Suspending worship in order to serve the community?

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SharperIron's picture
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the 20,000-member Saddleback Church in Orange County is canceling all of its worship services during the second weekend in December in order to help facilitate a huge neighborhood volunteer opportunity.”

Steve Davis's picture
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I guess I don't get it.

I guess I don't get it. Cancel corporate worship for community involvement? Are there not 6 days in the week to do those things? It might be a feel good and do good thing but I don't think God gives us this option on His day - yes all days are His day but it's bad enough that our secular communities already treat Sunday like every day. The church needn't follow. The communities they are serving might praise the church. It doesn't mean God does.

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"Either/Or" or "Both/And"?

I agree, Steve. Why do we make these kinds of events "either/or" instead of "both/and"? I think it comes down to the fact that leadership doesn't want to really ask (or perhaps they know that if they do ask the answer will be "no") to actually sacrifice a few extra hours of time, so it's just "easier" to trade off worship/instruction for a "feel-good experience". They will say things like "missional" or "investment in the community" or "servanthood" to make this more palatable, but I don't see why a Saturday morning wouldn't work just as well or even a Sunday afternoon. I think the fact that many of us church leadership refuse to actually challenge our folks toward making even the smallest of sacrifices is a lost opportunity and perhaps a telling ommission.

Dan Burrell Cornelius, NC Visit my Blog "Whirled Views" @ www.danburrell.com

Paul J's picture
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I'm good with it.

This has been a topic on this board before and I'm going to fall on the opposite side of most, again. Steve I was a little surprised that you were to first and were apposed.

I just finished reading "Barefoot Church" which is written by Brandon Hatmaker pastor of Austin New Church. They are part of a community wide serving opportunity that happens on the 5th Sundays each year. They look at it as taking the church to the community and see the larger body having an impact on the city. One thing he mentions was non-believers coming to serve who are skeptical of the church but are open to serving. One of the things they had found was originally they were doing church wide service project once a month with all of the responsibility resting on the church staff. They changed the approach to push this out to the Small Groups which now own the organizing and funding of the work. They are set-up meeting weekly with two weeks focusing on Spiritual Formation and one week focusing on my neighbor and one week my city.

I found this through this group through the book which looks interesting. http://missio.us/home

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I am missional, but not this way

Well, I lean toward the missional side of things, so I'm happy for the outreach that was done. I'm also a Sabbitarian, so I think this is a "right idea, wrong execution" sort of thing. I believe down to the bones of my being that what that community needs most from its Christians on a Sunday is not more volunteers in hospitals or soup kitchens, it is participation in Word and sacrament. If we don't believe that our most powerful work of love consists in the prayers and worship offered in the gathered assembly on the Lord's Day, then we have already lost the pulse of supernaturalist Christianity.

That said, do it on Saturday.

My Blog: www.sacredpage.wordpress.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

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Paul, In your thinking, Why

Paul,

In your thinking, Why Sunday? And why during the time usually reserved for church? Why not Sunday afternoon? Or Saturday morning?

Steve Davis's picture
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Surprise, surprise

Paul J wrote:
This has been a topic on this board before and I'm going to fall on the opposite side of most, again. Steve I was a little surprised that you were to first and were apposed.

Paul,

I’m not sure why you were surprised. Perhaps because I’ve written on missional churches, engaging the community, etc. We do believe in having a presence in our community and are involved in different ways – homeless feeding, police clergy, presence at community events, etc. Through our small group (Grace Group) we recently sponsored a Fall Festival at a local library and the ladies are planning a Christmas event. These are good things for building relationships and getting involved in people’s lives. However I am a churchman and do not believe community service is a substitute for corporate worship, observance of the Lord's Table (which we do weekly) and the public proclamation of the Word. Like I said there are 6 days to do those things or even Sunday after or before public worship. Canceling Sunday services for outside events may fit into a church growth model but doesn’t fit in a gospel-growth model IMO.

Steve

Ed Vasicek's picture
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Back to the worship debate

This is why I get frustrated with the many ways we use the term worship: it means almost everything so it means who knows what? Many will argue that acts of service in Jesus' Name IS worship. I don't necessarily agree with that definition, but it is quite popular to confuse glorifying God (which good works can do) with worshipping God.

You might remember my article, "How A Worship Format is Destroying the Evangelical Church," available http://sharperiron.org/article/how-worship-format-destroying-evangelical... ]here !

I do not think that Saddleback is wrong in any way by doing this; if they did this every Sunday or even most Sundays, I would have a problem. Those of you who believe that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath -- your issue with this makes sense.

To me, it is a matter of judgment, and i happen to disagree with Saddleback's judgment, but I do not view it as a moral or even directly Scriptural violation. When it comes to the "mix" or ratio for obeying the commandments of God, we have yet to delineate a one-size-fits-all approach. We are constantly re-negotiating these things: how much music, teaching, Bible study, prayer, good works, missions, evangelism, acts of charity and good works should we do? We probably never feel we do enough of any of these things. If I were to choose one that I think should receive the most attention, it is the Word IMO.

