The community I live in recently presented the local churches with an interesting challenge when the city council changed the day of the community Christmas pageant from a Saturday morning to a Sunday morning. This clash with traditional Sunday worship times was further complicated because, for the past 6 years, the combined churches were the organisers of an after-pageant BBQ immediately following this community event.
What was interpreted as an afront to the Church, provoked passionate discussion at our Minister's Fellowship meeting where we debated the council's motive and the churches response. Does the church close ranks and protect our worship time, protest the decision, boycott the event, come to some sort of compromise or maintain our involvement? What reaction is the council expecting? What will best glorify God?
As you can imagine there was an equal tension between wanting to make a clear statement about the value of Sunday worship by not compromising the priority of "doing church" and wanting to maintain an active witness by keeping Christ in a community Christmas event by "being the church". Some viewed this as a threat to the church, while others viewed it as an opportunity for the church. Who is right, who is wrong?
After much discussion and prayer between the churches and within our respective congregations, the outcome was that three churches chose to see this as an opportunity and take "church" to the streets and continue to serve our community. We believed that God was best glorified not by retreating but by reaching out. We felt it was more important to bless our community than our congregations. We wanted to defy the religious expectations of Christians by giving a relational testimony to Christ.
In the context of this event, I don't think that it is any cooincidence that I read the following statement by Andy Stanley about the church this week: "If the church is God's primary vehicle for dispensing the message of grace, then the local church is clearly not for church people. It's for everybody." This ethos of the church is further supported by Erwin McManus, as quoted by Craig Groeschel, “When have we forgotten that the church doesn’t exist for us? We are the church and we exist for the world.”
While I still hold Sunday worship as a high value, I am more concerned about being the church than doing church!