Tag Archives: church services

Retail Religion Takes Us Down the Wrong Path

Too Many People Are Spiritual Consumers Who Pursue a Retail Religion

Retail Religion Takes Us Down the Wrong PathMany in our first world culture seek to be served rather than to serve. Unfortunately, we apply this when it comes to church, too. Most people expect church to serve them, while few seek to serve the church.

This idea of receiving services influences our church selection process. Seldom do people look for a church that gives them the opportunity to serve. Instead they look for a church for the benefits it provides: the music, the message, and the ministries. They’re church shoppers, pursuing church selection with a consumer mindset.

Retail Religion

The result is a retail religion. These folks shop for a church the same way they buy a car or look for a gym.

They make a list—either literally or figuratively—of the things their new car, gym, or church must have. Then they make their wish list of what they hope their new car, gym, or church could have. And then they make a final list of deal breakers, detailing the things their new car, gym, or church can’t have.

Then they go shopping.

They tick off items on their list. With intention they test drive cars, check out gyms, or visit churches. In each case, they immediately reject some and consider others as possibilities. Eventually they grow tired of shopping and make their selection from the top contenders, seeking a solution that provides them with the most value.

Instead Pursue Service and Community

A better, and more God-honoring approach, is to seek a church community that provides opportunities for us to serve. We need to stop thinking of church for the things it will provide for us and instead consider the things we can do for it, that is, for the people who go there and the community surrounding it.

We should look for a church that provides opportunities for us to serve, according to how God has wired us, ways that make us come alive. This includes service within the church and to those outside the church. Church service and community matter more than church programs and benefits. Click To Tweet

Service is not an isolated activity. As we serve, we do so in community. Church service and community matter more than church programs and benefits.

Retail religion is out, and church community and service are in.

How to Find a New Church

When It Comes Time to Change Churches, Attitude Is Everything

Last week we talked about when not to change churches, instead of looking to find a new church. Too often people treat their church as a commodity and behave as a consumer, switching their loyalty over trivial things. Most of the time, however, the best action is to view your church as a marriage and try to make things work. Seldom should you divorce your church and seek a new one.8 tips to find a new church.

Even so, sometimes we need to find a new church home. Maybe we just moved, or our church closed. Perhaps we do it for the sake of our kids, seeking a church community to encourage them in their faith and support our efforts at home. And sometimes newlyweds decide it’s best to not subject one of them to the other’s home church but to find a new one where they can start their life together with a new church family.

If you find yourself in a situation to change churches, here are some tips to do it wisely and enjoy the best outcome. In doing research for my book 52 Churches and subsequent works, my wife and I visited over a hundred churches. In doing so we learn how to visit churches, both the right things to do and the wrong things.

But before you go church shopping, first ask, “Is changing churches necessary?” If the answer is, “Yes,” then take these steps:

Research Options Online

Look online to learn about the church before you visit. When considering church websites and social media pages, be aware that some are more like dating profiles, showing you what they want you to see, obscuring reality, and ignoring faults. Others are more realistic.

Look for what to expect and how to get the most from your experience there. Note their location and service times. Sometimes it’s worth double-checking this information, as more than once a church’s website gave us wrong information. Then schedule a time for your visit.

But what if the church isn’t online? If a church today doesn’t have an online presence, it’s unlikely they’ll be around tomorrow. Save yourself the grief, and skip them.

Pray Before Hand

In visiting fifty-two churches, my wife and I prayed as we drove to each one. And once we finished visiting churches, we continued this practice each Sunday. These prayers often vary, sometimes focused on our own struggles and other times on our desire to learn what God would have us to learn. Often, we pray we’ll have a positive impact on others, and sometimes we ask for an openness to receive what others would give to us. More than once I’ve had to pray for my attitude. But the key is to pray, and let the Holy Spirit guide those prayers. Prayer makes all the difference.

Look for the Positive and Expect Good Things to Happen

If you visit a church looking for what’s negative, you’ll find it. If you seek things to criticize, you’ll uncover plenty. The key is to arrive with God-honoring expectation. Every church has something positive to offer, just as every church has its struggles. No church, just as no person, is perfect. Look for the good and celebrate it.

