This week, we're looking at a few implications of closing our church doors on Sundays, of what it means to the church - to Christians - to suspend our Sunday services. In the past couple of days, we've looked at the challenge of maintaining faith over fear and the call to maintain the church as a fellowship, not a program.
Today, we have to look at the importance of having corporate worship at all.
We're living in an interesting time. More and more, we are seeing the faithful leave the church in droves, declaring that they don't need to be in a building on Sunday mornings to worship God. They have struck out on their own and set their own rhythms of worship, and they are unplugging. Sometimes, it's because of the politics of the church. Sometimes, it's out of an earnest seeking for something in their own spiritual heart. A lot of the time, it's because Sunday mornings are simply hard, and they'd rather be somewhere else doing something else. Whatever it is, we're living in an age that says that the Christian faith is not about the church. And by closing our churches on Sundays, we're feeding right into that. (Not by choice, of course, but here we are.)
What we're creating is a culture for Christians where God is simply a choice that they make when it is convenient for them to do so. The same way they decide which household chores they will accomplish on a given day or what they will cook for dinner tonight. If God so happens to fit into what I'm working on today, then I will have a little God today. If He does not, then it can wait. This Christian faith that I have, it's all about me and what I make of it.
Our services are streaming. That means they are also being recorded. Some churches are experiencing exponential growth because of this - especially the larger, 'named' churches. Members of churches who cannot feasibly stream services are turning to well-known pastors and congregations to stay connected, so they are streaming these sorts of offerings. But many churches are experiencing a downturn. Log in on Sunday morning to a church that normally hosts 200 in its building, and you might see 75 streaming. Maybe 100.
Why? Because it doesn't matter if we're there on Sunday any more. We can watch the stream any time; it will be logged and uploaded for our convenience. Maybe we'll watch it on Tuesday. Or maybe when Tuesday gets here, we'll find something better to do. Maybe we'll see it next week. It doesn't matter. It's there whenever we want it, whenever we get around to it.
We have a faith that, ungrounded in community, no longer requires discipline. And if our faith does not require our discipline, then it really requires little to nothing of us. And if our faith does not require us, then it is just something we're choosing because we choose to choose it. No longer is there the idea that our God is the one who has chosen us.
It's dangerous. Do you see how dangerous it is?
And I'm not saying we shouldn't make our offerings convenient. And I'm not saying that we shouldn't do everything we can to make worship and praise and preaching available to anyone who wants it, anyone who is searching, anyone who needs it.
But we have to be mindful about reminding the faithful that Christ isn't something they've chosen. God isn't something they've chosen. This isn't one of life's simple preferences, something they can do or not do based on how it benefits them or what they get out of it or whether they have time today or not. We have to be mindful about creating a culture where we remember that it is God who has chosen us. That He's not just part of our story; we are part of His.
We live in a culture that says if you want to choose Jesus today, that's cool. But if you want to wait until tomorrow, that's cool, too. Actually, it's entirely up to you. But we have a God who has counted the very hairs on our head, who knows our rising and falling, who has been writing us into His story from the very beginning, speaking our lives with His very breath. We can't lose sight of that in a world where we've put worship at our fingertips the same way that everything else is. This isn't everything else. This is faith. This is Christ. He is our Savior.
But we...are His people.