Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Decentralizing the church

This picture has been making the rounds; I really don't know who to credit for it. But it sure does make a point.

I'm hoping it's not a real sign.

But then again, I'm almost at the point where little suprises me any more.

From the Chicago Tribune:
Willow Creek Community Church, one of the largest churches in the Chicago area, will be closed on Sunday, Dec. 25--because it's Christmas.

... Instead, they will urge members to focus on family at home, rather than filling the pews.

"At first glance it does sound contrarian," said Rev. Gene Appel, senior pastor of Willow Creek. "We don't see it as not having church on Christmas. We see it as decentralizing the church on Christmas--hundreds of thousands of experiences going on around Christmas trees. The best way to honor the birth of Jesus is for families to have a more personal experience on that day."

This brings up the question --- why is this not the best way to honor the resurrection of Jesus by decentralizing church so that families can have a more personal experience every Sunday?

The Tribune article goes on to say:
And Appel argues that family has always been at the heart of the Christmas story: the tale of a mother and father celebrating the birth of a babe in a manger.
Ah...yes...that warm and fuzzy story that is, at the heart, all about family. Silly me. I guess I missed the heart of the story because I was distracted by the whole miraculous idea of God becoming flesh and living among us.

The article also noted:
"Every family has their little tradition," said Rev. Mark Jobe, senior pastor of New Life Community Church. "For some of them, it's a sacred time to get up in the morning and do their breakfast, share a little bit and open presents. That may be their main Christmas celebration. It may be Christmas Eve. ... God created church. He also created family. We need to be enjoying both of those."
Now opening presents is a "sacred time"? And going to church interferes with my enjoyment of family? Or is it family that interferes with my enjoyment of church? And where on earth can I find the Scripture about enjoying church? What happened to gathering together with the Body of Christ in order to worship God?

From a blog that does not at all pretend to be Christian:

Have I ever written that most of what passes for "Christianity" in the U.S. has nothin' to do with either Jesus or worship? I believe I have.

This is stunning. Some of the same people who have their noses out of joint because clerks at Target say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" aren't interested in a religious observance of the birth of Jesus. They want Christ in Target, not in church.

Yup. I can see why someone would write that.


  1. Rebecca, I followed that link to mahablog and noticed in one of the comments that Willow Creek has 17 Christmas Eve services. Do you have any thoughts on Christmas Eve vs Christmas day observances? I did not grow up in a church-going family, but I always thought the midnight mass that my Roman Catholic friends attended was a very cool concept. I was also in awe of candlelight services attended by friends from the more 'mainline' denominations (methodist, presbyterian, etc). They seemed so much in touch with the majesty and mystery of the miracle of Christmas.

  2. I love Christmas Eve services, and I think it is entirely possible to have both services. Our little church, with a much smaller "staff" (we don't even have our new pastor yet) is managing to do this.

    Our family celebrates mostly on Christmas Eve, and the service at our church has become part of that celebration. We usually have an early dinner, something light and elegant, and then head to our candlelight service. This service just puts a wonderful, correct focus on the rest of the evening, so it doesn't just become a frenzied mass of gift-unwrapping.

    The kids love the fact that they get to stay up as late as they want. (Within reason; this year they know that since Christmas Day is on a Sunday, they need to be up and ready for church!)

    A few times, we've gone to Christmas Day services at other churches, since this is not a tradition in our particular church. Unless, of course, Christmas Day falls on a Sunday.

    And that is my concern. It just seems so odd to cancel a Sunday morning service on a day that is supposed to be about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

    I'm reminded of pictures taken in the Gulf Coast region on the Sunday after Hurricane Katrina. It was amazing how many small churches had a service among the hastily cleared up rubble of what remained of their buildings, attended by people whose homes had been destroyed. If there was ever a time when going to church would have been inconvenient, or when families would have wanted to focus on themselves, this would have been it. But, as some church members said, being in church on that Sunday --- even if "church" was a concrete slab or a cleared patch of dirt --- was the best place and only place they could think of being. After all, they had so much to praise God for!

    And shouldn't we feel that way on Christmas Sunday?

  3. Hi, I really appreciate your comment on my blog! Thanks a lot for that....and I agree, I think that is a male thing!

  4. Rebecca,

    That isn't a rela sign.. there is a web site that gives you a text box and you enter whatever appears in the bottom part of the sign and generates the image for you.

    I agree with your thoughts about the cancelation of Sunday services for family gatherings.

  5. Thanks for the elaboration, Rebecca!