Arrive Early and Be Prepared to Stay Afterwards

It’s hard to connect with people at church during the service. And even those churches that allow for connection time as part of their service, often fail to do it well. Instead, plan to arrive early so you can interact with people before the service begins. And don’t schedule anything afterward, so you can stay as long as you want without the pressure of time. Sometimes my wife and I would hang out for five or ten minutes after the service and leave because we weren’t able to talk with anyone. But other times we’d be there for an hour or two after the final “Amen,” enjoying rich Christian community. Often this involves food, which is in added benefit.

Finding Christian community is the main reason we should not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), which most people think means going to church. If you can connect with the church community, it makes all the difference.

Adapt to Their Practices

Visiting a church is like visiting someone’s home. You want to respect their practices. This means if you’re a raise-your-hands or jump-up-and-down type of person, but the church isn’t, follow their practice. Don’t stand out in a bad way. This distracts from your experience, as well as their worship. However, if their style is more exuberant than you’re comfortable with; feel free to be yourself.

Look for Ways to Contribute

Whether you’re visiting once, making a follow-up appearance, or attending as a regular, look for ways to give back to the church. This might mean offering encouragement, looking to pray for people (either out loud or silently), or being a positive influence anyway you can. Though my wife and I didn’t contribute monetarily to the churches we visited, you may feel differently. In which case you can also give financially.

Make Repeat Visits

Visiting a church once makes an initial first impression. This may be accurate, but it might not. One church encouraged us to come back twelve times before deciding. Of course, they knew anyone who came back that often, would form a habit and stick around after the three months was over.

I’m not sure if you need to visit twelve times, but certainly more than once is needed. When my wife and I moved, we faced finding a new church home. For those churches that we revisited, our first experience often differed from our second. Sometimes it was better, and other times it was lacking. Regardless, one visit isn’t enough.

Get Involved

As we talked about in “3 Keys to Successful Church Involvement,” it’s important to push aside a passive perspective when visiting a church. This means avoiding notions of consuming, attending, and criticizing—which are all too common at most churches.

Instead the goal is to be engaged on Sunday morning. This requires that we be active, adopting three alternate perspectives: we need to give instead of consume, we need to be active not an attendee, and we must be a disciple and not a critic. This simple change in attitude will alter everything we experience at church. If you find yourself needing to switch churches, follow these tips to get the most from the experience and home in on your new church community. Click To Tweet

If you find yourself needing to switch churches, follow these tips to get the most from the experience and home in on your new church community.

When Not to Change Churches

When We Go Church Shopping We Behave as Consumers and Don’t Honor God

In today’s practice of retail religion, we pursue faith has a consumer and miss the purpose of church. We’re quick to change churches over the smallest of issues. Yet, usually the best action to take is no action: Don’t change churches. Often we should stay where we are and not go church shopping.Don't change churches. Think twice before changing churches.

Yes, there’s a right time and a wrong time to change churches. We need to discern between the two and act accordingly. Here are some reasons not to change churches.

Don’t Change Churches If You’re Angry

Did your church do something to hurt you? Are you angry over something that someone did or said? Though the impulse to change churches is understandable, this is the wrong time to do it. Don’t leave mad because you’ll hurt others in the process. And don’t leave hurt, because you’ll carry baggage to your new church. Instead, seek reconciliation with your church and its people. Then you can switch with a clear conscience, but if you patch things up, why not stick around?

Don’t Change Churches If You’re Not Being Fed

It sounds spiritual to say you’re switching churches because you’re “just not being fed.” This sounds virtuous, but it’s really a sign of laziness. It’s not church’s job to feed us spiritually. This is the wrong expectation. Yes, church aids in spiritual growth, but they shouldn’t be the primary provider of our faith nourishment.

Spiritual growth is our responsibility. We need to feed ourselves and not expect a minister to do our job for us. Changing churches so we can be fed only masks the real problem.