"The Midrash Detective"

CPHurst's picture
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Kevin DeYoung on this very issue

Kevin DeYoung had some thoughts about this issue here - http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2010/09/30/trading-in-s...

Aaron Blumer's picture
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Worship.. Rom12.1

Part of the difficulty with "worship" is that there is both a comprehensive sense (Rom.12.1 .. "reasonable service" is latreuo--something like "worship of service" or "worship in the form of service") and a very narrow sense: what God's people do when they gather on the Lord's Day to humble themselves before Him and seek Him together.

In the end, it probably boils down to how traditional you are in your thinking... the "once a week on Sunday" is a strong Christian tradition--with a bit more than tradition for support. To me, given our times, that's reason enough to not interrupt it for community service.

I'm going to be a little irritating and claim "missional" as well... but I see the mission as making disciples, edifying believers, worshiping as a believing body (not quite in that order). So in my view, community service activities are, at best, a means to one or more of those ends.

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Post Christian Culture...

Steve, I wasn't being negative just wasn't what I might have expected. Over the past two years I have been reading and contemplating what the church may look like in the future. My point is taken from a perspective of a post-Christian culture and what the church may looks like and how it may engage culture. Larry, my opinion, most of the comments here are from a "Christian culture" context and not looking at how the church connects with greater community in a non or post-Christian context.

In Stuart Murray's book "Church After Christendom" he offers 7 ecclesiological shifts from Christendom to post-Christendom which I found interesting, the are "from the center to the margin", "from the majority to minority", "from settlers to sojourners", "from privilege to plurality", "from control to witness", "from maintenance to mission", "from institution to movement" I'm not saying everything he says is correct but is thought provoking for me and changes my perspective on things like this.

I will say that this event seems to be more programmatic but I think things may look different in the future. the church has lost much of it's credibility in many communities. One of the things I've seen in 20somethings is they may belong before they believe and this and doing good in their mind may be outside the church. This gives the church and opportunity to engage them where they are.

I started this post 2 hours ago so not sure where the conversation might have gone while I was away.

Alex Guggenheim's picture
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The best source for

The best source for determining a formula for a church in a "post-Christian" culture might come from what the church was like in a pre-Christian culture. The Bible, though not exhaustive in giving its history, does provide some descriptions (and prescriptions).

I see little in the way of descriptions of assemblies feeling the need to suspend their regular time in discipleship and worship to engage in other activities they would do outside of this time. I find this to be a gimmick, frankly.

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Alex Guggenheim wrote: The

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
The best source for determining a formula for a church in a "post-Christian" culture might come from what the church was like in a pre-Christian culture. The Bible, though not exhaustive in giving its history, does provide some descriptions (and prescriptions).

I see little in the way of descriptions of assemblies feeling the need to suspend their regular time in discipleship and worship to engage in other activities they would do outside of this time. I find this to be a gimmick, frankly.

Saddleback utilizing some sort of gimmickry?

Shocked!!

Lee

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Quote: Larry, my opinion,

Quote:
Larry, my opinion, most of the comments here are from a "Christian culture" context and not looking at how the church connects with greater community in a non or post-Christian context.
Paul, I think I agree with just about everything you say. But I wonder what is "post-Christian" necessity about doing community service on Sunday morning? Again, I ask, why not Sunday afternoon? Or Saturday?

Are non-Christians only open to being convinced of real Christianity via community service on Sunday AM?

Obviously, that's a bit tongue in cheek, but only a bit. I am still confused as to why this is a good idea on Sunday during the main worship time of the church as opposed to another day or time during the week?

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I love Saddleback and I love their pastors.

They have no fear of man. They do not care what you or any man thinks - good or bad. They just continue to listen to the Lord and do their best to glorify Jesus. The Lord in turn just blesses and blesses. 31 years of existance, 25,000 members (in Ca), a worldwide ministry of significance, Jesus name glorified... no wonder they are a lightning rod for nansayers. So was Jesus.

Steve Davis's picture
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Paul J wrote: Steve, I wasn't

Paul J wrote:
Steve, I wasn't being negative just wasn't what I might have expected. Over the past two years I have been reading and contemplating what the church may look like in the future. My point is taken from a perspective of a post-Christian culture and what the church may looks like and how it may engage culture. Larry, my opinion, most of the comments here are from a "Christian culture" context and not looking at how the church connects with greater community in a non or post-Christian context.

Paul,
I didn’t take it as negative and probably shouldn’t be too surprised since I have written on engaging culture and community, contextualization, kingdom of God, etc. I have also been criticized for accommodating culture. However I have never advocated capitulation to the prevailing culture. Since no culture has ever been Christian I don’t put much stock in what it means to be in a post-Christian culture. Perhaps we could say post-Christendom culture but there wasn’t much Christian about most of it. God’s people represent a kingdom culture and as such should not be driven by cultural change (although not ignorant it either).

