In case you missed it, some American megachurches have cancelled Sunday gatherings on Christmas Day. There’s been a lot of reaction, most of it negative:
“This is a consumer mentality at work: ‘Let’s not impose the church on people. Let’s not make church in any way inconvenient,’ ” said David Wells, a professor of history and theology in Massachusetts. (Telegraph)
A church can compress two services to one, cancel Sunday school or cancel an evening service. Those are all secondary issues that fall under the “better or best” type of reasoning. But to cancel church altogether simply to cater to the desires of unbelievers is a whole different matter. At the very least the pastors should be waiting by the door to greet those who arrive. Even if no one walks through the door, at least the pastors have taken a stand for what is most important to them and have modelled Christ’s own love for worship. (Tim Challies)
It is past time that these sorts of churches be called to account. It is time for them to realize that they have simply capitulated to the larger culture’s agenda on issue after issue, in this case in supporting the worship of the idol called family in place of the worship of Jesus. (Ben Witherington)
This leaves us with this: no strong correlation between Sabbath and Sunday; no commandment to worship together on Sunday…what I’m reading is that there is too much identification of “worship” with Sunday morning and too much identification of “being the church” with “attending a Sunday morning service”…
So, my suggestion is this: let’s be a little more charitable in light of what the NT does and does not say. Let’s permit our brothers and sisters, once every seven years, to make decisions that we might not approve of but know that they answer to God, that we answer to God, that it is about worship of God and incarnating the gospel in our world for the good of others and the world.
I spoke to a pastor today who’s still going ahead with both morning and evening services on Christmas Day. I was amazed. Evening services are almost extinct in these parts.
Of course, we were saved from this debate most recently by a leap year. In 1999, Christmas came on a Saturday. The next year, it jumped to a Monday.
We are going ahead with a morning service, although I really don’t know how many people to expect.
I am actually more concerned with the New Year’s Day gathering. Last time Sunday was on January 1, I was one of maybe ten people at church.
Update 2: Between Two Worlds writes, “I think that McKnight has the a better Scriptural case than Witherington. And I appreciate McKnight’s call for a bit more charity and irenicism. But I still think it’s legitimate to question the rationale and motivation for this move.”