There are many today who feel like the Sunday morning service has been overemphasized to the degree that the “show” each week has become what “church” means, as opposed to an actual vision of a transformed life of worship, fellowship and service together. There are many in my generation who have given up the whole Sunday thing completely in favor of smaller gatherings of groups who study and pray and serve together throughout the week. There are many in my generation who are seeking to move away from the church-shopping, consumer mindset that has fed the competition for who can have the biggest “show” in town and embrace smaller, less produced, more local expressions of being a faith community together.
As a worship pastor, my husband has very strong feelings about how we talk about Sunday morning. For someone who invests so much time and thought and prayer into the service, he is the least “production” or “show” minded minister I think I have ever met! One of the many reasons I have to love him 🙂
Sometimes the issue comes up in our church regarding people’s attendance on Sunday morning. There are of course those of us who make up the very committed core, but there are a number of folks who, while participating in a number of other aspects of church life, fail to show up on Sunday for a host of reasons. This really bothers some people. Others, like my husband, hold more loosely to the Sunday priority (in contrast to those in our church who feel that, if you are not there on Sunday, then you are not a part of our church).
One of our membership covenants, however, is regular participation in our weekly worship service, and as the person who teaches those classes and counsels people regarding our covenant, I have my reasons for why it is important. My biggest reason is that I believe God delights in the offering of corporate worship through singing and prayer and silence and giving and testimony, etc. But there are other reasons as well: if “doing church” happens primarily in my day-to-day relational context of sharing life with others (hanging out, eating meals, talking and praying), my “church” will most likely be those people I enjoy and feel the closest affinity toward. My “church” will not likely include the people in our body who annoy me, who disagree with me, who don’t speak my language, etc.
But when I come on Sunday to gather with the people of God, I don’t get the privilege of choosing who my brothers and sisters will be. When I come on Sunday I am required to participate in things that are not about my preference and my choice, and I am asked to join with all who are gathered in what becomes our shared experience of life with God. And it is in that place where the body so powerfully witnesses to the new life we receive from the Spirit. These are some of the same reasons why I am such an advocate for parish ministry: when geography not affinity dictates who sits in the chair next to you.
So when my friends defend their right to not show up on Sunday mornings, and tell me that their “church” is this or that group of people within our community, I will gently disagree and invite them to consider what God might want to do in them and through them for the sake of the whole body.