A friend visited the large, famous church on a typical Sunday. The worship band performed with precision. The lighting and fog effects were state of the art. The pastor presented a polished sermon amidst specially built staging.
Later in the week a pastor from this church shared their ministry secrets in a seminar. He described the staff’s single-minded emphasis on excellence—for the Sunday worship services. He shared their internal mantra: “It’s about Sunday, stupid.”
I get the point. For many churches, the Sunday service is the initial introduction for the uninitiated. It’s the main conduit for new members. It’s the only time most churches ever see the majority of their people. It’s the culmination of a week (or more) of staff planning and rehearsing.
I get it. But I fear this laser focus on the Sunday service is slowly anesthetizing the church and clouding its real mission. It’s no wonder that many people come to worship for an hour on Sunday and then fail to live their faith once they leave the church building.
I’m afraid it’s too easy for an It’s-About-Sunday-Stupid (I-ASS for short) church staff to begin to shade its mission toward merely filling seats on Sunday morning. That’s not the same as a clear mission to bring individuals closer to Jesus, to transform their lives, to provide relational support for the Body of Christ.
Instead, the I-ASS mentality can send the unfortunate, subtle message that the ministry is really all about the show—and its showmen.
I pray the church is not about the show. I pray it’s not about Sunday. It’s about God—working in and through people—Sunday through Saturday. Everywhere.
We numb our people’s sense of mission and ministry when we imply it’s all about what the staff performs on Sunday morning. The weekly worship service is not the main event. It may be a reflection and a celebration of the main event, which is God at work every day in and through his people. On the job. At home. At school. In the car. On the bus. At the store. On the field.
We need to expand our idea of church, of ministry. We need to shift more energy and emphasis into other, broader ways to be faithful to our calling–as the church.
Church is not an hour on Sunday. Faith is not a staged show. Evangelism isn’t the act of parking backsides in pews. Discipleship isn’t the process of dispensing oratory to passive spectators.
We don’t “go to church.” We are called to be the church. Every day. Everywhere.
Sadly some have turned the alter of God into a stage…leaving the main Character (Jesus) as a side piece.
American’s like entertainment, but when we water down the word of God and put on a “show” we are not doing them any favors. Instead we are making it HARDER to reach them because they will crave more and more and more entertainment to stay hooked to going to church.
This will cause more burn out in the ministry staff as well as leave a world hungry for the word of God and leave a void in disciple making.
sorry for the rant- this topic is important to me.
Amen. While we should all do everything we can to make Sundays engaging, inviting, convicting, and empowering (not to mention fun, exciting, etc.), all of those are means to an end. Jesus did not call us to work in offices all week to prepare to perform on Sundays. He sent us into all the world to make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that He commanded–and He promised that He would be with us always, not just “felt” on Sundays.
It would be interesting to hear a rebuttal from the pastor of the “large, famous church.” I’d bet 20 bucks that he/she would list the many and varied ways that the large, famous church brings “individuals closer to Jesus, to transform their lives, to provide relational support for the Body of Christ.” The pastor would tell about the large, famous church’s outreach, small-group discipleship, youth ministry, children’s ministry, men’s ministry, women’s ministry, etc. etc., etc. (They would also be quick to point out that they create their own “awesome” or “cool” VBS, Sunday school curricula, youth ministry resources, and worship materials.)
“Large, famous churches” become large and famous based in large measure on gifted orators (aka preachers) who delegate children’s ministry, youth ministry, church administration, discipleship, and evangelism to other staff gifted in those areas.
My hunch is that the pastor was using “it’s about Sunday, stupid” as hyperbole to get sleepy workshop attendees to wake up and listen. Apparently, it worked.
I agree with you, Lee. Having been on staff at a large, famous church, I know this to be the case. I’ve witnessed 120 baptisms on one weekend, seen hundreds of kids come to Christ, been a part of addicted people finding freedom and seen huge trucks loaded with food and coats for “the least of these.”
I think somebody took one statement, pulled it out of the context of the whole, and used it in a simple manner. If only life were so simple….
WoW….you hit it right on…as always. “Polish” just becomes messy in the end….and usually lacking joy. If we – the church – can not just be real before the Lord and others on Sunday a.m……it’s all plastic. And who wants plastic more than honesty, love and joy due to having been doing the Lord’s work all week. Let’s celebrate, enlighten and encourage rather than enlist via performance. Our lives should show others who we are all week and should be the magnet for the world……….
Never thought I’d hear you say “I-ASS,” but I love it! One metric to evaluate this mentality is to look at how much of the church’s budget/resources are dedicated to the Sunday morning worship experience.
Might be sobering.
Having worked at a large church, I would say that while there were many life-changing programs and the emphasis wasn’t solely on Sunday, there was definitely an element of performance and polish to the Sunday service. Everything was timed down to the minute and there was even a pastor who was banned from praying during service because he’d gone over his time before. Yet it was when things *didn’t* go perfectly that people wrote in, praising the authenticity. When the pastor told a personal story that had him speechless for a full minute as he fought back tears. Real tears, not showy emotion. When a light broke and glass fell in the pews, and the worship leader stopped mid-song to make sure everyone was OK. These moments when we take the time to express care even if it messes up the “professionalism” of our performance our our down-to-the-minute timing – these are what show people the love of Christ transcends our plans.
Thanks Boss!!! I couldn’t agree more> I-ASS a lot as well. Thanks for some great articulation to a problem the I do feel the Holy Spirit is stirring to reform in many peoples lives.
I very much agree with this, and I actually think God is changing the paradigm of the Church. The truth is, the Church that’s alive is getting this essential idea, while others are either led to believe the superficial look of a Sunday service is what it’s all about–you expressed.
You may like the article I wrote a couple days ago in reflection of a mission trip recently made, called “Start with a Shovel”.
Thom always makes me think…and laugh. Blackaby covered this in a little more detail his book Spiritual Leadership in the chapter on “professionalism,” but his acronyms were not as good as Thom’s. I must say though, the large famous church did not get large and famous by not reaching people.
We don’t “go to church.” We are called to be the church. Every day. Everywhere……
I so believe this is true. I wish this is preached more often from the pulpit , and people are helped to understand and exercise this through the week, and on the seventh day —- rest.
Having worked on a church staff for a decade, I know all too well the behind the scenes conversations about “getting it right on Sunday” to do two things, the first is to bring credibility to the church, that often is mocked for not being relevant in society today. This can include things like glitches in the sound system, musicians who are unprepared and disorganized and poor communication processes behind the scenes. There is a lot of preparation that needs to happen to avoid these kinds of discrediting situations. How often do you see a typo in a church bulletin?
The second is to provide church members an encounter with God. I don’t think this is a bad approach IF there is a good process to “close the nets” and disciple those who partake in church on Sunday morning. At the end of the day it is about the “church” and all of us doing the work of the ministry which is spreading the good news but closing the net and developing disciples is equally, if not more important as the great “church” experience on Sunday.
Thanks for making me laugh. For once, it was from amusement, rather than a histerical laugh from butting heads with the “style over substance” crowd.
I recently took my 8 year old to a church to visit with a friend. They had a huge looney toons theme with bouncy castles and all with rewards of candy for certain behaviors. I asked about her time and she said “We had so much fun, but I like our church better.” Even at 8 she realized it was about Jesus not cartoons. I am not a fan of come have fun, socialize, and learn about Jesus too. It’s like offering a switch and bait to new church visitors. I dunno…just my opinion.