Skip to comments.Some Megachurches Closing for Christmas
Posted on 12/06/2005 3:32:33 PM PST by franky
This Christmas, no prayers will be said in several megachurches around the country. Even though the holiday falls this year on a Sunday, when churches normally host thousands for worship, pastors are canceling services, anticipating low attendance on what they call a family day.
Critics within the evangelical community, more accustomed to doing battle with department stores and public schools over keeping religion in Christmas, are stunned by the shutdown.
It is almost unheard of for a Christian church to cancel services on a Sunday, and opponents of the closures are accusing these congregations of bowing to secular culture.
"This is a consumer mentality at work: `Let's not impose the church on people. Let's not make church in any way inconvenient,'" said David Wells, professor of history and systematic theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in Hamilton, Mass. "I think what this does is feed into the individualism that is found throughout American culture, where everyone does their own thing." The churches closing on Christmas plan multiple services in the days leading up to the holiday, including on Christmas Eve. Most normally do not hold Christmas Day services, preferring instead to mark the holiday in the days and night before. However, Sunday worship has been a Christian practice since ancient times.
Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., said church leaders decided that organizing services on a Christmas Sunday would not be the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources. The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was 1994, and only a small number of people showed up to pray, she said.
"If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?" she said. Among the other megachurches closing on Christmas Day are Southland Christian Church in Nicholasville, Ky., near Lexington, and Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, outside of Dallas. North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., outside of Atlanta, said on its Web site that no services will be held on Christmas Day or New Year's Day, which also falls on a Sunday. A spokesman for North Point did not respond to requests for comment.
The closures stand in stark contrast to Roman Catholic parishes, which will see some of their largest crowds of the year on Christmas, and mainline Protestant congregations such as the Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran churches, where Sunday services are rarely if ever canceled.
Cindy Willison, a spokeswoman for the evangelical Southland Christian Church, said at least 500 volunteers are needed, along with staff, to run Sunday services for the estimated 8,000 people who usually attend. She said many of the volunteers appreciate the chance to spend Christmas with their families instead of working, although she said a few church members complained.
"If we weren't having services at all, I would probably tend to feel that we were too accommodating to the secular viewpoint, but we're having multiple services on Saturday and an additional service Friday night," Willison said. "We believe that you worship every day of the week, not just on a weekend, and you don't have to be in a church building to worship."
Troy Page, a spokesman for Fellowship Church, said the congregation was hardly shirking its religious obligations. Fellowship will hold 21 services in four locations in the days leading up to the holiday. Last year, more than 30,000 worshippers participated. "Doing them early allows you to reach people who may be leaving town Friday," Page said.
These megachurches are not alone in adjusting Sunday worship to accommodate families on Christmas. But most other congregations are scaling back services instead of closing their doors.
First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., led by the Rev. Bobby Welch, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, will hold one service instead of the usual two. New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., led by the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, will hold one Sunday service instead of the typical three.
We always have services on Sunday, even if it's Christmas.
I cannot imagine not going to Liturgy on Christmas (both Dec 25 and Jan 7)
The only concession our church is making is cutting back to one service in the morning and one in the evening. They'll be there Christmas Day, with bells on!
I've always found a church holding a "Christmas Day Service" so that we can attend church on Christmas. I can not imagine a church canceling a Sunday service because it's Christmas.
Sunday School is canceled but we will still have Morning Worship and evening Service.
In my mom-in-law's pretty old fashioned Presbyterian congregation (in a Nassau co. suburb of NYC) they have always had their Christmas service on Christmas eve evening.
We will have a Christmas eve service, midnight mass and at least two services during the day (you aren't expected to attend all of them.) No matter what your schedule is, you ought to be able to find time to attend.
And I'll probably end up washing and ironing the church linens for that week. Me and my big mouth.
They need 500 volunteers for 8000 people? Uh, for what?
At my parish, even at the biggest mass, we can fit about 800-900 in, and we get by with far less than 20 "volunteers" to do various things.
Do these churches "close" on Easter too? This is such a foreign concept to me.
We have an early evening Carols & (sort of) Christingle service, with Midnight Mass much later. The Christingle is a legacy of our previous Rector...
Let alone Christmas and this year, Christmas on a Sunday! Wow, bowing to secularism indeed.
This is a dodge and they are bowing to secular pressure, imo.
To me they're demonstrating some alien form of commitment that I've not seen elsewhere.
Is there a biblical EXAMPLE for doing what they're doing?
I heard this on FoxNews Channel yesterday and was absolutely flabberghasted. What are they thinking?
Oh, yeah, bottom line ________________
All these people are welcome to stop in at the Midnight Mass at their closest Catholic Church. Consider this an open invitation to any of the Masses on Christmas Day too!
It's time to come home!
Mary, the Mother of God, pray for us.
St. Paul the apostle, pray for us.
Frankly I would be extremely disappointed if we had no service on Sunday, but I think once in a while it is OK to pretend you are a Sabbatarian. But I'm not going to give up my weekend bacon.
I guess if you're gonna take Sunday off, doing so for family purposes isn't the worst reason. I still don't like it.
The megachurches would do better to be open for those who will come. Attendance would be down anyway, since people travel over Christmas.
I saw that other thread as well. Kinda surprised Southland is doing that.
