Sunday mornings look different all across the world. From cathedrals to coffee shops, conference centres to cinema complexes, the church gathers to worship together. Whether in an ornate building with iconography and incense or in the shade of a large tree or tent, God’s people all come together to offer their praises in community. They gather to live out the Acts chapter 2 model of Christian community. From all walks of life they come, one in heart, one in mind, one in worship.
Maybe we’ve been guilty of saying “not in my church!” It’s not at all surprising — complaining can be one of the church’s most treasured and annoying hobbies . If we are completely honest and humble with ourselves however, it’s easy to see where we’re falling short on a Sunday morning.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t have a deep desire to worship together as family. It doesn’t say that we don’t have exceptionally well programmed meetings. It doesn’t even say that we don’t have strong church leadership and exceptional lay volunteers. What it does say is that beneath all of the programmes and activities, many of our churches are just not doing Sundays well. And really, it shouldn’t come as much of a shock. After all, you see it every Sunday.
You see it when the musician deliberately walks the long way around the pews to avoid walking past the sound engineer they are annoyed with about their foldback monitor mix. You see it when the couple in the fourth row turn and grumble to each other that they have been standing for 5 songs in a row. You see it when the congregation can almost recite the words of the altar call invitation verbatim, and sit back with arms folded, waiting for the final song. You see it when the worship leader stumbles through a prayer full of clichés, starting with the last line of the previous song and finishing with the first line of the next song. You see it when a mother snaps at her 4 year old in the car park, telling him to “just behave for once so we can go into church and learn about Jesus”. You see it when the open-mic testimony period includes three minutes of testimonies and 8 minutes and 47 seconds of uncomfortable silence.
There is one sense in which we can’t do church well. We all come to Sunday morning with our baggage – our hurts and regrets, our worries and guilt, our hang-ups and preconceptions. We come as self-focussed people, and attempt to join with the rest of the congregation in heart and mind enough so that our eyes are lifted towards God in community. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it clicks and we are made fully aware of God’s presence as we focus our attention on Him, but many times it doesn’t. Many times we can’t lift our eyes quite enough, we can’t seem to leave our baggage, and we can’t help but get caught up in petty squabbles.
If God had wanted perfect worship, He wouldn’t have asked us to do it. The Angels are far more capable of it than we are. God knows our shortcomings and failings in worship far better than we do. In fact, Scripture reveals to us that our attempts at perfecting worship are often displeasing to God (Amos 5:23 – 24, Luke 19:45 – 46). So we need to ask ourselves why it is that we are meeting in this way. What are we hoping to accomplish? What is the point and the power of Sunday?
So what is the power of Sunday? Why is it so important to make our Sundays work? It is our Altar that fuels our tent-building engagement with the world around us. It is our sacrifice every 6 steps that ensures that we are bringing the Ark back into the City of David according to God’s plans. It is our choice between sitting and listening at the feet of Jesus or bustling around getting the meal ready. And it is important.
Nancy Beach sums it all up beautifully by saying:
“Something very significant can happen when the body of Christ gathers all together on Sunday morning. Those weekly services define what matters to a church and its leaders, what they will focus on all week, what part of God’s word will challenge them, and how they’ll experience God’s supernatural presence and power. When Sunday mornings inspire, envision and equip those who attend, a buzz of excitement is generated that feeds all the sub-ministries and events. If church leaders become complacent about carefully preparing the hour on Sunday, they jeopardize the church’s entire life and mission.”
This is a big deal.