the weblog of Alan Knox

The Sunday Thing…

Posted by on Feb 18, 2007 in gathering | 24 comments

It is very important for believers to meet together. That is clear from Scripture. However, is it possible for us to put so much emphasis on one gathering of the church (say, Sunday morning, for instance) that we forget God’s purpose for the church?

Rick at “The Blind Beggar” examines this question in his article “We Aren’t About Weekends“. Most of his information comes from an article in Leadership Journal written by Bob Roberts. Consider this snippet:

If my church is primarily about the Sunday event, then doing kingdom work is secondary and actually unnecessary. If the Sunday event and church programming is primary, then I’ll spend all my time, money, and energy [on] what happens inside the church.

I think Rick (and Bob, of course) is onto something here. Do we focus our time, energy, and resources only on those who are already part of the kingdom of God? Or do we go “out of the camp” in order to engage those around us – in order to be salt and light to the world? (By the way, I realize that the answer to this question is both/and not either/or. However, is it possible that we can lose our focus?)

If we examine the money/time/effort/resources spent on preparing the location for the event, acquiring those who perform during the event, rehearsing for the event, and setting the schedule for the event, we might find that the event is much more important to us than we first thought. Is this what Jesus taught us? Is this what Jesus said was important?

Could it be that the “Sunday Morning Event” could become for us what the sacrifice became for the Israelites?

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations- I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:11-17 ESV)

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me. (Hosea 6:6-7 ESV)

How do we ensure that our gatherings become more than ritual? How do we make sure that our lives as the church become more than a Sunday morning event? How do we gather so that our meetings are not simply rituals that are unpleasing to God?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 2-18-2007

    Is the reason we spend so much time and money on the church building and programming that we feel like we have to have something to attract people to, when those who truly love the Lord will simply gather together in obedience to and love for Him? Thus, is our lavish environment evidence of churches filled with unregenerates who wouldn’t come but for the “show”?

    What would happen to churches if all the money gathered went to a shoestring budget for buildings and salaries and the rest went straight to the community, service, missions, etc.?

    Some might say that then the money given would dry up and you wouldn’t have as much for service, but I’m not so sure, especially given the percentages of many church budgets that ends up going to actual ministry… hmmmm.

  2. 2-18-2007


    That’s an excellent question. From what I’ve seen, churches have little experience in spending money on things other than buildings and salaries. For example, we have money for ministry, but very few suggestions on how to use that money to minister.


  3. 2-18-2007

    It seems that we are better at knowing doctrine and paying salaries than we are at mingling with people who have needs and loving them.

  4. 2-18-2007


    You have hit on something that God is working on in my life. He is moving me out of my comfort zone being around his people and into a place where he wants me to interact with others.


  5. 2-18-2007

    Bryan and Alan-
    What percentage of your church’s budget goes to salaries and facilities?

    Guys this is my main issue with the institutional church today. We have money for everything but actually making a difference in the local community. And when we do manage to scrape together a few extra dollars to use for ministry we have NO idea what to do with it.

    We’re looking at a building right now… part of me is excited about it, part of me is concerned that we’re about to shakle ourselves to wood hay and stubble…

    Be blessed…

  6. 2-18-2007

    I don’t know. I was a lay person who is now in full time support based missions. Unfortunately, the church of which we are members has a $6 million debt load, so much of its budget goes to debt reduction/building payments, and then yes, salaries. However, they also do a decent job of sending some money to mission work, but percentage wise… well, as you might imagine with such a huge debt….

  7. 2-18-2007

    Fortunately we have no debt right now and this property is a very good deal. It should be paid off within just a few years…

    I’m just curious how much of the budget most churches use to pay for a place to meet and salaries.

    Be blessed…

  8. 2-18-2007


    We are currently in an interesting position. We do not pay salaries. We rent a meeting place for Sundays. We do not budget every penny that comes in. Of our budgeted expidentures, just under 60% is set aside for rent. However, we take in much more than we budget, and most of that goes towards ministry and missions. If you compare our rent to all other money that we spend in a year, our rent is about 36%. Even though we spend a large amount of money on ministry and missions (64% of all the money we spend), we still have more money than we spend.

