Thursday, December 08, 2005

In the midst of the battle to fight the secularization of Christmas, some big churches have surrendered.

Christmas falls on Sunday this year. If you were celebrating the birth of Christ, what better way to do it? It really will be a Christ Mass on Sunday of sorts.

Some of the big churches closing down are Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, Southland Christian Church in Kentucky, Fellowship Church in Grapevine Texas, and North Point Community Church in Georgia.

Various reasons are given for closing the Lord’s House on the Lord’s Day. Some cite low attendance. Some say it is a family day and they do not want to interfere with family activities. Another point is that it is a waste of the time of all the staff and volunteer workers when fewer people attend. Willow Creek said it was not the most effective use of their staff. (I know you can hear my head exploding even in cyberspace.)

Given the battle that has been raging this year between Evangelicals and secularists over the observance of Christmas, the closings have come as a shock and disappointment to many. I am disappointed, but not shocked, buy more about that later.

David Wells, a professor at Gordon-Corwell Theological Seminary weighed in on the side of the critics. He said "This is a consumer mentality at work: 'Let's not impose the church on people. Let's not make church in any way inconvenient. I think what this does is feed into the individualism that is found throughout American culture, where everyone does their own thing."

In contrast to these evangelical churches, Roman Catholics, Lutherans and others will see their biggest crowds of the year.

It is time for a disclosure. I am not a big fan of “mega-churches” in general. I am especially not a fan of those who, under the name of “seeker friendly”, have abandoned traditional worship in favor of entertaining shows that draw in large crowds of people. That being said, their philosophy is simply showing here. They area about generating crowds, and Christmas does not generate a crowd in churches for whom worship is secondary to personal needs and entertainment. It is more entertaining to open presents.

The spokesman for Willow Creek put it this way: "If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?" The problem is, it should not be your only mission to reach the unchurched. The fist mission of the church is to worship the founder and sustainer of the church or, as the Bible puts it, the Author and Finisher of our faith, and the One whose incarnation is the supposed point of the whole thing.
Although the assistant pastor at might church has said similar things, like “we are saved to witness”, we have not abandoned worship. We are not only having a service on Sunday, we are observing the Lord’s Supper.

The other point is that evangelicals have lost the point of the Lord’s Day. Christmas does not cancel the Lord’s Day. My personal feeling is that most Evangelicals reverted long ago to the pagan observation of the day, but, that aside, when it falls on the Lord’s Day, the Lord’s Day prevails. And to the lady at Willow Creek, note that we call it the Lord’s Day, not the Lost Person’s Day, and that is for a reason.

At the first observance of the birth of our Savior, angels gave praise, shepherds worshipped, and wealthy wise men traveled great distances to give him gifts. This year they would be encouraged to stay home and keep their presents for themselves.
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