Don’t Change Churches If You’re Not Getting Anything Out of It

In today’s culture, too many people view church participation as a transaction. They put in their time expecting something in return. They donate their money and look for a return on their investment. This, however, reduces church to a commodity that we shop for. This is the epitome of retail religion, and it misses the point.

The truth is, we only get out of church what we put into it. So, if you’re not getting anything out of church, the problem falls on you and not church.

Don’t Change Churches If You Fear Heresy

Another spiritually-sounding complaint about church is heresy. Yet disagreement over theology is why we have 43,000 denominations in our world today and not the one, unified church that Jesus prayed for. When we charge our minister with heresy, the implication is that we know what is correct and they don’t. We need to embrace the possibility that we might be wrong.

Instead, we squabble over things that don’t matter and leave the church. What does matter? Jesus. Everything else is secondary. We need to acknowledge that we can have differences of opinion over matters of faith and still get along.

Don’t Change Churches If You Don’t Like the Music or the Message

Another side effect of retail religion is changing churches because we don’t like the worship service or the sermon. Again, this is consumerism infiltrating church.

All music can praise and worship God. Just because we don’t like the tone or tempo—or volume—it isn’t worth changing churches. Instead, seek to worship God regardless of the musical style or the performers’ ability. Remember, we’re not there as consumers seeking entertainment; we’re there as followers of Jesus to worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24).

The same applies to the message. Yes, some speakers are gifted, and others aren’t; some presenters are entertaining, and others are boring. But every message has something we can learn from it, if we’re willing to listen and look for it.

Don’t Change Churches If You Have No Friends

If your church lacks community or you have no friends there, who’s fault is that? Yes, some people are easier to connect with then others, but that’s no excuse to give up. In fact, the problem might be in us. If we have no friends at church it might be because we’re not approachable or don’t make ourselves available. The best time to make friends at church is before the service starts and after it ends, but too many people miss these opportunities by arriving at the last moment and leaving as soon as possible. If you have no friends at church, seek to change that. There are many reasons to change churches, but most of these are selfish, shortsighted, and reflect a consumer is a mindset that displeases God and serves to divide his church. Click To Tweet

There are many reasons to change churches, but most of these are selfish, shortsighted, and reflect a consumer mindset. This displeases God and serves to divide his church. If you don’t like your church, the better approach is to stick around and be a catalyst for change. Seek to make the church where you’re at become a better one and don’t take your problems someplace else.

3 Keys to Successful Church Involvement

Don’t Go to Church with a Passive Perspective: Be Engaged on Sunday Morning

As a teenager, I often complained to my parents, “but I don’t get anything out of church.” Though they tried to reason with me, and they may have secretly agreed, their attempts to change my perspective didn’t help. What I wish I could’ve told my younger self was, “You only get out of church what you put into it.”You only get out of church what you put into it.

Yes, I could’ve tried harder. I should’ve tried harder. I finally get that.

If we go to church with no expectations, that’s exactly what we’ll receive: nothing. However, if we walk through the doorways of church on Sunday morning with intention and forethought and prayer, we’re much more likely to leave feeling better for our time there.

Here are three tips to change our perspective about church.

Successful Church Involvement Tip 1:
Be a Giver Not a Consumer

When we go to church, we miss the point if our perspective rests solely on what we’ll get from the experience. Instead, we should look at what we can give to others. This may be through our example, through our words, or through our worship.

Too many people go to church as consumers. They expect excellence with the message and the music. And if the delivery disappoints, they’ll take their Sunday morning patronage to another church. They’ll church shop.

This puts a lot of pressure—unwarranted pressure—on the preacher and the musicians. But they aren’t there to entertain us. They’re there to point us to God. But with today’s attitude of retail religion, we too often miss this.

In this discussion about giving, I’m not talking about money. That’s a different discussion for another time. By giving to the church, I mean giving our time, our attention, and our attitudes to make it better.

The church needs more givers and fewer consumers.

Successful Church Involvement Tip 2:
Be a Partner Not an Attendee

When it comes to church, we often use the word attend. As in, “What church do you attend?” But church attendance is a passive activity. We go, we stand when we’re supposed to, and we sit the rest of the time, staring at the back of someone’s head.

