Why don’t we cancel church services?
As I slowly passed the third car I’d seen spun out on the highway, I started to contemplate why we’d gone ahead with our Sunday service in the first place. Yesterday we had a snow storm in Denver. When I drove to the church at 7:30 it wasn’t too bad, but by the time I headed home it was. Very few churches cancelled their Sunday morning activities despite the dangerous weather. So what is it about Sunday morning that would lead the vast majority of leaders and pastors in Denver to invite people to risk driving to church (and more personally, why did I)?
Possibility #1: Validate Our Jobs
People joke that pastors work one day a week. If that’s true for any pastors they should be fired, but it is the day we are visible to the most people. We put a lot of emphasis on running a service and especially on preaching. This is one of the main things people expect from a pastor (or at least a lead or solo pastor). Is encouraging people to risk blizzard conditions a way of validating the importance of our jobs?
Possibility #2: Obligation
Pretty much the same as the first one without the focus on the pastor. At least in many churches Sunday morning is far and away the primary way people engage the church. Pastors are supposed to provide that “service”. So come hell or high water (or blizzards) this is an obligation to be fulfilled.
Possibility #3: Money
While I don’t like any of the possibilities I’ve mentioned so far, I like this one the least. Many churches rely on the Sunday morning offering for their income. You take a week off, you lose some of that income.
Possibility #4: Vanity
Could we as pastors believe our preaching (or the worship leader’s singing or the children’s ministry or whatever) is so good that people need to hear from us as opposed to the myriad preachers and teachers available on videos and podcasts?
Possibility #5: Belief in Corporate Worship
Two men, Mark Hallock and Zac Hicks, have challenged me in regard to the importance of corporate worship. I wrote a post a little while back about the three things churches tend to lead with–worship, mission, and discipleship. While most (or hopefully all) churches validate the importance of all three, churches usually lead with one believing it will lead to the other two. In the best case scenario there are leaders in our churches with a bent toward each so the church can stay in balance.
I admit that my bent is toward discipleship, followed by mission, and worship is last. I have had times when I’ve wondered if worship (especially corporate worship) was really important or not. But Mark and Zac have helped me explore both the theological and practical importance of corporate worship. This is a time that is very important to communities of faith. Over time the liturgy (practices, not necessarily high church practices) shapes the thinking and desire of the congregation. It is an opportunity to connect with others for encouragement and friendship. It is a part of our eternal calling (worshipping God together).
I remember reading in the book Radical about people who risk harassment, imprisonment, and even death to meet together for study and worship. We take the privilege for granted because it’s a given in our culture. When you take your belief in the importance and power of the corporate times on Sunday morning (or whenever you meet) seriously enough, driving in a snowstorm is a worthwhile risk to take.
Possibility #6: Faithfulness
People need things in life they can count on. Sunday morning (or again, whenever you meet) is a set time people can count on to reconnect, worship, and learn. The decision not to cancel could be driven by the desire to be faithful to those who are driven to have this time.
The Right Reasons
I hope we are driven by some combination of the last two reasons. Any other possibilities come to mind?