My church routinely offers communion on Christmas Eve. One of my favorite times. Between 5-7 you can go and have a "private" time of communion with one of the pastors around a table.
Sunday School and other stuff is cancelled on Christmas and New Year's. And we're having one service instead of the regular two. We wouldn't dream of not being there.
We're even a bit more radical than that. We have a Thanksgiving Day service.
Could not say it any better myself, except that everyone is welcome to attend the Liturgy at an Eastern Orthodox Church near them, remember "Orthodoxy Same as it ever was."
This article really astonished me. However, it was very informative. To me, the idea of a Church being closed on Sunday OR Christmas leaves my mouth agape.
There seems to be agreement that canceling Christmas Sunday worship isn't the right answer.
I keep struggling for a biblical example.
If you can find one, pass it on to me. I can't think of any example where you could forgo the day of worship because an at home holiday took precedence.
Tells me all I need to know about these "megachurches".
That's right. I don't even know why folks wouldn't attend Chistmas services anyway.
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'[Deut. 6:5] This is the first and greatest commandment.
It's His birthday.
We celebrate Jesus' birthday every communion Sunday. We will have a candle lighting service on Christmas Eve and one service instead of two on Sunday. The only other difference is we won't have small group Bible studies on Sunday night. Our children's choir will be part of the service and that usually takes care of the restless children.
No service on Sunday BECAUSE it's Christmas? For crying out loud, that's the one day of the year many Catholics ever GO to mass!
I wonder if they'll have church on New Year's Day. You know after "evangelizing" all night. LOL!
I don't think you will find a Biblical example for cancelling it altogether, but limiting the number of services seems apropo, expecially in light of the fact that most Churches have Christmas eve services. Just pretend your Christmas eve service is in another time zone. That would be consistent with our time/space discussions.
Wow. Our church usually has to add an extra Mass.
Why do you suppose that is?
Christmas Eve was typically spent at one grandparents' house; then off the Midnight Mass, then back home to visit until the wee hours of the morning. Get up, eat breakfast, open presents, brunch at my brother's, and Christmas dinner at my other grandparents' house.
Midnight Mass holds a special place in my heart for another reason, too. My husband proposed to me after Midnight Mass in 1991.
With a 4 year old, 5 year old, and newborn, we will be attending the earlier service (and praying that we make it through!).
Maybe it says a lot about the four churches they bothered to name. Doesn't say a whole lot about the thousands upon thousands of large churches that will have mass on Christmas day. Maybe four is all they could find.
It really is a "foreign concept" to a Catholic because Mass is a sacred ritual, a bloodless re-enactment of Christ's sacrifice, with the grace-bestowing, miraculous mystery of transubstantiation. We are receiving a Sacrament instituted by God. It's also been going on for approximately the last 2000 Christmases in a row.
Compare that to the megachurches. I was shocked by the few I've visited with an evangelical friend. They seem to be more about entertainment and emotion than worshipping or knowing God. They look like assembly halls, not churches; the last one I was in had no windows and not a single Christian symbol, not even a plain cross anywhere. But they had a loud band complete with drums, huge video presentations flashing on three walls, colored lights, clapping, chatting, plenty of laughing. No doctrine, very little prayer (and the prayers that were said were just the pastor speaking very casually), no sense of reverence, at least at the one I visited. It was sort of a combination of John Bradshaw and Jimmy Swaggert.
I credit these folks with having strong values, but a sense of the sacred, quiet devotion, the power of the real Presence of God, the things that are inherent in the Mass, were definitely missing in the megachurch I went to. It was a big pep rally for people to "get their spiritual needs met." Contrary to the Catholic sense of obligation to meet God on his terms (we even call in a "holy day of obligation"), the mega-service is there for them, not they for God. It's an entirely different concept of the meaning of Sunday or a Holy Day.
Our church will have 2 Christmas Eve services, one in the late afternoon primarily intended for families with younger children. The second PM service will be at 10:00 and will be a candle light service. Our 2 Sunday services (normally at 8:45 and 10:30) will be combined and held at 9:30.
There WAS discussion last spring about making a decision to cancel the Sunday service and that proposal was soundly rejected by the elders
I have no trouble with buggman's (and others) info that the evening prior was counted as the following day in biblical times.
Sat eve is actually Sunday, if I understand him correctly.
The actual day begins right after 12 midnight for us, but we think of it from morning to morning. It does sound like an arbitrary thing.
If a church is accustomed to having 2 or more services on Sunday, because of the volume of worshippers, and if they truly expect a huge number less on any given Sunday, then I can see good cause for having only 1 service....it accomodates the number of worshippers. I have no problem with that.
Our church is having a 5:00 pm on Saturday, Christmas Midnight Mass, and then on Christmas day, three masses in three different languages. We are very diverse!
I have to say that the Spanish Mass music is better!
We get dressed to the "nine's" for Midnight Mass.
"Just pretend your Christmas eve service is in another time zone. That would be consistent with our time/space discussions."
Well, we here in "neenerland" celebrate our days from sunset to sunset, so actually, it is all the same day.
Well then it's still yesterday here.
Or is it already tomorrow? I'm confused.
(PM -- I don't hear anyone disagreeing... :>)
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I went to a restaurant that serves "breakfast at any time". So I ordered
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Somewhere, it's three o'clock. There's always somewhere where it's 3 o'clock....
Our church is packed to the rafters on Christmas.
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