If we just attend church, we confirm we’re merely consumers of it.

Instead we should go as partners, looking for ways we can take part and contribute. Granted, the modern church service offers little in the way of participation opportunities, but we can find ways to contribute to the experience nonetheless. The three key times are before the service begins, after it ends, and as part of the mid-service greeting, if the church has one.

These provide opportunities to engage with others: to participate, to encourage, and to make a difference. In this way, we share in the process and influence what occurs. By being at church as a partner of it, we adopt an ownership attitude. And benevolent owners behave much differently than passive attendees looking for entertainment.

The church needs more partners and fewer attendees.

Successful Church Involvement Tip 3:
Be a Disciple Not a Critic

Consumers and attendees feel they have a right to complain when their “needs” aren’t being met. Conversely, those who attempt to engage in the process and be a partner with the church, sometimes also feel they’ve earned the right to offer “constructive criticism.”

However, this feedback isn’t only misdirected, it’s also mean and selfish. A better alternative is acceptance. As disciples, we try to accept—and learn from—the things we don’t understand, don’t like, and cause us confusion. In a way, this is the foundation of what it is to be a disciple. Disciples seek to learn and embrace a more enlightened perspective.

The church needs more disciples and fewer critics. At church, we must push aside notions of consuming, attending, and criticizing. Click To Tweet

For successful church involvement, we must push aside notions of consuming, attending, and criticizing. That accomplishes nothing and diminishes what the church can be, what the church should be. When we go to church as givers, partners, and disciples, we will change everything.

Why Do We Listen to a Sermon at Church Each Sunday?

The Bible offers little support for a minister to preach a sermon to us at church

Many changes occurred in church practices because of the Protestant Reformation some 500 years ago. One of those changes adjusted the emphasis of the Sunday service. The reformers had concern over the focus of Sunday gatherings being on the altar and the celebration of the Eucharist. They intentionally shifted the focus away from that and to the sermon. I understand why they did it, but I think they were wrong.Why Do We Listen to a Sermon at Church Each Sunday?

When Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19, NIV), he provided the basis for us to celebrate communion. This gives biblical support for us to periodically observe the Lord’s Supper as part of our gatherings, be it on Sundays or at other times.

However, I don’t see any biblical command to have a paid minister preach a sermon to a local congregation each Sunday. In fact, I see little biblical support for this. Here’s what I do see in the Bible:

Preach to Those Outside the Church: Jesus told his followers to go around and tell others about him. He said to “preach the Gospel” (Mark 16:15, NIV). Here’s a direct command from Jesus to preach, but the setting isn’t inside the church walls, it’s outside the confines of the church, in the real world. Although this gives a command to preach, we miss the point. The teaching Jesus talks about isn’t to those who are already on his team, it’s to those who aren’t.

Teach New Converts: In Acts we see the apostles holding regular classes to teach about what it means to follow Jesus (Acts 2:42). Since back then almost everyone was new to the faith, think of this as a new members class. Note that this is an example of what the church did, not a command to do it. This teaching is optional, but if we do it the focus is likely on new converts.

Give Updates: Another example in the New Testament of people speaking to local congregations is when traveling missionaries or church delegations visited local churches. They spoke to the people to update them on what was happening elsewhere and to share stories of God at work. The purpose of these talks seems to be to offer status reports and provide encouragement. Again we see this as an example of what the early church did, but there’s no command for us to do likewise.

In these three scenarios we see people speaking either in the church or outside it. But nowhere do we see a command for clergy to preach to a local congregation in church each Sunday. So why, then, do we have a weekly sermon?The people in the church should minister to one another, not have paid clergy preach them a sermon. Click To Tweet

What should we do differently?

Paul answers this in his letter to the church in Corinth. He says when we gather together each person should be ready to share a song, teaching, revelation, tongue, or interpretation. The purpose of this is to build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:26).

