What My Sunday Mornings Look Like

23 Sep, 2012

I just read a status update from a Sr. Pastor friend, who wrote:

“For a lot of people …”I’m not really into organized religion,” pretty much means …. “I don’t really like to wake up early on Sundays.” Come on … get out of bed and go to worship … you’ll be glad you did.”

I kind of sighed when I read it, partly because I feel misunderstood, and partly because I was reading it on a laptop while I was still in bed.

I don’t think I would have responded at all had I not continued scrolling down my newsfeed and read Jim Palmer’s status, “20 Mistakes I Made As A Senior Pastor.”

Putting church over community.
Putting orthodoxy over love.
Putting certainty over wonder.
Putting teaching over conversation.
Putting polished over real.
Putting answers over questions.
Putting membership over friendship.
Putting Christianity over Christ.
Putting knowledge over action.
Putting style over substance.
Putting appearance over authenticity.
Putting functionality over beauty.
Putting religion over spirituality.
Putting holiness over humanity.
Putting accountability over acceptance.
Putting heaven over earth.
Putting reputation over risk.
Putting charisma over compassion.
Putting the Afterlife over the Herelife.
Putting thinking over feeling.

For me, there has been so much an emphasis on attending a 90-minute meeting on Sunday Morning under the disguise of it being holy, that it is very hard for me to attend. I have too much baggage myself from chiding people to give financially to an institution and telling them they are fulfilling scripture and are giving to God. It simply isn’t true. I never want to be a part of another church that counts the attendees each service and tracks the numbers to understand membership trends. I will throw up if I ever hear another pastor say how much you will lose out on by missing even one Sunday in the month. Honestly they should miss a few services and see what else is happening in their community and their world.

I think people need real, Christian community in their lives and it doesn’t come so easy as an hour and a half meeting where somebody else is doing all the talking and sharing.

To be honest I really do respect local church communities. I’ve visited 25 of them nearest to my home just to understand my neighborhood and my neighbors better. I understand the comfort of routine, and having a place to go where people know your face and your name without having to use name tags. I too love the feeling of being invested with others in something that is bigger than what I can do on my own. I love heritage, sometimes too much, but I think it is what makes me passionate about this topic.

No, I won’t be darkening the doors of a church service this morning. I am not in the mood to sit through a set of songs, some announcements and pleas for help, a gathering of ‘tithes’ and offerings, and a 45-minute message without discussion.

I am heading to a coffee-shop with my wife and kids. Because of our schedules this week, this morning was the best time to gather together to talk, laugh, connect, and eat cheap, day-old pastries. A few others may be joining us, not because it was regularly scheduled for them to attend, but because we missed their faces and invited them.

Okay, my rant is over. I just know that I want to lean to the right in that column that Jim Palmer wrote. If I could do that in the organized church I would be there this morning. But I got way too robotic about the left side and felt I was serving something we had created ourselves. That isn’t worship to me.

Pinging is currently not allowed12 Responses

  1. Sophie says:

    This is where I am also. I have never been a pastor, of course, but my family has been in the leadership mucky-muck elite group in the churches for generations, so I've seen the inside working of the organized church. I can't bring myself to "attend church" again for the same reasons you've described. I'm enjoying my Sundays, which are never the same from week to week, and it's usually the day we get together with folks that we miss or catching up with each other as a family. Sometimes it's just me and one of my children. I've learned to roll with whatever unfolds, as I walk day to day with my Father. Sunday is just another day, but all days are holy now. :-)

  2. Matt says:

    When done incorrectly, church is as you describe: a place to go once a week and get talked at because that's what someone says you're supposed to do.

    When done correctly, Sunday church service is a time for the congregation to come together like a football team before a game. The coach says some inspiring words, the players get their plays organized, and we all go back out into the world to do more of that right-side-of-the-column stuff.

  3. SheSays says:

    We actually enjoy our day of rest. No one running around cranky because we'll be late to church, or having a bad hair day, or whatever. The whole thing started to feel a little too much like work. We celebrate our day of rest.

  4. Maggie says:

    Thanks for this, and I can certainly relate. We have a slightly different journey, but coming to very similar conclusions. We are a group who have some regular meetings, which have over the last couple of years morphed from a Sunday morning service to a Wednesday evening gathering where we have conversation together, mostly about what it means to the Body of Christ. Because of the morphing process, we have a small meeting house in which we hold our Wednesday meetings, but not in pews, but in a circle of chairs around a coffee table. On Sundays, my husband and I have started opening our home weekly to whoever wants to come and share food. We fix something very simple, and then others we invite are free to bring something also, or not, if they don't have time. We invite not just "believers," but anyone who we want to spend time with.