    However, everyone does not agree with my philosophy of ministry, and there is a desire to begin paying pastors. So the percentage that goes towards rent and salaries will more than likely go up, while the percentage of money that we use for ministry and missions will more than likely go down.


  9. 2-19-2007

    You pessimist.

    btw – I had a couple of random extra letters in the comment above, that is why I deleted it :)

  10. 2-19-2007

    In our current budget, %50 is for salaries. I think our facility runs around %10 of the budget.

    I don’t have a problem with paying the pastors. I do sometimes cringe at the percentage of our budget that is not used directly for ministry. It’s well above 60% of all the money we receive.

    I wonder if I would feel differently if I were one of the paid pastors in our church? I hope not…

  11. 2-19-2007

    Alan -

    You ask the tough questions! You said, “If we examine the money/time/effort/resources spent on preparing the location for the event, acquiring those who perform during the event, rehearsing for the event, and setting the schedule for the event, we might find that the event is much more important to us than we first thought. Is this what Jesus taught us? Is this what Jesus said was important?

    That really got me thinking … I would say that in our church we spend 90% of our money/time/effort/resources on Sunday morning sevices (and the other 5% is spent on Tuesday night meetings). Is that what Jesus taught us? Absolutely not. Is that what Jesus said was important? Again, no.

    And so I ask, “What has happened? Why are we at this place?”

    “How do we ensure that our gatherings become more than ritual? How do we make sure that our lives as the church become more than a Sunday morning event? How do we gather so that our meetings are not simply rituals that are unpleasing to God?”

    I think it’s about motivation and where our hearts are. Why are we meeting? What is my purpose in going to the meeting? Are we doing our good duty and going to church on Sunday morning? Is it the focus of our lives – Sunday morning worship services? Do we worship the worship service? Do we worship the pastor? The people? Do we think the only way to please God and serve Him is contained within the 4 walls?

    I am just thinking out loud here … and wondering … how did we get here?

  12. 2-19-2007

    Brandon, Heather, and Maël,

    Thank you for the comments (except for Maël).


    I do think it is interesting to examine how we got here. I think it is also interesting to ask, “Should we remain here.”


  13. 2-19-2007

    If we should “remain here”….I quit.

    I pray that I would never settle for a “settled for” version of church…of Christianity.

    I’ve seen the difference in churches that pour themselves into Sunday and churches that pour themselves into others and their community…completely, every day of the week. If your “thing” is a church that does what most are doing then you have a virtual buffet of churches to choose from. The kingdom churches are truly few and far between.

    There is one in Atlanta, and I’m starting to “hang out” with the pastor there. It’s addictive to go to the streets and just minister to the lost and hurting…Imagine that!

    Be blessed…

  14. 2-19-2007


    Thanks for sharing more about what God is doing in and through you and Heather. Please keep sharing with us as God leads you.

    I understand what you are saying, I agree to a certain extent. I do not want to change for the sake of change. I do not think that you are saying this, I just wanted to make that clear for myself. I desire to change where God shows me, through Scripture, that I am not living as He has called me and requires me to live.


  15. 2-19-2007

    Amen brother. I appreciate you assuming the best about my comments. I agree, change for the sake of change is not my goal either. I feel that God is drawing me toward this inner city ministry. I’m looking forward to being there tomorrow’s visit downtown.

    Be blessed…

  16. 2-19-2007


    I hope you will post something about your downtown visit. I look forward to hearing more about it.


