Is the Gospel for Sunday Morning? Or for the Church?Friday, March 19, 2010
One of the most confusing things about our culture, I'm finding, is that when it comes to "church-planting" pretty much everything I read seems to make the "church" about Sunday morning. For some reason, "church" is directly and inseparably connected to Sunday morning. This has made Sunday morning the "show", so to speak. We offer our children's ministries, Sunday Schools, Bible studies, classes, along with a gifted praise and worship band and/or choir, accessorized with greeters, materials, flashy powerpoints...the works! Oh yeah!
And there's the sermon...that 30-60 minute message that's supposed to change people's lives...that very day...and last forever! So I'm pausing for a moment this morning to reflect on this phenomenon briefly, one which is my "default" mode as a church-planter for the very first time.
Is the gospel for Sunday morning? Or is it for the church? As a church-planter, am I building a church? Or am I building Sunday mornings?
1. When the church becomes synonymous with Sunday morning, the gospel - the good news of Jesus' life, ministry, death, and resurrection for us - turns into getting people to either come and hear our preacher tell them about the gospel, or into us telling them about Jesus and associating Jesus with Sunday morning. So the average unbeliever has come to make a parallel between the gospel and Sunday morning.
But that's not what the gospel is for. The gospel is good news meant to be shared with all people everywhere, on every day of the week, at every time of the day. It's a message for all people at all times. And it doesn't stop at being a message. It's actually a way of life. The good news simply initiates us into the life of the good news, where everything we do, every decision we make, every dollar we spend, every where we go is all about spreading that good news. So if the good news is synonymous with Sunday morning, then people can only "get saved" on Sundays, I guess.
2. When the church becomes synonymous with Sunday morning, fellowship - a.k.a. koinonia, the voluntary entering into another person's suffering or situation in order to share it with them and share in Christ's ministry to them with them - turns into hanging out, getting together, catching up, sitting together, standing together, singing together, listening together, and just...being together.
But that's not fellowship. I grew up where fellowship was centered on the Friday Night Fried Fish and Fries Fellowship. It was getting together, cooking out, eating together, talking about nothing terribly important, and then going home. There was zero entering into each others' lives. But this was what the early church devoted itself to...everyday...according to Acts 2:42 and following. So if fellowship is synonymous with Sunday morning, then the only day of the week we can really help each other and share each others' burdens is...on Sunday morning.
3. When the church becomes synonymous with Sunday morning, praise and worship turns into a once-a-week encounter and experience with God. No wonder so many Christians are so weak, tired, and defeated all the time. They have come to see praise and worship of God not as a private matter they engage in everyday, but as a once-a-week opportunity to refuel their tanks before heading back into a life of frustration, only to hit bottom by Thursday morning.
But that's not praise and worship. These things are the lifestyle of the Christian. They are the fuel for the believer everyday, not just Sunday. When the Spirit fills them they are singing and making melody in their hearts every day! Worship becomes the constant state of the heart, looking and yielding to God in humble submission, thanking God and praising God for who He is, more than what we want Him to do for us. So if fellowship is synonymous with Sunday morning, then the only day of the week we can really count on that experience and encounter with the God of the universe is...Sunday morning.
4. When church becomes synonymous with Sunday morning, prayer becomes something we do once-a-week, because it's in the church bulletin...unless, of course, you come on Wednesday night when we spend an entire additional hour in prayer. So prayer shifts from a personal encounter with the Lord to primarily being a corporate encounter where we're just asking God to do stuff for us. Because we don't spend time worshiping Him in private each day, we've got to just get down to the nitty-gritty of prayer and start petitioning God for the things we need...money, healing, protection, and more money, more healing, and more protection...and oh yeah, traveling mercies, and the occasional unspoken prayer request (whatever those are).
By contrast, when the church is about a lifestyle of prayer and praise and worship, we are already doing these things ourselves during the week, so that when we do get together, we can praise God for Who He is, and what He's done for us in Christ, and then if we have time left over, praising Him and praying to Him for the other things we need. The primary concern here is that when Jesus Christ is preached, we have the promise of Romans 8:32 that we will get everything else we need also. So let's spend time praying to Him to worship Him, and then spend time asking Him for stuff. It's interesting to note that in the entire "Lord's Prayer" which is actually the disciples' prayer (cause they're the ones who asked God to teach 'em how to pray), there's only one line asking God for food, and another asking for protection from the Devil. The rest of it is all about worshiping and thanking God for being Who He is.
Sunday morning is just ONE day of the week in which we come together to fellowship, praise and worship God, pray, and hear the good news. It is a spark plug which ignites the gasoline or petrol we've been filling ourselves with every other day of the week in our own personal times of fellowshiping with others, praying with others, praying by ourselves, worshiping God with others, worshiping God by ourselves, preaching the gospel to ourselves, and preaching the gospel to others, etc.
It's really no special than any other day of the week, in terms of the actual day. Heck, we could all meet on Fridays and God wouldn't care necessarily. Sunday is not the only day of the week God can meet with us or do stuff with us or for us, contrary to what we practice. The CHURCH is about every day of the week, because it's about everybody in our local church family, and because it's about the poor and needy in our communities, and because it's about the gospel infiltrating and absorbing everything in our lives and cities. May God deliver us from this silly notion and practice of making Sunday morning synonymous with the gospel of Jesus which was given to us to change us every single day, and not just Sundays.