    Interestingly, the biggest misunderstanding we've had so far is not with "Sunday service Christians," but with "house church Christians," who come to our Sunday night gathering with a whole set of expectations about what we should be doing, and try to kind of bend the meeting and conversation to that end. It's inspired me to ask (more) questions about why do we gather anyway, and am in the midst of writing some thoughts right now, asking about what motivates us: love or ideology? I'm thankful to run across your blog today, as I am articulating my own thoughts about this subject. Love Jim Palmer's questions, but interestingly, many house church gatherings also fall on the left-hand side of that equation. It can easily become about having a meeting (and a meeting that conforms to some very specific interpretation about what church/ekklesia means theologically) rather than about building friendships, creating community and loving people.

    Don't misunderstand me, I want to understand the biblical ideas about community and shared life together, but I think all too often we put the cart before the horse and try to figure out the form and try to fit the people and relationships into that form, instead of focusing on the relationships first, and letting the form flow out of a relationship of love to God and one another.

    Thanks again.

  5. Bill Sperry says:

    I too (for over 20 years) preached and lived the kool-aid. The abundant life that our Messiah promised is a journey that (for me) is extremely full and fulfilling outside of the organization. Christianity has become hybridized and the desire to gain an "heirloom" experience is as unpopular as non-hybridized corn is to an Iowa farmer. I am very much a part of the Church, but have dropped out of the 'organization'.

  6. wordhaver says:

    I think so much depends on the culture of any organization or event that we participate in (and we go to and participate in many in our culture) as well as why we go and what we do while there. If church organizations defacto lean to the left, then compassion for the people who are in them compels me personally to go where the people are and very intentionally lean to the right. True, some institutions will heavily mitigate against that and may even ask you to leave. I'm blessed to participate in a "church institution" in which Sunday for me is part of a very healthy and enjoyable rhythm of life in Jesus. I have conversations and touches with people that I probably wouldn't run into otherwise (and of course the same often happens in the aisles of Costco or Freddie's, or while sitting at a bistro table at Barnes and Nobles). Some touches are brief yet highly meaningful, but some conversations go on for the whole hour of the "service." But then, I feel empowered to step into the service and participate there (I would say that listening to a good speaker or participating in face to face discussion are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but can and should be vitally complementary) or to stay out in conversation in one of the halls or at one of our own bistro tables, depending on what the Lord is doing. And of course the Lord himself – and Paul too, for that matter – went to the synagogues (as long as they would allow them), I think, for one primary reason: that's where the people were and they definitely needed a taste of the right hand column.

    A scene in Unbreakable catches it for me. David realizes that he's not an "ordinary man" – that he has gifts. He asks his mentor, Elijah, what he should do. "Go where the people are," was the answer. I very much feel like I am living out the following segment each Sunday when David is standing in Grand Central, hands extended, where the people are.. All of this also applies to home church (love your observations, Maggie) or to home groups or impromptu coffee shop gatherings; the culture of the shop or home, and the why and the what of our going there are all pivotal.

    Thanks for the post, Chad! Love your heart! :o)

  7. Bill Dahl says:

    Thank you Chad.n

  8. Chuck Jones says:

    I struggle with this one. Perhaps it's my own religious feelings about church. I've loved church for years when I've had community and relationships. The Bible speaks of the gathering of the saints. I don't care if it's in a building gathering as a service or in a small gathering. Also, Jesus was always teaching in the synagogues and in small intimate settings. He is my role model. So many people that I love here in Idaho are wondering sheep without decent fellowship with saints and I want to become a disciple of Christ. The Bible shows this as being done by leaders of the church, elders, teachers, pastors, evangelists, prophets and perhaps some apostles. For me, I put my hurt down. I look forward to good fellowship, solid relationships, intimate worship, and deep meaty teaching. The organized church is here to play a small part in my journey with God but my responsibility is build my relationships with Him, to love Him, to serve Him, and to fulfil His purposes on the earth while I'm still alive.

  9. Jim says:

    Thanks for the re-post of Palmer's comments. One thing that I attempt to stress is that if it is pure selfishness keeping you from gathering with your Jesus-community, that's bad. A big part of why we should be there is for the other person who needs your encouragement.

  10. Nicole' says:

    Your comment: "For me, there has been so much an emphasis on attending a 90-minute meeting on Sunday Morning under the disguise of it being holy, that it is very hard for me to attend" My first thought it, yes you do need to find a church(group) that is somewhat healthy, BUT IT IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT FOR YOURSELF! If you're looking around at what's unholy and judging, then you're NOT in your own yard…

    In the end when you said: "But I got way too robotic about the left side and felt I was serving something we had created ourselves." Now you are getting somewhere…dealing with your own yard!

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