Sunday, October 03, 2010

Two views of the church

The first one comes from champion of tradition Kevin DeYoung. He is irate about local gatherings of the church who cancel Sunday "worship services" to go serve their neighbors. His post, Should Churches Trade in Services for Serving?, starts out with...

It’s become popular in recent years for churches to skip the worship service periodically (once a year? a quarter? once a month?) in order to serve their communities. “No church this morning, we’re picking up trash in the park.” Is this thoughtful cultural engagement or another example of good intentions gone astray?

Well, you can probably guess I’m more apt to say the latter, but let’s not assume the worst about these churches. Let’s assume the people love Christ and love to worship him. Let’s assume they value preaching and believe the chief end of man is to glorify God. Let’s assume the sole motivation behind churchless Sundays is outreach. No one is trying to be trendy. No one is hating on the church. They simply want to help their communities, show they care, and maybe even have an opportunity to talk about Jesus. Assuming these are gospel-believing Christians trying to do gospel work, what’s the big deal about taking four (or two or twelve or whatever) Sundays out of the year to hit the streets and do something for others?

Awfully nice to presume that they probably actually love Jesus and are not superficial., "church haters" (because everyone who questions the traditional church "hates" the church). Then he gives five reasons you shouldn't cancel your Sunday services including:

4. Consider what it may communicate when you replace services with serving. It sounds like a good idea: let’s do something for the community instead of going to church for ourselves. But ultimately we worship because God summons us to worship. It is for ourselves (see below), but it is also for God. He commands it. So why cancel it instead of something else? But why not do the soup kitchen on Saturday or pump people’s gas on Friday night? I suppose it’s possible you can have some meaningful conversations explaining why you are a Christian and not in church. But it also seems quite likely that churches replace Sunday services with Sunday serving because that’s the time they are already meeting. It’s the best time to get most of your people doing something and it doesn’t require any more time out of their week. Except for doctors, police officers and the like serving in their professions, are there really service projects the church has to do on Sunday morning?

Absolutely! I mean, what will non-church going people think? They expect churches to be in church buildings on Sunday morning. If I want to hear what they have to say, I can go to them and if I want to avoid them I can not show up. I know where the Christians are on Sunday, in the church buildings and not out causing trouble where I might run into them. Service can wait because we need to worship and of course you can only worship on Sunday morning and in the church building led by the clergy. After all God commands right in the Bible that we should worship Him on Sunday morning and do so in a building labeled "church". If we are "closed" on Sunday what will the unbelievers think?!

Well, they might that you are more concerned with serving the people of East Lansing than you are providing a comfortable place for Christians to come to so they can engage in religious rituals. They might be more prone to talk to someone in jeans helping their neighbor about Jesus than if they have to come to us, on our turf and on our terms, to hear a lecture about Jesus observed by a room of mute observers.

On the other hand, there is another church group doing something a little different...

FAYETTEVILLE, GA -- A church in Fayetteville is closing its doors but not its hearts. Rolling Hills Baptist Church is challenging traditional ideas and selling the church and using the money to help people.

It took about a year for the church to find a buyer. On Monday, they closed on a sale to a Peachtree City church. It is now time for Senior Pastor Frank Mercer and more than 100 parishioners to fly free of the four walls that have surrounded their congregation for more than 20-years. "We feel free, free to do what god commands us to do," Pastor Mercer said about the sale.

The church has a new mission. Instead of investing in the property that consumed most of their budget, they will use the more than $1-million dollars from the sale to invest in people who have needs. "It's just a way of looking at this property differently," Pastor Mercer said. "We saw it as an asset we could liquidate and turn around and use that resource to meet the needs of people."

In October of 2008, the church decided to sell the building and the 20-acres it sits on. Pastor Mercer said the church was too much of a burden on his cash-strapped church members.

The congregation will celebrate its last service this Sunday at the church on Redwine Road in Fayetteville. The next Sunday the congregation will begin to meet at the Tinseltown Movie Theater on Pavilion Parkway in Fayetteville. Pastor Mercer said the cost of renting the theater is about a third of the cost to operate the current church.

So this group, Rolling Rock Baptist Church, decided that having an expensive building to meet in was less important than acts of mercy to people in need. I don't know much more about them, their webpage sounds in many ways like a traditional Baptist church, just without the tether of a church building to keep the Christians contained and restrained by a crippling budget. If every church sold their building and cut their operating expenses by two thirds, how many orphans could they help couples adopt? How many foster kids could be helped? How many widows?

So which is more in line with the Biblical vision of the church? Complaining about local churches who spend a couple of Sunday's a year serving lost people where they are and taking the Gospel to them or selling an expensive building and using a cheaper alternative so you have more money to help people in need? I think you know the answer to that question.

(HT on the second: Alan Knox )


Anonymous said...

To the first article, I say: Oh, barf. To the second, I say rock on!

Debbie said...

I only read your quotes, so I don't know everything the first guy said. We read it totally differently, though. I see him asking why a church service has to be cancelled to do community service, wondering if it's because the people involved aren't willing to give God a Saturday afternoon or another block of time out of their schedules. On that issue, I agree with him. Far too many in the church body have "church" so compartmentalized that Sunday morning is the only time they even think of reserving for God.

Bobby said...

Good doctrine tells us that service isn't worship unless it is predetermined by the clergy and forordained by the order of worship as clearly spelled out in the pages of the bulletin. (end of sarcasm) It is sad to see some so tied to traditions that they ignore the word of God and so encouraging to see others leave the bondage of tradition in order to obey it. Good contrast!

Steve Scott said...

I think DeYoung's presupposition is that mere "church attendance" is a sacrament. And, just like the Pharisees pointed out, Jesus could have just as well healed people on any other day of the week besides the Sabbath.