  17. 2-19-2007

    Hi aLLEN,
    great thoughts in you post and comments. One of the things that got Leah and I to move on from the last church was the budget. 90% of it went to salary/building, 5% to admin stuff, the rest here and there. the total budget was one million dollars. 600$ was allotted toward benevolence. We tried to help people we knew who were poor (both believers and unbelievers) but the it got frustrating b/c the church would not help at all. One million dollars, i said, and we can’t help pay someones electric bill or expenses for a kids education or countless other things. now i don’t need much help getting up on my soapbox/cross but that sure did it. we were able to give considerably then because we had alot but it never made sense to me. To me, a million is an unbelievable amount of money but it didn’t really go where it could help. but sharing the gospel requires little money. it usually takes self sacrifice with unbelievers in the area of time and relationships. all this to say, i do think we should pay pastors but not ridiculous amounts of money as a source of primary income. its hard to balance a budget (personal and church) so that it reflects the values God desires… mercy, knowledge of God, love for fellow christians and nonbelievers. additionally, what was the covenant Adam broke in Hosea 6? i just read hosea. Going thru the minProphets again. What does romans14 say to us about esteeming one day above another? The outward observance of the day (sabbath/sunday)is not primary. it is how we live to the lord. Lets resolve that we may move on to His work-righteousness, peace, joy.

  18. 2-19-2007


    Thanks for the comment. I think you should know that you have inspired me… I think my family is going to start studying Hosea soon.

    I agree that our emphasis should be on serving people… and like you said, that includes believers and non-believers. I’m trying my best to make decisions that demonstrate that priority… but it is not always easy. But, brothers and sisters like you and Leah are a great encouragement!


  19. 2-20-2007

    is it serving God to serve others? i hope. Mercy over sacrifice, knowledge of God of ritual sacrifice. Alan, you are a true servant. if you can make sense of the quagmire known as Hosea, let me know. the only thing i thought i have is that it is judgment on israel to serve as a warning to judea that they may repent, show the character of God. Man sins/breaks covenant, God judges but has mercy, shown thru his son to ransom man from death to heal us. It is chapter one of twelve chapters of the MinProph. It is the intro and thesis = The end of days (3:5) and the character of God (11:1-11)to save us. That to me is hosea’s message. or thereabouts. Who is wise? Let him understand and keep reading. (14:9) May He give us the wisdom to understand the true depths of His word. Thank you again Alan for putting your ideas out to challenge us and for leading our church through your service.

  20. 2-20-2007


    I’m sure that we’ll have many questions for you as we make our way through Hosea. Margaret and I need to finish Daniel first, though.


  21. 2-20-2007

    I hope my remarks here don’t come across as adversarial, I really just want to challenge the way you are thinking and to suggest the possible outcome of this ecclesial philosophy. If the church is really any gathering of 2 or 3 in Jesus name, and Sunday morning is a huge waste of time/effort/cash (even possibly becoming a strange sacrifice), and the mission of the church is better carried out by my casual conversations with Christian friends then why not scrap the whole thing. My wife and I can hold church with just the two of us. We can give all our tithes to WorldVision, which has very little overhead.

    I can appreciate the struggles that you are going through Alan. Scholarship demands that we, in Socratic-style, chip away our presuppositions until we are left with the bare kernel of truth. Sounds rather Bultmannian, and it is fine to help you understand where the firm ground is under this structure we call the modern church (metaphorically speaking). One must know the biblical basis in order to judge the propriety of the things built on top of them, just as in order to judge prophecy you need to know what scripture has proclaimed so that you can judge the new proclamation. If I say “Amen” in response to a sermon, for instance, it is because the speaker drew together the truths of scripture, usually truths I knew already, in a way that I had not considered—combining the force of these truths.

    But have you ever considered that once you do away with everything that does not follow the scriptural model you will be left with a nascent first century church, and will have cut off all the maturing work Christ promised to instill. He has, and will, grow His church—certainly this is not just talking about numbers—and though some churches have adopted some aberrations that are contrary to Scripture (in letter or spirit) we cannot dismiss everything not modeled in the text as being against the plan of God for His church. We don’t do that with scripture. If we did, then preaching would be indistinguishable from reading the text. We would also have to throw out all our commentaries, since they add to the scripture. Of course, we don’t, instead we judge these thing as to how they align with scripture, deem them useful or damaging in the process, and utilize the things deemed useful.

