This year, many churches cancelled services on December 26th, the day after Christmas, not because of bad weather, but due to a conscious decision by pastors to set aside corporate worship of God and the preaching of God’s word for the trappings of the “holiday”.
Among those closing this last week were North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., pastored by Andy Stanley.
“The Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s just gives us a great opportunity to say thank you, prioritize your family, enjoy a week off,” said Bill Willits, director for ministry environments at North Point, which draws 23,000 people across its three campuses on a typical Sunday.
Saying “thank you” by telling people to “enjoy a week off” comes from viewing “going to church” as duty or drudgery. It is a symptom of a works-based religion. Are members of the church encouraged to find a place to worship God during summer vacations or do they need time off from worship then, too?
North Point requires 2000 “volunteers” and Pastor Perry Noble of New Spring Church in Anderson, S.C., also cited recovery time for volunteers as the reason for canceling communal worship time on Sunday….The hiatus allows the church’s “staff and amazing volunteers some time to catch their breath,” Noble wrote on his blog.
Calling people “volunteers” is an admission that the church is a place where people “do for God” rather than a place where sinners learn what God has done for them. Many years ago, a United Methodist minister, Richard B Wilke, wrote a book called “Are We Yet Alive?” citing this very problem as one of the causes for spiritual and numerical decline in his own denomination. The Lord’s Day is not a time of work, but a time of rest.
While the world continues to encroach upon traditional mid-week services with sports and school activities, there is a much more fundamental idolatry taking place within the churches themselves. The Worship and Word of God have reached such a low appeal to evangelicals in recent years, that it has become quite popular to cancel services on Super Bowl Sunday.
Last year, in response to criticism of this practice in his own church, pastor Pierre Willems of Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Milford, New Hampshire called to task those who question the church’s priorities, labeling them Pharisaical. But then Willems mocks those who choose church over football:
How can we as a church desiring to interact with the culture around us completely ignore an event of this magnitude? If the Super Bowl were associated with debauchery or sinfulness that would be one thing, but this is one of the few elements of our culture that really is designed to be a family event. So as our neighbors around us prepare to have pizza, snacks, dips, junk food, hang out with friends and family, and just have a good time they look out their window and watch their holier-than-thou neighbors wearing their three-piece suits trudge off to church. And we wonder why they think Christians are weird. This isn’t suffering for Jesus, this is stupidity.
This is a textbook example of following the traditions of men and rejecting the Word of God. When the church began to accept the notion of religious “holy days” beyond the Sabbath hundreds of years ago, it in essence accepted a competitor to the one day in seven God set aside for rest and worship.
What happens next is that these holy days (holidays) begin to work their way into the thinking of the church so that they become part of the church calendar, though they were never established by God or commanded in Scripture. Keeping these days became a part of ones piety. Only a “Scrooge” would open his shop on Christmas Day, but nary a word is said from the pulpit when NFL games take people away from the word of God.
Several churches in the area I live in cancelled Sunday evening services last spring for Mother’s Day. How is it honorable when we violate the 4th Commandment (“Remember the Sabbath”) by trying to keep the fifth commandment (“Honor Your Mother And Your Father”). But this will likely occur more and more unless there is a spiritual revival because the devil is never content with being on an equal footing with God. He desires to dethrone God and His Commandments.
Before I close, I must explain my own point of view. None of these has direct bearing on ones personal view of the day, or how one observes it. As G I Williamson says: “I do not think that the strictest Reformer ever questioned the right of an individual to celebrate the birth of Christ at a time—and in a godly manner—of his own choosing.”
But friends, can we not see how religious observance of Christmas in the church has violated the words of our Lord who warned us in Mark 7:9:
Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
David is currently an adjunct instructor of Composition and Speech at Marshalltown Community College in Iowa. His wife and he have also owned a business selling antique and collectible postcards on eBay since 1999. David was an activist with Operation Rescue in the early 1990s. He is a member of Trinity Presbyterian Reformed Church in Johnston, Iowa.
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