Friday, December 23, 2005

Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving

A few weeks ago Deacon Burnie Little shared some thoughts with me about the recent news concerning those churches that are closing on December 25th. I thought that his insights were very profitable and had asked him to consider writing them out in a post. Thanks Burnie for this. To all who read this, let it be a word of warning and encouragement to all of us, lest we too take lightly our privileges to assemble and worship the Lord:


Churches Closed for Christmas: This Christmas season has been filled with much controversy… from the politically correct manner of greeting one another, to store advertisements omitting the word Christmas (as if somehow it is bad to disassociate the name of Christ from the latest sale at the mall), to government schools that ban parties with red and green decorations… the list goes on.


However, there is one supposed controversy I initially found disturbing, but am now quite thankful for. It seems that some churches are closing their doors on Christmas day!

According to a recent news story carried by CBS/AP the reasons for closing vary and include "… that organizing services on a Christmas Sunday would not be the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources" (Willow Creek Community Church) as well as allowing volunteers "the chance to spend Christmas with their families instead of working" (Southland Christian Church).

The closing at Willow Creek is further justified by reasoning that if their mission is to reach the unchurched, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning? This may certainly be true, although the principle reason for holding a worship service ought to be just that-worship. Perhaps the real reason is that these churches are not focused on glorifying God and preaching the word to equip the believer to go out into the world, but rather they are intent on tickling the ears of men… and if someone wants to spend Christmas day sleeping in with the family, so be it.

The seeker sensitive church, in its attempt to reach the world with all of its musical and dramatic production-the stages, the lights, the theatre-is ultimately no different from the world it purports to save.

While it should not be the primary purpose of the church service to evangelize the lost-this is a duty for the Christian so equipped-there may be many who are lost and who will attend a church service on Christmas Sunday (many for the first time this year, or second if they attended at Easter.) Perhaps they are wearied of the glitter and gold of the holiday season-the decorations, the gifts, the parties, the food, the "all-holiday-music-all-the-time" radio stations (which incidentally seem to play music with Christmas as a theme-I haven't heard any holiday songs about Kwanzaa, Chanukah, the winter solstice or New Years… hmmm). The last thing these lost souls need is more of the same from a church service comprised of music and drama which ultimately entertains the masses rather than worships God. They are in need of Christ and Him crucified as revealed in His Word.

So thank you, all of you mega-seeker-entertainment-ear tickling churches who will be closed on Christmas Day. May the Lord direct those who truly are seeking, because they are called by Him, to a fellowship where the Word is preached and lived out in true Christian fellowship-on Christmas Day and everyday. If it is true that "what you win them with is what you win them to", then may they be won by God's Word to everlasting life found in Christ and Him alone.

As for those pastors who take the "day off" from work… remember "your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8. Will you so readily lay aside your duties as an undershepherd for the sake of a holiday?

To those who "volunteer" at church and consider it "work" and would rather spend the day with your family… is your service to the Lord drudgery that you gladly take leave of for the sake of a holiday? And do you not consider time spent with the saints of God, whether blood relative or not, time spent with family?

And to those who feel it is not an effective use of staff and volunteer resources for just a few who would show up, might I suggest you read the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. Thanks be to God that He did not consider it a poor use of resources to send His Son to die on a cross for sinners-for that ultimately is what Christmas is all about.

Burnie Little