4 Reasons to Cancel Sunday Service

Jonathan Dodson has a provocative post giving some good reasons for cancelling their service one Sunday:

“Last Sunday we canceled our Sunday gathering. We did not have inclement weather. The preaching pastor was not ill. The roads were not blocked. We canceled our service deliberately to take part in Austin’s annual Capitol 10K run and fun run.

The run benefits a local charity each year. This year it was Meals on Wheels, a non-profit that delivers groceries and provides services to the home bound and elderly.

1. It enables us to corporately Serve the City, Know the City. By canceling an age-old tradition of Sunday church services, Austin City Life church went public with their commitment to being a church that is genuinely for the city. Instead of gathering in our downtown venue while thousands of runners streamed by, we decided to join our city in a great cause of feeding the needy. We rubbed shoulders with people who need Jesus.

We gained a unique perspective of the city.

We saw the unique architecture and marveled. Heard the great bands and cheered. Laughed at the ridiculous costumes and had a great time with our city. Cancel your service to serve and know the city.

2. It reinforces how important it is to Be the Church. By canceling our Sunday gathering, we reinforced our belief that church is not merely what we do; it is who we are. Weekend services have actually replaced the church in America. Our landscape is dotted with churchless Christianity.

Canceling the event and spending time running, cooking, eating, and hanging out was a wonderful reminder that we are the church and that we need one another.

3. It offers Sabbath rest for a driven society. When we canceled our service, we created much needed rest for many volunteers, deacons, leaders, and pastors. We also created the opportunity for the church to rest in a society that is driven and too busy.

4. Serves as a reminder that very often we are too busy for church. That Sunday “off” came as with unexpected level of refreshment for many? Why? Because very often we are too busy for church. We get so exhausted from our busy lives, that Sunday gatherings of the church are something we discipline ourselves to go to. We work so late that we don’t go to our City Group meetings.

We are so exhausted from taking the kids here and there that we can’t imagine having the energy to have people over for dinner to share life with. Unexpectedly, canceling a service can lead people to repentance over sinful busyness and faith in the Sovereign supplier of all things.”

Read the whole thing here.

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~ by John on April 7, 2009.

15 Responses to “4 Reasons to Cancel Sunday Service”

  1. Now listen carefully …
    Yip 🙂

  2. I LOVE this idea. I’ve thought about doing something like this. I think it’s still a little too outside the box for our church, but I’ll keep pushing for it. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Love this idea! It’s not about doing your city a favor or bemoaning the fact that there are so any other things happening on Sunday that there’s no more time for church. You took the bull by the horns as it were and engaged in an act of giving. You actively showed that church is not a place we go to; I don’t think that idea has sunk in yet.I’m sure there were many people you had a chance to interface with who might never darken your church door. It would have also been a great opportunity for active on-the-job intercession. Who ever said we must pray with our eyes closed? And what a great way to forge relationships.

  4. Colin, you lost me?
    Denise, thanks for your comments – just for clarity – this was not something I did but Jonathan Dodson, a church planter in Austin.
    But I also love the idea!

  5. Hey, just was saying yes, I enjoy the sentiment.
    Have you found me?
    And please let me know what time you wanted a BTh evening on the Thursday. Thursdays are my family walking late afternoon thingy so not too early please.
    Should we put an advert out inviting would be graduates with a Celtic bent?

  6. Think it’s a great idea for getting people to ‘get’ that Church is who we are, not what we do. Shaking it up & cancelling tradition is a great way to make that point. However, the fact that we’re too busy to share life with people over dinner in the week or that we’re tired to serve on a Sunday points more to the fact that we’re too busy with everything else …why should our church family suffer?
    Rather, we should cut back on our work schedules, kids’ extra-mural schedules, etc to make more time (and give ourselves more energy!) for loving & serving our church family & broader community.
    I’m totally in agreement with the fact that we ‘are church’ and need to express that more, but it seems because we suck at that and don’t prioritise ‘being church’ together outside of a Sunday meeting, that the Sunday meeting has become the scapegoat …when actually it’s our reluctance to live all of life (and all of our week) as church that is the problem.
    I get the sentiment, but just concerned at how the Sunday Meeting has been targeted & sometimes despised by some missional thinkers because of the way it has become ‘the’ meeting rather than just one of many. It’s our attitude to it, not the tradition or the meeting itself that is the problem. Hope you’re doing well, John! Shot on the brilliant blog – it’s on my favourites list!

  7. hi Kim,

    Great comment – in fact I was listening to an MP3 where Steve Timmis talks about “being” the church and one of the key practical decisions that they have made is to keep the diary open. To not make themselves so busy that you have to schedule fellowship 3 weeks from Tuesday. And the converse of that is that if someone phones to suggest dinner that evening or drinks at the pub – you have a very good chance of being available and so do most of your community (and probably some non-Christian friends).

    But busy makes us feel important…

    And that is often the problem with the Sunday meeting is that it makes us feel important – like we are legit, we are doing something. The problem is not the meeting but us – we have our signficance in all the wrong places.

    But given all the religiosity around Sunday I do wonder whether cancelling or moving a Sunday meeting is not a wise move in order to drive a point home that most of us simply do not get, because Sunday is so entrenched in us as the day of church.

    But you are right unless we deal with our own hearts first – even if we move the meeting to a Tuesday morning at 5am sooner or later that will become THE church meeting. Not one among many…

  8. I think we should all relax a little and be the church … put our time into expressing God’s kingdom with others in normal life and let the Sunday Church gathering serve the mission.

