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Christianless Churches

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Michael Horton's phrase, "Christless Christianity" gets a lot of play in our blog, magazine, and radio program. One of the more timely evidences of the problem will be on full display this Sunday, December 25th. We're already hearing reports of churches that after offering a slew of programming on Christmas Eve will shut their doors on Christmas Day.

Not many Reformational churches will have this problem. They have a high enough view of the Lord's Day that their services will still be held Sunday. But one problem they will face is the absence of some of their members, who because of family commitments and tradition will skip the service(s) in order to open presents, eat a big meal, and enjoy out of town guests.

One pastor shared his frustration with us and gave us permission to post a slightly edited version of his exhortation to the men of his congregation:

I can't believe how ridiculous this is, but I am writing tonight to urge you to take your families to church on Sunday, December 25th. Before it is a holiday, before it is a family gathering, before it is anything else it is a Sunday: a day set aside by God himself to worship. It is a day that your elders have called the church together to worship. It is a day that you should be actively planning to take your family to church.

There is no excuse, not one, for not taking your family to church on Sunday. There may be some of you who will be out of town; find a church and take your family there. There will be some of you who are in town; you know where and when we meet. There is no reason for missing church on Christmas Day. In fact, a good argument can be made that of all the days to worship God, we should worship on Christmas Day. If we do not you are telling your family, your wives, your children, and your neighbors that Christmas isn't really about Jesus at all. It will instead be about you, your family, your traditions, gifts, parties--everything that you will spend the next 12 months complaining about.

Some of you are part of extended families who have already made plans. Let me offer this piece of advice: be a man. Man up and tell your extended family that you are looking forward to seeing them and spending time with them but first you will take your family to church. It is your duty as a husband and father; it your responsibility; it is also your privilege.

This morning we read of King Ahaz in Isaiah 7 who despised the promise of the presence of God. It is easy for us to sit in judgment of the stupidity and hubris of Ahaz. But are you in danger of doing much the same thing? God promises to meet you and your family when you worship him. What possible reason can you have for turning away from that promise? What message does that send to your children?

I didn't think I would have to write this email, but after several different conversations with people who could go to church on Christmas but are not going to, I felt I had no choice. It is my divine duty to call you out. This is not the life of discipleship that you are called to; this is not the obedience that you are obliged to; this is not what I want the men and potential leaders of _______ to be known for.

Go to church.

Pastor _____

For a few more posts on the subject, see:

UPDATE: Dr. Horton weighs in on this discussion.

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  • Guest - paige patterson

    Thank you!

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  • Guest - WHI Admin

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  • Guest - Kier Wesley

    Wow, I would never attend that Pastor's worship services. I don't need a Pastor, Priest or Preacher to "grade" my faith or devotion as a motivation to get me to "church." This attitude repels people away from the proclamation of the Good News and away from Jesus. Our church community offers services on Saturdays and Sundays all year long. It opens up more opportunities for people to worship the God they seek and adore. BTW, we don't "go to church" we ARE the church, every hour of every day. A building has never been "the church." We have this great opportunity to worship him through each day in all we do as we reflect the attitude of the Good News and offer the Good News to strangers, family and friends. In our situations we will continue to have our services this Saturday, December 24 and Sunday, December 25. People will come because they are inspired, not because they are coerced.

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  • Guest - Leslie

    This appears to be a highly charged issue to debate. While I concurred that strong arming people into church on Christmas Day may have a negative affect, the situation seems to be simple. How many hours would you be in church in Sunday? How many hours are in the day? Couldn't we easily "fit in" a service to celebrate Christ's coming, without whom we wouldn't even have any faith to celebrate? Why not invite unsaved family to join you for services? Would they really roll their eyes while you went without them?

    Make the service part of your day. What a beautiful way to celebrate it. We plan to have a late morning service so as to give families time in the morning for traditions. We personally plan to save a few things for after the service.

    Believe me, I know that this is a big family day, but if you heard all the reasons people give for missing a church services you'd really rethink the whole scenario. I've heard them all. My husband is a minister and we have known people who miss church a lot for "good reasons"...family reunion lunch, special birthday party, sports, recitals, out of town, one person out of 5-6 is sick, etc. Add it up and you've got sporadic attendance at God's House. Christmas does not fall on Sunday very often. It could be one of the best family memories you have by being together as a family in God's House. The other night one of our families brought their entire extended family to our Wednesday Candlelight Service. It meant so much to them, and did their hearts a world of good. May we each examine our hearts and see what lies within. Merry Christmas.

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  • This is coercion.

    ("There is no excuse, not one, for not taking your family to church on Sunday."

    No thanks, but I'll pass on the idolatry of the "golden calf" that is called the four walls.

    The church is not the four walls, but the people are, no matter where they are.

    FYI, on December 25th, the origin of many demon-gods were birthed on this day, not Jesus Christ. This holiday has it's roots in paganism.

    I will keep my hands out of the hungry throats of the offering plates and oppression of religious, corporate, man-made rules of the four walls.

    “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” -- Matthew 18:20

    This verse does not mean in the pastor's name, where he works, as the pastor would have you believe in his exhortation above.

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  • [...] Christianless Churches [...]

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  • Guest - Pastor Christopher

    "Be a man"? Maybe being a man is honoring your wife and mercifully letting her have some more time with her family, for instance. Or a pastor having a bit more understanding toward his flock than that. Christ will understand, folks. It's just as bad to be a pharisee over church attendance as going to the other extreme. I'm purposefully going to honor God with more time with my family this Christmas.

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  • Guest - Lisa

    I'm still having a difficult time understanding how the title of this entry is relevent to the content, or how it even makes sense. "Christianless Churches" - are you implying that, when the holidays hit, Christians are apt to abandon church attendance, thereby leaving the church empty of Christians? or are you implying that the Church is full of non-Christians? Confusing. I disagree either way, but am honestly not even sure if I'm disagreeing with the author's intent.

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  • Guest - Kier Wesley

    Great question Lisa. Perhaps it's partially the same old issue of "Good Christian" vs. "Bad Christian", "Committed Christian" vs. "Carnal Christian", "Real" vs. "Fake", "Reformed Christian" vs. "Every other kind of Christian." I am sincerely curious regarding the Reformed tendency to measure others. Really, it's worth a discussion.

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  • Guest - Sherrie

    I live outside the USA. I have an orphanage and school in Haiti. Yes, I took the 37 children who live in my home to church on Sunday, Christmas Day. The 6 workers helped me with them. We all wanted to be in the House of the Lord on the day commonly celebrated as his birthday. It had nothing to do with legalism - we wanted to be there because we love Jesus. What better place could we be on Christmas Day!!!

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