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Dangerous Sunday – The Program

Posted by on Dec 8, 2010 in gathering | 5 comments

Dangerous Sunday – The Program

In the previous posts in this series, I suggested that it is dangerous to the spiritual maturity of believers to place an extraordinary emphasis on Sunday as “The Day” or a specific location as “The Place” for Christians to meet together as the church.

Besides teaching people that they are only the church on a particular day and at a particular place, the practices of modern, traditional churches also dangerously teach people that the church is only meeting when they follow a particular program. Sometimes this is called liturgy. Sometimes it’s a specific set of activities or events that must happen.

Can you imagine what would happen on Sundays among most churches if there were no songs? What if no one preached a sermon or delivered a homily? What if certain creeds or prayers were not recited in unison?

And, yet, none of these things are necessary for the church to meet. However, because most churches practice these things “religiously,” people are taught that they are necessary and if they don’t happen (sometimes in a certain order) then it is not church.

In this case, it is not the day or the place that is defining the church, but a certain set of activities. Interestingly, these activities typically have little to do with the people involved. Anyone could sing the songs or recite the creeds/prayers, and it would still be considered church. The people themselves are replaceable. The people no longer define the church; certain activities – the program – defines the church.

Once again, this gets to the question of identity. The people are the church because Christ dwells in them, and they are gathered together. But, when we show people week after week that certain things must happen when the church meets, then we confuse their understanding of what it means to be the church.

When this happens, Christ is no longer the center and power of the church; that particular program is the center and definition of the church. This is dangerous; yes, even when the program is Christ-centered. A program – even a Christ-centered program or liturgy – is not Christ himself.

I know what some are thinking: “Just because we always do certain things and say certain things when the church meets, we still teach that the people are the church.” Sure, but our actions speak much louder than our words. We’re teaching people that they are only the church when they do certain thing when we practice those things over and over and over and over without exception.

The activities that we take part in and the things that we say do not make us the church. Gathering together as God’s children makes us the church – whatever we do and whatever we say.


5 Comments

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  1. 12-8-2010

    When this happens, Christ is no longer the center and power of the church; that particular program is the center and definition of the church. This is dangerous; yes, even when the program is Christ-centered. A program – even a Christ-centered program or liturgy – is not Christ himself.

    Amen to this… People do not realize just how dangerous this is! They do not realize that according to this mindset, you could have a building full of people who have never encountered the living Spirit of God, but if they are all singing hymns/choruses, or listening to a sermon, then it is simply assumed that “church” is happening. This kind of thinking is so prevalent, because it feels the most “safe”. It is a type of security blanket for people, who just want to show up to a program, and feel reassured by the familiarity of singing songs or doing certain things. It is a way of effectively eliminating the uncomfortable realities that inevitably follow when gathering in the manner that the Early Church did. With liturgies in place (whether rigid ones or more “generic”), people are alleviated from the need to engage other people, and the spiritual realities of their lives, directly (after all, that’s what “small groups” are for…) It is the path of “cheap fellowship”, but in the end it has a very high price…

  2. 12-8-2010

    I see your typical, traditional church as a three-legged stool. The three legs are the pastor, the building and the sermon. You remove any one of those legs and the local church will fall over.

    As disciples we are not called to sit in a building passively listening to one man orate a soliloquy as the main event of our christian lives.

    Alan, I am trying to stay positive.:)

  3. 12-8-2010

    Daniel,

    “Uncomfortable realities…” Wow… that would make a great blog post. I’m often uncomfortable because of what others are saying/doing, and I’m also often uncomfortable because of what God is doing.

    Jack,

    You said, “As disciples we are not called to sit in a building passively listening to one man orate a soliloquy as the main event of our christian lives.” That’s right… and the whole point of my blog is to answer the question, “Then what are we called to do when we meet together?”

    -Alan

  4. 12-9-2010

    Alan,

    In a nutshell I believe Heb 10:24-25 and and 1 Cor 14:26 define what we should do when we gather. I like what Viola says about the flower that is planted in the different soils. The soil pH determines the color of the flower, but the DNA of the plants are the same.

    The same with the church, the nature of the church body is the same, but the way it is manifested may be different. However, ultimately when we gather, we must be ready to listen, respond, and love. It should always be done with mutuality in mind, using 1 Cor 12 as a model, where the un-comely or more feeble are more necessary.

  5. 12-9-2010

    Jack,

    I agree. :)

    -Alan