Making Sundays Work | Creative Ministries

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Making Sundays Work

Doing church well.
Posted June 27, 2018

Sun­day morn­ings look dif­fer­ent all across the world. From cathe­drals to cof­fee shops, con­fer­ence cen­tres to cin­ema com­plexes, the church gath­ers to wor­ship together. Whether in an ornate build­ing with iconog­ra­phy and incense or in the shade of a large tree or tent, God’s peo­ple all come together to offer their praises in com­mu­nity. They gather to live out the Acts chap­ter 2 model of Chris­t­ian com­mu­nity. From all walks of life they come, one in heart, one in mind, one in worship.

Say Ver­sus Do.

Maybe we’ve been guilty of say­ing “not in my church!” It’s not at all sur­pris­ing — com­plain­ing can be one of the church’s most trea­sured and annoy­ing hob­bies . If we are com­pletely hon­est and hum­ble with our­selves how­ever, it’s easy to see where we’re falling short on a Sun­day morning.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have a deep desire to wor­ship together as fam­ily. It doesn’t say that we don’t have excep­tion­ally well pro­grammed meet­ings. It doesn’t even say that we don’t have strong church lead­er­ship and excep­tional lay vol­un­teers. What it does say is that beneath all of the pro­grammes and activ­i­ties, many of our churches are just not doing Sun­days well. And really, it shouldn’t come as much of a shock. After all, you see it every Sunday.

You see it when the musi­cian delib­er­ately walks the long way around the pews to avoid walk­ing past the sound engi­neer they are annoyed with about their fold­back mon­i­tor mix. You see it when the cou­ple in the fourth row turn and grum­ble to each other that they have been stand­ing for 5 songs in a row. You see it when the con­gre­ga­tion can almost recite the words of the altar call invi­ta­tion ver­ba­tim, and sit back with arms folded, wait­ing for the final song. You see it when the wor­ship leader stum­bles through a prayer full of clichés, start­ing with the last line of the pre­vi­ous song and fin­ish­ing with the first line of the next song. You see it when a mother snaps at her 4 year old in the car park, telling him to “just behave for once so we can go into church and learn about Jesus”. You see it when the open-​mic tes­ti­mony period includes three min­utes of tes­ti­monies and 8 min­utes and 47 sec­onds of uncom­fort­able silence.

Our Bag­gage and “Per­fect Worship”.

There is one sense in which we can’t do church well. We all come to Sun­day morn­ing with our bag­gage – our hurts and regrets, our wor­ries and guilt, our hang-​ups and pre­con­cep­tions. We come as self-​focussed peo­ple, and attempt to join with the rest of the con­gre­ga­tion in heart and mind enough so that our eyes are lifted towards God in com­mu­nity. Some­times it works. Some­times it clicks and we are made fully aware of God’s pres­ence as we focus our atten­tion on Him, but many times it doesn’t. Many times we can’t lift our eyes quite enough, we can’t seem to leave our bag­gage, and we can’t help but get caught up in petty squabbles.

If God had wanted per­fect wor­ship, He wouldn’t have asked us to do it. The Angels are far more capa­ble of it than we are. God knows our short­com­ings and fail­ings in wor­ship far bet­ter than we do. In fact, Scrip­ture reveals to us that our attempts at per­fect­ing wor­ship are often dis­pleas­ing to God (Amos 5:23 – 24, Luke 19:45 – 46). So we need to ask our­selves why it is that we are meet­ing in this way. What are we hop­ing to accom­plish? What is the point and the power of Sunday?

Here are some illus­tra­tions that may help:

  1. Abram (or Abra­ham, as he came to be known), received a promise from God, who appeared to him (Gen­e­sis 12:7). As a result of this encounter, Abram made an altar to the Lord. Now Abram built a lot of altars through­out his life, as acts of wor­ship to the God who had appeared to him. Through­out the next two chap­ters, we see that Abram also went out from these altars, and pitched tents wher­ever he went. As he went out into the world, he pitched tents to live and work in, and built altars to wor­ship and seek God’s face from. Dave Bil­brough com­ments that wher­ever there is an altar (a true act of wor­ship), there will be a response that even­tu­ally leads us to actively engag­ing with the world around us. This is one aspect of the power of Sunday.
  2. King David was bring­ing the Ark of God back into the City of David (1 Chron­i­cles 13:8 – 14). The Scrip­ture records that they were “cel­e­brat­ing with all their might” (empha­sis added). As a result, it all went hor­ri­bly wrong. Some­one (Uzzah) took mat­ters into their own hands (lit­er­ally), and paid for it with his life, as God struck him dead because he had laid a hand on the Ark. In 1 Chron­i­cles 15:1 – 29 they tried again. This time, they did it the way God wanted. They offered sac­ri­fices every 6 steps along the jour­ney, and suc­ceeded in bring­ing the Ark into the City of David.
  3. Here’s an exam­ple from the New Tes­ta­ment: Jesus came to the town where Martha lived, and she opened her home to Him (Luke 10:40 – 42). Mary, her sis­ter (who later anointed Jesus feet with per­fume) sat at Jesus feet, lis­ten­ing to what He said. Martha was bustling around, dis­tracted by all the prepa­ra­tions that had to be made. Even­tu­ally, Martha was so flus­tered that she came to Jesus and asked “Lord, don’t you care that my sis­ter has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Jesus responded “Martha, Martha, you are upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed even one. Mary has cho­sen what is bet­ter, and it will not be taken away from her”. By choos­ing to spend time at the feet of Jesus, in com­mu­nion with Him, Mary had made the bet­ter use of her inter­ac­tion with Him than Martha, whose arguably good deeds robbed her of a per­sonal inter­ac­tion with Jesus.

So what is the power of Sun­day? Why is it so impor­tant to make our Sun­days work? It is our Altar that fuels our tent-​building engage­ment with the world around us. It is our sac­ri­fice every 6 steps that ensures that we are bring­ing the Ark back into the City of David accord­ing to God’s plans. It is our choice between sit­ting and lis­ten­ing at the feet of Jesus or bustling around get­ting the meal ready. And it is important.

Nancy Beach sums it all up beau­ti­fully by saying:

“Some­thing very sig­nif­i­cant can hap­pen when the body of Christ gath­ers all together on Sun­day morn­ing. Those weekly ser­vices define what mat­ters to a church and its lead­ers, what they will focus on all week, what part of God’s word will chal­lenge them, and how they’ll expe­ri­ence God’s super­nat­ural pres­ence and power. When Sun­day morn­ings inspire, envi­sion and equip those who attend, a buzz of excite­ment is gen­er­ated that feeds all the sub-​ministries and events. If church lead­ers become com­pla­cent about care­fully prepar­ing the hour on Sun­day, they jeop­ar­dize the church’s entire life and mission.”

This is a big deal.