Paul’s instruction, his command, is that the people in the church should minister to one another, not have paid clergy preach them a sermon. With such little biblical support to have a professional minister deliver a sermon on Sunday mornings, maybe it’s time for us to abandon the practice. Instead let us begin ministering to one another as the Bible instructs.

Are You a Sunday Morning Spectator or Performer?

Church services have become an event, with consumers who come to watch a show

Are You a Sunday Morning Spectator or Performer?Today’s churches contain two types of people. And each of us fits in one category or the other. We are either performers or spectators.

If this seems callous, consider that we live in an entertainment-centered society. We watch TV, go to movies, and attend performances. We go to the game, attend a concert, and watch videos online.

What do these have in common? Each example has performers to entertain us in one way or the other. The masses are spectators, mere consumers of the event. Though we may participate in a way, our involvement is limited to clapping, cheering, or fist-bumping the spectator next to us.

Church is no different. We are spectators there for entertainment, be it emotionally or intellectually, by the performers. The masses consume the church service. Yes, we may sing along with a couple songs (though many people stand mute during the singing), mumble out a heartfelt “amen” upon occasion, or shake hands with our seatmate during the compulsory greeting time. But the service structure restricts our involvement.

We’re there for the sermon, that is, the lecture, and for the worship set, that is, the concert. And when it’s over we often critique the performance.

Performers: The performers at a church service are the people who stand in front of us, often on a stage. The elevation allows the spectators a better view.

The star of the show is the minister, who gives the lecture and may also serve as the event’s MC. The opening act is the worship team, consisting of singers and musicians.

If this description offends you, consider that most churches don’t select a senior minister or teaching pastor until after they have auditioned and delivered a stirring oratory. People with spiritual insight but no speaking ability have no place in the modern church. And usually the worship team members must try out before they can sing or play. People with musical passion but not enough skill are turned away and relegated to spectator status.

Yes, we expect our performers to excel in presentation, and if they falter, they are replaced. After all, we don’t want a lack of excellence to mar the performance and drive away the spectators who have a plethora of other Sunday morning performances to select from. Remember, we live in a consumeristic society.

Spectators: The majority of people at church services are spectators. We sit and passively watch the performance. Though we can view the elevated stage to witness the event, we may best see the back of the head of the person sitting in front of us.

We come. We watch. We leave.

Maybe we leave happy over a satisfactory performance, but maybe we leave unfulfilled, as empty as when we arrived. We wanted community but got a show.

We are church service spectators, watching a performance and consuming carefully presented spiritual content. At best we experience an event that may sustain us until we repeat it next week.We are church service spectators, watching a performance and consuming spiritual content. Click To Tweet

Instead Participate: The solution is to break down the wall between performer and spectator. Church shouldn’t focus on providing a performance but on offering community by letting everyone participate equally in the service.

We should all be able to share with others during our church services. Or at least have the opportunity to share. Paul tells us how. “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation,” (1 Corinthians 14:26, NIV).

When we start doing this in our church services, we will eliminate both the performers and the spectators, turning us all into full-fledged participants. Then we will build a true community of Jesus followers.

It will change everything.

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3 Ways to Worship God

Worship means different things to different people, but what’s important is that we do it

3 Ways to Worship GodSome churches call their Sunday meeting a worship service. This has always troubled me. Yes, I knew that singing to God was a form of worship, or at least it should be. And I understood the part about “worshiping God with our tithes and offerings,” even though I didn’t see God getting too much of what we dropped into the offering plate. But the sermon?

How could listening to a lecture, often a boring one, be a form of worshiping God? In truth, aside from a few songs and the collection, the bulk of most church services are either education or entertainment. Is that worship? I don’t think so. I hope not.

Here are three ways we can worship God. (And like a good three-point sermon, they all begin with the same letter.)

Singing: As I said, singing to God is a way to worship him. More broadly, music is a path to worship. That means we can sing or listen to music. Music can also involve movement, rather it be clapping our hands, raising our arms in praise, or dance (from rhythmic swaying to getting down like David, 2 Samuel 6:14).