As an aside I feel the same way about canceling Sunday services on Christmas (although a church has the right to modify and meet on Saturday, etc.). In my mind to cancel Sunday service for a man-made holiday is capitulating to culture.

Steve

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Jeffrey Dean wrote: They have

Jeffrey Dean wrote:
They have no fear of man. They do not care what you or any man thinks - good or bad. They just continue to listen to the Lord and do their best to glorify Jesus. The Lord in turn just blesses and blesses. 31 years of existance, 25,000 members (in Ca), a worldwide ministry of significance, Jesus name glorified... no wonder they are a lightning rod for nansayers. So was Jesus.

Apparently they care what one another thinks or they could not collaborate with each other. But let's examine your prescription for measuring the rightness or validity of a church:

Quote:
31 years of existance, 25,000 members (in Ca), a worldwide ministry of significance Jesus name glorified

I believe Mormons can far exceed this number of followers and years of existence and they, too, would claim Jesus' name is glorified.

Luke 16:8b - For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light

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Paul J wrote: They are set-up

Paul J wrote:
They are set-up meeting weekly with two weeks focusing on Spiritual Formation and one week focusing on my neighbor and one week my city.

I found this through this group through the book which looks interesting. http://missio.us/home[/quote]

Spiritual Formation? Possibly you are quite aware of its provocative nature when being mentioned in CE and Fundie circles so this may be a deliberate mention for that reason. I don't know but either way I will oblige addressing it. For those who are not familiar with the heresy called Spiritual Formation, here are some good articles:

http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue91.htm The Dangers of Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Disciplines
http://www.erwm.com/TheNewSpiritualFormation.htm Contemplative Spiritual Formation/ Emerging Church (A long list of articles at this link)

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Christian culture

Steve, on Christian culture I'm speaking of the default cultural position it has maintained in the US through time. We were viewed as an inclusive culture but Christian in the majority. I'm speaking of the plurality culture we are becoming now. I this type environment we find our selves in today in some cities and areas non-Christian of whatever stripe is the norm and the church has lost it's place. So engaging outside the building can do more to engage then inside. For a church to say we are not the church inside these walls but we are the church as people can be said well in that context.

I am not lifting the Saddleback event as the model I'm just saying I'm fine with it. I thing North Coast has been doing this for several years and like Warren he has taken hits. I'm in church almost every weekend but don't hold to the three to thrive. That said I do see this type event as most compatible with an atractional format that being said I have no problem with the Church being outside it's walls on a Sunday.

Alex, I haven't really paid much attention to those discussions especially anything Bob DeWaay has to say.

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Paul J wrote: Alex, I haven't

Paul J wrote:

Alex, I haven't really paid much attention to those discussions

A good student deals with both sides of an argument. It's time for you to pay attention to them. Bob DeWaay is but one of many. But let me guess, you have reasons why ALL OF THEM are to be objected to before even listening.

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Alex

I appreciate many of your posts. I was speaking in more of a Next Steps perspective but have read both Willard and Boa and though I will differ have enjoyed reading both Ken Boa's "Conformed to His Image" and Willard's "Hearing God" and "Divine Conspiracy". Of Boa's 12 points I thought he had some interesting things to consider. I'm open to look at the church and how it looked over the ages. Something that sometimes shows up on this site seems to be the negative side of "Foundationalism" now that would be a interesting discussion. sometime.

I do read what bloggers have to say but regularly they take it to the absurd, which is the same reason I don't listen to talk radio. On DeWaay his caustic discernment posts are off-putting and he probably has bigger things to be worrying about now.

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More than "bloggers" object

More than "bloggers" object so maybe a bit more reading is in order. Obviously you accept forms of Christian mysticism, I don't. Frankly, they are doctrines of demons as I have concluded, along with a large group of other believers in the body of Christ. Obviously just because many hold to this view does not make it right but it does speak foolishness to those who would simply close their ears to it and not evaluate such objections.

However, in the end these kinds of heresies never survive sound exegesis and it does take time for their perniciousness to be identified and addressed as they rise up so you will hear, more and more, objections by vetted Ministers. Hopefully with their credentials you will give them a hearing.

But such heresies do injure the vulnerable in many ways and my interest is in the vulnerable, not so much those who wish to ignore, close their eyes and plug their ears to any objections as they preach these errors, they have made up their minds but still, may God's mercy return them (if they are His) to biblical and spiritual fidelity. They are treats for those inclined toward rationalism and philosophy as a way of theological determinations. They can have their arsenic and chocolate, no thanks for me.

As to caustic comments, I really do not care. If someone has a point to make I listen to the point. I do not like everyone's style but it is not their style or the disposition which I use as objections, rather it is their substance. It does not mean to condone or condemn certain dispositions, rather that they are not in view with respect to arguments.

But now and I am off topic and not serving the thread so I have stated my view and return to the topic.