    That’s the main thing I see missing from the discussions here, is the effect of 2000 years of growth within the church. We extol the value of 2000 years of biblical scholarship, even saying that if you see something in the text that has never been seen before, you should revisit the text because you are missing something. If it is true for hermeneutics, why would we dismiss it for ecclesiology? Generations of men more Godly and studious than us have gone before and seen no need to revert the church back to her cradle, why should we.

    Let us investigate the essentials of the church, and judge the basis of innovation, and trim the unwarranted and damaging fat—but let’s do it without making pragmatics or centuries of Christian wisdom the enemy. I know that you are not sending up a rallying cry for an ecclesioclast revolution, you are just asking questions (in a very irenic manner, I might add). But scholarly inquiry is one thing, an ecclesiastical reformation in the churches is another.

    Another 2¢ from the peanut gallery

  22. 2-20-2007


    Thanks for the comment. While I understand what you are saying, I think you may have misunderstood what I was attempting to say – probably because of my poor attempts at communication. I began this post with the following statement: “It is very important for believers to meet together. That is clear from Scripture.” So, if you and your wife decided to meet together but never get together with other believers, then I do not think you would be following God’s prescriptions.

    However, while assembling with other believers is important (just as sacrifice was important to the OT people of God) the gathering itself can become a distraction, an empty ritual or even an idol in itself (just as sacrifice did for the OT people of God). Thus, something that is good and even necessary, when carried out for the wrong reasons, motives, attitudes, etc. become disobedience.

    We have much to learn about the church from history. For that reason, I read the patristic fathers, medieval writers, reformation authors, and contemporary writers concerning the church. But, just as we know that writers in any age can misrepresent concepts of God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, salvation, etc., we should also be aware that the same thing happens with ecclesiology. In fact, the more I read, the more I am convinced that most of our current church “practices” are not based on 2000 years of church history, but on the last 50-100 years. Even Baptist writers of 100 years ago would surprise many modern Baptists in their understanding of the church.

    So, I do believe that it is important for you and your wife to relate correctly to one another as the church (as well as man and wife) when you are together. I also believe that it is important for your family and my family to interact with one another as the church when it is only our families who meet together. Similarly, when the church meets together on Sunday, we should still relate to one another as the church. Even when we meet together with brothers and sisters who are not “members” of our church, we must still relate to them as the church. I do not see a distinction in Scripture for these different types of meetings of the church.

    I appreciate your input and look forward to continuing to learn together.


  23. 2-21-2007


    This has been an interesting discussion to read. I have not been able to read all of the comments so I hope I don’t repeat what someone else has already said.

    One thing I think we need to take into account when evaluating a Sunday morning gathering (or any other gathering of believers since they all have the same purpose, mutual edification) is our attitude toward the different aspects of the gathering. I believe we must first look at Scripture to see what God has required of us when we gather and then seek to carry these things out. There are other aspects of the meeting (in many gatherings) that we do not find in Scripture. These could be sound systems, pulpits, a music team, a stage, an order of service, etc. While these things are not inherently bad or sinful we must ask ourselves a couple of question about them. First, do these things detract from us being able to carry out the things God has required of us when we gather? Second, do we see these things as necessary? Would our life be turned upside down if one of these extra-biblical aspects was missing? In addition, if it is not necessary according to Scripture, then what is the purpose of doing it anyway? These are just a few thoughts I had. Thanks for the great discussion.


  24. 2-21-2007


    I think you are right. If Scripture prescribes something (i.e. “Let all things be done for edification” – 1 Cor. 14:26), then we should recognize that the prescriptions are necessary. If Scripture does not prescribe something, then we should recognize that those things are not necessary. If our “necessaries” and Scripture’s “necessaries” do not align, then there is a problem with OUR “necessaries”.



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