Yes, singing can have a physical component. It can also involve senses. Sight: seeing others sing and dance (or watching a light show). Hearing: listening to those around us sing and hearing the instruments. Smell: incense or a smoke machine. Touch: holding hands with fellow worshipers as we sing. Taste: singing while we take communion. (For the record, I’ve experienced each of these sensory elements in worship at various church services, though not often.)

Unfortunately, I’m musically and rhythmically challenged, so I struggle to worship God through music and movement. But give me a strong beat with catchy lyrics behind it, and I can engage in song as a means of worship.

Serving: Helping others, both with our time and through our money, is a tangible form of worship. I enjoy the action of doing something for others, offering it as an act of service to them and as a form of worship to God.

Similarly I like being able to give money to causes I’m passionate about or to people in need as the Holy Spirit directs me. Both are ways to serve and both offer a path for worship. I relish the opportunity to worship God through these forms of service. Psalm 46:10 says to “be still and know that I am God.” This is a form of worship. Click To Tweet

Silence: In our multitasking, always-on society, the hush of stillness is an anachronism to most, one that causes many people to squirm. Few people can tolerate silence for more than a few seconds.

Yet in our silence—along with its partner, solitude—we can quiet our racing minds and still our thumping hearts in order to connect with God. Psalm 46:10 says to “be still and know that I am God.” Yet, setting time aside to be still presents challenges. For most of us, meeting with God in silence doesn’t just happen; we must be intentional.

In my times of silence I connect more fully with God in worship, get deeper glimpses into his heart, and am best able to hear his gentle words of encouragement, correction, and mostly love. So good!

Just as I make it my practice to attend church, I have a parallel practice of giving to my community each week. I also (usually) block out one day out of seven to fast, and part of that time includes worshiping God through silence. All three are forms of worship, though for me, helping others is more practical and resting in God’s presence is more meaningful.

God has uniquely made us and gives us different ways to worship him. When it comes to worship, one size does not fit all. Find the one that fits you.

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Church Community is Key: Seek Connection At All Costs

If the church service you attend doesn’t provide meaningful connection, then you need to fix it or find a different church

Church Community is Key: Seek Connection At All CostsDespite being the most connected generation, Millennials are also reportedly the loneliest. It seems their massive number of online friends and followers offer them only superficial relationships that lack meaningful interaction. They crave connections with others that touches them at a significant level, but social media falls short in accomplishing this deep heartfelt need.

That’s why “hanging out with friends” seems to be their favorite, most desired activity.

I think that’s what church is all about. Or at least that’s what it should be all about.

The early church spent time together. We need to reclaim this, not just for the Millennials, but for our own wellbeing, too.

But hanging out doesn’t mean passive pew sitting, staring at the back of people’s heads for an hour. True community can’t occur when listening to the Sunday lecture that we call a sermon. Meaningful connection with each other doesn’t happen during the concert-like atmosphere we label as worship, where a couple of skilled musicians attempt to lead a largely unresponsive throng in singing. And don’t get me started on the disingenuous greeting time wedged into the middle of a service: it is too long for the socially challenged and too short for meaningful interaction.Meaningful church community doesn’t take place during the service; it occurs after the amen. Click To Tweet

This opportunity for true, meaningful community does not take place during the church service; it occurs after the benediction. When the final “amen” is uttered the clock-watchers flee, and a few people hang out to talk. Every church has a few of these folks. Though they may be the social butterflies, they may also be the ones who understand why we are supposed to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25). They seek profound community.

Although this time of hanging out could reside on the surface, talking about safe (and meaningless) topics, such as the weather, the game, or the Sunday dinner menu, the wise people focus on discussions that matter. We listen to each other on the heart level. We minister to and serve one another, we pray and are prayed for, and we encourage and are encouraged. When we do this, we prepare ourselves and our church community for the week ahead so that we can go out into our greater community and be Jesus to them.

True church community is the key to make this happen. Don’t let the official church service get in the way.