    None of these things are new ideas, but it is us who are so culturally bound … we just need a smack 🙂

  9. I think its similar to the situation in Acts when the council meeting was called in Jerusalem regarding the jew gentile issue. The response was not to cancel practices of the jews but to rather not impose those practices on gentiles. In a similar way some churches are traditional and people still come to church on Sunday and in the process they get saved. Keep it rolling. For the Kingdom. But the mistake is when those practices are imposed on others who realise that others will be reached at other times of the week.

  10. Hey guys,
    I agree that gathering on a Sunday has become an ‘entrenched tradition’ – and traditions shouldn’t be allowed to dictate or limit us. Plus, where & how we do it often reinforces the idea that we meet AT church rather than AS church – which further limits us being church away from the building. It’s neat: we arrive, let the word wash over us, serve on the roster, have a rushed cup of tea, chat to our favourite few, avoid ‘problem people’ and clockout …it fits our consumer culture to a T!
    However, there are pluses in tradition too. Sunday is seen as a day of rest – most businesses do not open on a Sunday (at least in the City of Choice…Pmb), it’s a church tradition that has influenced society and the universal weekly diary. For this reason, people are generally free on Sundays – and people expect churches to have meetings on Sundays.
    So picture the guy who never goes to church – he has a moment of questioning, maybe hits a rough patch, and decides to ‘go to church’ to find answers. Ideally, he would live near a dynamic gospel community that had already embraced him and was living the gospel out in front of him throughout the week. But that ideal is sadly not yet reality in broader christianity & so us committing to being church at a specific place at a specific time each week, provides an opportunity for this guy to come & hear the gospel & hopefully see it too as he sees our love for one another & him.
    Buildings and Sundays and planned meetings aren’t bad things. We’ve taken them and twisted them to be more important & we’ve used them as an excuse to duck out of and lose out on what it really means to be the church. But they do serve the mission – so we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    I’m not saying that’s what Jonathan Dodson did – he shook it up by not meeting in their building for a traditional service one Sunday – and I think that’s a great idea! Also, as Chris was saying, it shouldn’t limit us. If our church consists of blue-collar workers, or doctors or people in the hospitality industry, Sundays won’t always work so good. We should work at serving these people too. However, people also need to make sacrifices to make being church (whenever that is) a priotity …that might include job options, promotions, sporting activities, etc.

    I’m just flagging the danger of pointing our fingers at the wrong things & letting the pendulum swing full course. I think the tradition is SO entrenched and the mindset SO unhelpful, that it will take serious shaking up & prayer & honest preaching & pointed application with the Spirit’s power to open people’s eyes & soften their hearts & change their lifestyles to truly ‘be church’ in the biblical sense – so let’s commit ourselves to it!

    I’m not a traditionalist in the slightest, but I respect history & think we ought to be slow to reject wholesale what those who’ve gone before us have given us (not that I think that’s what you guys are suggesting).
    Sterkte.

  11. Sorry, that now looks scarily long!

  12. Hey Kim
    Interesting that you raise the issue of the Sunday meeting becoming the scape goat, and interesting, John that you bring Steve Timmis into the discussion! At our church, where Steve is one of the elders, we have started looking at how we can make sunday morning more of an event…

    That’s not because we’ve abandoned church as the people and our focus on ‘small’, but because the sunday larger meeting, certainly for our context and what we’re seeking to do, plays a valuable part.

    In fact it is because we’ve spent a long time pushing the ‘small’ and emphasising that that is where church really is at, that we can now work harder at our Sunday meeting. We can do it with the security that our people see their primary identity in their small groups (gospel communities – between 20 and 30 people), and so the Sunday meeting can take its proper place and be a benefit and not a distraction.

    One thing that did help with this transition was doing occasional ‘out there sundays’ – where we cancelled the main meeting and the Gospel Communities met in homes, or where ever was appropriate, doing whatever was appropriate. This reinforced the idea that church is really about the community – so we can gather in a large setting, and we can gather in the small, we can be sitting around the table praying and doing communion, and we can be out as a community sharing our lives and the gospel – it’s all church.

  13. Hey Michael,
    I totally agree – we need to work so hard at dethroning the Sunday meeting in people’s minds, but it’s so cool to hear that once we’ve done that, we can really make it awesome…Sunday should be more than a punch-in-punch-out service.
    Once people have built relationships in a meaningful way and taken ‘being church’ into the rest of their week & lives, you can actually take the time a Sunday affords most to use it to really further that aim! Meals before & after with Christians and unbelievers, extended times of prayer & sharing GOd’s faithfulness, the list goes on!
    (Hey Michael, Ant & I thinking of you guys – can we call you ‘Dad’ yet?!)

  14. It seems to me like we are all more or less saying the same thing but with different emphasis. But because i have a chronic condition where i just cannot help myself from adding my extra thoughts to a good discussion here goes:

    are we not actually discussing the wrong question if the question is whether Sundays are a good day to have a church meeting…

    we all agree church is an identity not a meeting, so meet on sunday, wednesday – whenever…

    the question must always be answered contextually – if meeting on sunday is going to help you BE the church better – then go for it – if not – chuck it, change it. The question is a non-question. The real issue is are we BEING the church whenever and however we choose to meet.

    So Kim I agree with you – we must beware of pointing our fingers at the wrong issues.

    Final thought – if Sunday is such a good day to meet because everyone has off, free (in SA that is mostly true) – then is that not an even better time for a bunch of Christians to connect with non-Christian friends and go BE the church among them there… That is always what bother s me as I head to church on Sunday – it is a great day to connect and do things with unbelievers.

  15. […] 4 Reasons to Cancel Sunday Service […]

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