Please allow me to vent for a moment. Last night in my Local Church on Mission class we presented our missional strategy papers. For my paper, I took the position of the missions pastor at my home church in Nebraska, describing the plan of action for my first 6 months on the job. My heart is to help people walk in obedience to Christ’s commands including loving the people down the street as well as around the world.
One of the ideas I had for getting involved in the local community was a Sunday of Service, where instead of the regular worship service everyone was involved in some sort of work around the community. This might be raking leaves, shoveling snow, picking up trash or cleaning up a park area, or doing repairs. One, this builds unity within the church as people work alongside one another. Also, the community benefits by the work that is being done.
After my presentation, my professor made a comment to the class, cautioning everyone on the idea of a service project instead of the Sunday service. He said that if a church has called a pastor who is passionate about sharing God’s word, this pastor should not be denied his preaching time on Sunday morning. If a pastor doesn’t love to preach, this really isn’t the kind of pastor a church should have.
Because of time (and being put on the spot) I wasn’t able to offer much of a response. I did say that sometimes we can become legalistic about the way that we do church, and by doing something different this helps us keep a healthy perspective on what church is really about.
My professor didn’t respond to this, and I haven’t decided if I need to pursue the conversation further, but here are a few additional thoughts, now that I have had a little while to think it through. My question is, what is church really? Is it what happens on Sunday morning: 20 minutes of singing, passing the offering plate, and a 30 minute sermon? Or is the church the body of believers who meet together and live out Christ’s commands to reach the lost? We are meant to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. Does this service project have to happen on Sunday morning? No, probably not. But I think it is helpful to see that worship is so much more than sitting in a pew with a hymnal. Preaching is great and essential for learning, but are we living out what is preached? Perhaps by working on Sunday morning we will run into people we wouldn’t on another day. There are many people who would not feel comfortable darkening the door of a church, but might engage in conversation with us as we are picking up trash. Maybe showing people that Christianity is more about being than simply showing up at a building every Sunday morning will be a more effective testimony of our faith. Certainly a pastor could give up one of fifty-two Sundays in order to be a light in the community.
I am not advocating for canceling services all of the time or trying to take away the value of the pastor, however I think we need to open up the box and expand our idea of what church is all about. I’m not sure if I will get the chance to have this conversation with my professor, but it is something I care a lot about and will continue to ponder as I move forward.