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Sunday is a Great Day For Some Recreation

Having a regular Sabbath provides an opportunity to rest and recharge

Sunday is a Great Day For Some RecreationThe dictionary defines recreation as a time of refreshment for our mind or body through the use of an activity that amuses or stimulates; an activity that provides refreshment. More simply, recreation is to play. After working hard for the workweek, people seek recreation on the weekend, and with Saturday often packed with more work, that leaves Sunday as the only day left for recreation. Many people pack Sunday full of recreation, so much that they return to work on Monday exhausted. Doesn’t that defeat the goal of recreation?

Or consider recreation another way. Synonyms for recreation include regeneration, rebirth, restoration, and leisure. Does that provide a bit more insight into what our Sunday recreation might look like?

What if we insert a hyphen into the word to get re-creation? Then we can see our Sundays as a day to re-create ourselves. We do this by resting, refocusing, and recharging.

Yet none of these things happen when I go to church on Sunday. In fact, I view my chance for much needed Sunday recreation as what happens after I go to church. I delay my weekly recreation until after I fulfill my weekly obligation to attend a worship service. Thankfully our practices have changed from two Sunday services down to one, leaving only one requirement to interrupt my recreation.God gave us Sunday to benefit us, not to shackle us. Click To Tweet

I can envision Jesus shaking his head in dismay, wondering if I’ve forgotten his words: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” Mark 2:27, NIV.

Indeed I have forgotten, or at least I need frequent reminders.

We need to stop pursuing our Sunday church attendance with legalistic furor and start re-envisioning our worship services as a time of holy recreation. God does not expect us to serve the Sabbath but for the Sabbath to serve us.

Now we just need to figure out how to do that.

May today be a day of holy recreation for you.

Do you think Sunday is a time for holy recreation? How can you change your Sunday so that it better fits Jesus’s teaching?

Do We Need to Listen to a Lecture Each Sunday at Church?

Can you have a church service without hearing a preacher speak? Will you try?

Do We Need to Listen to a Lecture Each Sunday at Church?My wife and I recently visited a church. Though we didn’t know it before we walked in, their service would be different that week. There was no sermon. They used the normal sermon time to talk about the missionaries their church supported. They explained each missionary’s focus and updated us on their status. They shared the joys and concerns of their missionaries. People on the mission’s committee prayed. Then the service ended. The lead pastor didn’t say a word.

Several people apologized for there being no sermon and invited us back to hear their minister speak.

I shook my head. “Don’t apologize. This was better than a sermon.”

But they didn’t get it.

From my perspective it was a profound, meaningful service. We need more like this.

As I understand it, the Reformation removed the communion table (The Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Eucharist) as the focus of the Sunday service and replaced it with the sermon. I get why they did it, but it was a mistake – a grave one.

Frankly I see more biblical support for celebrating communion every Sunday than I do for giving a lecture (that is, delivering a sermon) as part of our Sunday meetings. Though the New Testament does talk about giving messages to local congregations, I think it is always a traveling missionary who speaks on his way through town. I don’t recall an instance in the New Testament where a local pastor (an elder) gives a talk every Sunday. And I can’t remember any commands to preach a sermon to the believers during each weekly meeting.Most people expect to listen to a sermon each Sunday as they sit in their pew. They are wrong. Click To Tweet

Yet we view sermons today with the conviction that it must happen. We select ministers for their public speaking ability. And we expect to listen to a lecture each Sunday as we sit passively in our pews. Most people feel cheated if they go to church and don’t hear a sermon. (Never mind that few can remember it by the time they reach home.)

This fixation on the sermon is wrong.

Though instruction has its place, teaching doesn’t facilitate community. It doesn’t allow us to minister to one another (as we should), and it doesn’t serve the world around us (as we ought). While listening to an overly educated person detail the minutia of scripture every week may have intellectual appeal, it does little in a practical sense to deepen our community and advance our faith in action.

Let us dare to envision a church service without a sermon. Let us reimagine our weekly gatherings as a place to foster spiritual community and promote the love of Jesus to those outside the church.

It starts when we kill the sermon. Will you dare to do it?

How would you react if you went to church and there was no sermon? Can you think of a New Testament passage that talks about a local minister preaching a sermon every week?