Skip to comments.Why do churches close on Sunday? (MegaChruches reduce Holy Day to holiday)
Posted on 12/06/2005 11:07:40 AM PST by Between the Lines
Central Kentucky's largest church will break with tradition and close its doors on Christmas Sunday so that staff and volunteers can spend more time with their families.
Southland Christian Church near Lexington, where more than 7,000 people worship each week, is one of several evangelical megachurches across the country that are opting to cancel services on one of the holiest days on the Christian calendar.
Supporters say the change is family-friendly. Opponents call it a regrettable bow to secular culture.
The list of closed congregations on Christmas Sunday reads like a who's who of evangelical Protestantism: Willow Creek Community Church, the Chicago area's largest congregation; Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich.; North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga.; and Fellowship Church near Dallas.
The churches, which rank among the largest congregations in America, will hold multiple Christmas Eve services instead.
Megachurch officials around the country consulted with each other before deciding to take the day off.
The decision makes sense in today's hectic world, said Willow Creek spokeswoman Cally Parkinson. "It's more than being family-friendly. It's being lifestyle-friendly for people who are just very, very busy," she said.
Many evangelical churches don't hold Christmas day services, except when the holiday falls on a Sunday.
For some evangelicals, it's the day of the week -- not the day of the year -- that's sacred. To them, closing the doors of the church on the Lord's Day is unthinkable.
Others, troubled by the holiday's increasingly secular tone, lament the change.
While admiring the emphasis on family, Fuller Theological Seminary professor Robert K. Johnston worries that another Christian tradition is fading. Fuller, in Pasadena, Calif., is one of the nation's premier evangelical schools.
"What's going on here is a redefinition of Christmas as a time of family celebration rather than as a time of the community faithful celebrating the birth of the savior," said Johnston, a professor of theology and culture. "There is a risk that we will lose one more of our Christian rituals, one that's at the heart of our faith."
At Southland, the decision hasn't generated much controversy. "We've probably had maybe half a dozen (complaints), which is understandable," said church spokeswoman Cindy Willison. Southland members are encouraged to attend one of three Christmas Eve services instead. A Dec. 23 service has also been added.
Willison says attendance dropped significantly the last time Christmas fell on a Sunday, in 1994. Her church's decision was made "based on analysis of the number of people who attended in previous years and just a desire for us to emphasize family time on Christmas Day," she said.
"It's not anything unique to us," she said.
At least one other major Lexington congregation, Crossroads Christian Church, will close for Christmas.
Crossroads Pastor Glenn Schneiders says Dec. 25 is no longer considered sacred by many Americans -- especially those who are not regular churchgoers. "It's viewed more as a holiday than a holy day," he said.
The unchurched are more reachable on Dec. 24, said Schneiders, who leads a church with average weekend attendance of 1,900 people.
"Studies would say the best opportunity to invite people is Christmas Eve. It's, for whatever reason, the least threatening service of the year to attend ... so what we do is really point all of our energy in that direction," Schneiders said. "We don't think we're compromising. We're actually reaching more people by doing that."
Lexington Theological Seminary professor Bill Turner says it's difficult for some congregations to hold multiple Christmas Eve services and then return the following day.
"You're talking about a lot of volunteers and a lot of logistics to make Sunday happen in a lot of those megachurches," he said. By the end of Saturday's services, "you're pretty well wrung out."
Some churches are scaling down their Sunday schedule on Christmas.
At Louisville's Southeast Christian Church, where 18,000 people worship each weekend, they'll have one service on Christmas in the fellowship hall. Fewer than 1,000 people are expected to attend.
Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington, where 1,650 people typically worship, will also have one service on Christmas.
"We want to be here to worship Christ on his birthday," pastor Bill Henard said.
At a time when some corporations and government agencies are shying away from even using the word "Christmas," Henard said, "We want the world to know that it's okay to celebrate Christ."
Meanwhile, Roman Catholics will be as busy as ever, Lexington diocesan spokesman Tom Shaughnessy said. "It's a holy day of obligation, which means for the faithful, Mass attendance is required."
At First United Methodist Church in Lexington, the pastor will perform a "blessing of the toys," and the congregation will sing Christmas carols, church spokeswoman Marsha Berry said.
"Even if there's a small group ... we'll be there to worship," she said. "What better day than Christmas to experience God?"
I wonder if anyone has checked to see if they are having a Christmas Eve service.
It might just be the "mega-churches". My wife belongs to a church that started out small but grew very large--about 5K congregation. I've noticed a trend towards secularism in this church. Last Christmas the pastor gave a sermon (after a Las Vegas-style pre-sermon warm-up show) dressed like he was leaving for the Bahamas right afterward.
But these historically amnesiac and theologically anemic "evangelical" churches wouldn't know the gospel if it came up and smacked them in the face--or, better yet, put the Lord's Word in their ears and his Body and Blood in their mouth.
Just shaking my head. People might disagree about how to celebrate Christmas, but Sunday is Sunday...
What say ye Baptist ping!!
He was born on the feast of Tabernacles in early October
when He came to Tabernacle among us.
However He was conceived on the feast of Lights.
It was during that feast that He entered as the LIGHT of the world.
My question mark was meant to express my complete and utter perplexity at this.
If going to church on Sunday interferes with your "family time", your family isn't much of a family.
But we can't let Sunday get in the way of a holiday. After all it's for the children. /s
It does seem like a lot of churches these days have been so focused of filling pews that they have forgot that the goal is to fill heaven. Seems like they decided that if you cannot bring the world to church, then why not bring the church to the world. While filling the pews is a great idea, we cannot omit the word to do it so that it is easier to get people to come and not feel guilty about what they do the other six days of the week.Christ said, "pick up your cross and follow me", he never said, "call you buddies, we're having a party."
Either you make time for the Lord or you don't. If you don't, then your faith just isn't that important to you, and becomes just another thing on the todo list.
Amazing. There are several people who are members of my church precisely because we happened to have a Christmas Day service, and they sorta just wandered in.
Our church will have a full morning service, with Sunday School, but we will not have an evening service. We are having a Christmas Eve service as well.
I sit on our church's board. We discussed being open on Christmas. We only have 40 adults, so if more than one decides that they are staying home, the pews seem empty. My personal desire was to have all services, but I understand the actions of others to have an evening to be with family. So we settled for what we got. THere was not even a discussion of cancelling SUnday service altogether.
These are your theories, but you assert them as facts.
Then they need to start paying taxes.