“I would argue that because the American church has embraced a model of church that is Sunday-centric, one that involves the large gathering of the public space worship services, we have lost the essential capacity to be family and to care for one another [as the early church did, in which all areas of life are shared together]. You can’t be family like this with groups of hundreds and thousands of people. Because of this we have become atomized into our nuclear families where everyone is fending for themselves; where spiritually, emotionally and often economically it can seem like a fight for survival.” ~Leading Kingdom Movements, Mike Breen
This quote was posted on Facebook and several interesting comments followed. Let me paraphrase a few:
- The answer is being involved in a small group.
- It’s very difficult to get American Christians to commit to anything outside of the Sunday morning worship time (i.e. small groups during the week)
- Staying connected outside of scheduled Sunday morning worship must be intentional–it won’t just happen.
- Daily family devotions are essential
- There is a shift taking place wherein Sunday morning is less about the church (that is, those who have truly put their faith in Christ) gathering in worship and more about being “attractive” to outsider.
- Sunday morning worship and teacher are watered down to an almost meaningless level for believers, particularly long-time believers.
- It seems true that more church-goers today really are “fending for themselves.”
- The church service has become too much about entertainment and engaging with friends in a social setting.
I think there is some truth in every one of these statements. The “Sunday-morning church service” is going through significant reformation and re-thinking. Is Sunday morning primarily an opportunity for believers to gather in worship or is it primarily an outreach for non-believers? Where is the where worship becomes merely entertainment? Is worship primarily about feelings and sensing the presence of the Spirit or about good preaching and teaching? Can “Sunday worship” occur only on Sunday?
There are many more questions that could be asked and are being asked. These are some important questions to think about as we continue into the future as “God’s people.” The quote above, though, is touching on something different what these questions ask. Yet, it is a concern that if reflected in each of these questions. Let’s look a little closer:
Sunday-centric — the focus here isn’t on Sunday as much as it is on “event-based” worship that occurs once a week on a regular schedule. We have, it seems, traded in “family” for “crowd.” We gather in groups that are very much unlike family gatherings and very much like concerts or seminars or a traditional teacher-centric classroom. Think about it, how often do you gather with your family and sit in neat rows all facing the same direction, listening to one person speak or a select few sing a song? Never, probably. No, in a family people sit in circles or other random arrangements that allow people to look in each others eyes. Even if one person is guiding the discussion (which is not always the case) there is a good deal of discussion, back and forth, questions and various opinions bandied about. Family is interactive and, even in its most planned events, somewhat random and play-it-by-ear. What would worship look like if we were family?
Atomized in nuclear families — Interestingly, though worship is increasingly focused on large groups and (mostly) passive observers, we have at the same time defined family as almost exclusively parents and children. We understand that grandparents, siblings and others are “family”, too, but these other parts of family are mostly secondary and not considered to have the same authority and importance as parents. We have essentially isolated our small family units even as we exist within increasingly large worship groups. By contrast, many smaller worship groups tend to have a wider radius of and understanding of “family”, sometimes even extending beyond blood relationships.
Should the church be family?
If so, how do we recapture this?
Can we begin the move from “event” and “entertainment” back to “family” and “sharing?”