts with, “tradition” (not that traditions aren’t important). Here we would fall victim to, “the way things always were and should be.” Starting with mission, however, we can ask if the worship service serves God’s mission in post-Christian America?
The last part is critical–America has undergone a permanent cultural shift that doesn’t value the voice of the church at the center. That’s not a bad thing either but I digress.
Do our worship services serve God's mission in post-Christian America? - Rohadi Click To Tweet Many traditions treat Sunday gatherings as an untouchable feature because they are the last reason the already churched remain. Removing worship times is a quick beginning to the end for many churches. Does this sound like a scenario where weekly worship serves the mission, or is the mission of God circumvented by an inoculating service?
As dominant culture pushes the church further to the margins, new church cultures need to emerge in response. Battening down the hatches staying true to the religion of the past isn’t working. The era of Christendom relied on a culture that held Christian memory. Attracting people to a service was a viable tactic to grow a church. In this rhythm the mission amounted to reminding lapsed Christians about their need for church community. Today there are few left to remind.
Most of our metropolitan areas boast a post-Christian culture. Here the Sunday service is no longer a viable connection point for spiritual seekers. In post-Christendom, most don’t think to attend a spiritual event, and certainly not weekly, with a church. In a way, post-Christendom has opened a window of opportunity for leaders to solve workloads weighted by weekly gatherings, and instead focus on curated gatherings that celebrate what God’s doing, and to build the body to go back on mission.
Shifts in the Institution
Although institutions are slow to implement change, there are shifts happening in leadership development. Traditionally, church planter development has centered around the “build it and they will come” model of ministry. Once the build and they will come mantra stopped working, the strategies unfortunately remained. Young leaders are still groomed to primarily run a Sunday service with excellence, and manage church programs with efficiency. “Have it (a service) and they will come”, remains the primary tactic for new church ventures. Do you see the problem?
As dominant culture pushes the church further to the margins, new church cultures need to emerge in response - Rohadi Click To Tweet Centering leadership and function around Sunday worship is a feature out of Christendom. It serves to meet the demands of the already churched. It creates a situation where old and new ventures are mechanisms to manage a dwindling number of faithful. It’s these models where the majority of resources go to shepherding the flock and not to the mission beyond the safe confines of the building walls.
The result is the overwhelmed pastor and overworked volunteer base running too many services and programs.
Some may try to argue that the Sunday service is a mechanism to build the faithful to go out and live as sent ones in the unfolding kingdom. That’s nice in theory. In practice, however, the majority of Sunday services are closed gatherings with familiar faces, five songs, and someone preaching.
If Not Sunday, Then What?
Gathering remains critical. Some new church expressions tend to shy away from corporate gatherings which is a mistake. We must gather, we must celebrate, we need all the pieces we’re familiar with in worship (and perhaps more). What I’m unconvinced with is frequency and package. The latter I’m less concerned about since I don’t necessarily treat worship gatherings as outreach events (I’m not a big advocate for building seeker sensitive services). However, we do need a bigger imagination on how we gather, and room to do it.
The former is one that may be difficult for established churches to implement, but should be of primary importance for new church ventures. Starting new with an expectation that corporate worship will be less frequent, once a month, once a quarter, etc., makes it clear for the Christians. Coupling the reduced importance of service with the increased importance of personal and corporate mission is the next part of the equation. With less services it should open the door to more time for life on life with the people around your place. It’s here where slow, but vital, incarnate presence is practiced, a language post-Christian America has little trouble understanding.
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