by Cindy Foster cross posted from her blog Finding Fundamental
Paul and I wake up early enough most Sunday mornings, to make a routine Starbucks run for an hour or so before church–our way to ease into the events of the day.
Once scoring our favorite drinks, we nestle into our pre-selected, cushiony chairs, sign in to our Macs, read a bit, then share articles and statuses of interest with each other. Such is our early Sunday routine.
On this day, we paid little attention to forecasts of potential snow and drizzle. It was perfectly dry where we were and reports indicated only areas south of us would get significant accumulations. Besides, if our roads were affected, the big trucks were ready and waiting to keep them safely drivable.
Or so we were told….
Gradually, as we watched curiously through Starbuck’s floor to ceiling windows, light snow began falling. Then heavier, heavier and heavier until within a few short minutes, it was coming down so hard and fast the ground was completely covered. It was obvious by then, driving would prove a serious challenge. We noticed the cars just outside our windows, fish-tailing on spinning wheels, struggling to get traction.
When we left our house, only minutes earlier, it never entered our minds that weather might be inclement enough to cancel services. Suddenly, we knew we needed to make a decision. It wasn’t a difficult call.
Our church family is few in number.
Some drive 30 to 40 minutes to get to the place where we meet. Some are elderly. Some have crippling physical challenges. All (except retired, who have other difficulties) have demanding jobs working long, hard hours all during the week. All would feel they would somehow be slighting God if they didn’t strive to get there… UNLESS…. we cancel.
I know why. It’s because that is how they’ve been conditioned by their high-demand religious backgrounds. I question anyone who declares, ‘ It’s God convicting them’…..how they could know….
Six days a week, those who have jobs must abide by strict requirements and time schedules just to earn a meager living. They are expected to be there by a certain time and quit only at the scheduled time. They are expected to provide doctor’s notes to verify sickness for missing work, are regulated as to how long breaks and lunch times last, are disciplined or fired based on performance requirements and some are even expected to take extra work home without compensation.
There are also unending household responsibilities, school activities, extended family considerations, community needs and many other necessary demands on time not to mention pressures and expectations from the high demand churches so many (without recognizing them as such) are committed to. It is especially difficult for younger families with children to find enough of the necessary down-time to spend with their children so they can actually know them!
So. We, in the interest of our most dedicated, loving, hard-working church family believe it no insult to God if we give them a break from the meeting on such days.
And I’ll venture a few steps further. Digressing a bit, I know.
I don’t believe God would consider it an insult if we relaxed expectations for high-quality, stress-provoking performances in church services complete with activities-to-meet- every-need–at least somewhat–to allot more of that time actually ministering to real needs of our families and communities.
I even wonder why churches have to be so time-conscious anyway?
Why, on the day established as ‘The Lord’s Day’– a day of worship and rest from our labors–it is so important services start and end precisely ‘on time’? Why can’t there be a time set for people to arrive and then begin when everyone gets there and is ready?
Instead of being so concerned with starting ‘on time‘ and ending ‘on time’, why couldn’t we use that set time simply as a guide, letting the ‘Spirit‘ lead from then on? Why would the Church want to order itself in so much the same way as the secular business world? Shouldn’t Sunday, especially Sunday truly, in all essence, be a day to rest from all that?
Why so much emphasis on all that pertains to the church meeting?
For so many years I have heard it preached with exceeding fervor, that there was no good work pleasing to God outside church. But is the ‘Church‘ supposed to be all about its meetings and activities? Aren’t members of any local church still members of their respective churches when they are demonstrating ‘Christ’ apart from the meetings? Are we so inadequate and incapable in our ability to read and understand the Bible for ourselves that to be properly fed, we MUST rely on sermons preached from a raised pulpit in a building congregated by a crowd?
While I can’t claim it to be wrong for church meetings to be conducted with the order in which most are, I do strongly believe it to be wrong for church-going people to be using public networking mediums to scold, rebuke, express concern for, numbers of people they suspect are making excuses (such as weather) to skip out on church, as to their devotion to God.
Church ‘truants’ are challenged by the ‘faithful’ to rightly examine their motives for missing. Surely they are selfishly neglecting their reasonable service to the Lord. Why else would any who are physically capable, miss, when the ones speaking out are so devotedly honoring their obligation to the Lord, except it be for devious purposes? Why else would the faithful attenders feel justified for publicly (albeit anonymously) admonishing the truants except they believed their works qualified them to exercise such ‘authority’.
I apologize for the pointed sarcasm. It just seems to find it’s way out through the writing. But it also expresses how much of a stumblingblock I believe such an action is.
Those of us who are professing believers need to separate ourselves from the finger-pointing acts that spell hypocrisy to those who have seen more of that and little else of the goodness of Christ which, if there is any repenting to be done, is what brings it. Not some verbal scolding by another sinning human being who might happen to be better at doing ‘church‘ but most likely has plenty of skeletons hiding in other regions of their lives.
Paul and I were thankful for the extra time we had to spend at Starbucks that day. I thought of it as a gift–a special time–that we utilized by driving my snow-bound, carless daughter to work. She really needed the money and her employer really needed her.
We then drove home, made chili dogs and enjoyed some extra, quality time with the rest of our kids still living at home. We even watched the Super Bowl from start to finish for the first time in years and years.
And I would not allow myself the slightest bit of peer-induced guilt for not scrambling about, looking for tools to clear the walkways, fretting over the safety of members driving on slick roads from 40 minutes away then fretting over their driving back home again in even worse driving conditions, fearing that our physically challenged members would slip and fall on the ice and snow outside their own homes as they tried to make way to their cars, just so that we could feel a bit of pride that we had endured the hardness and exercised our spiritual muscle by having services…anyway.
What’s even more important, I felt not one iota of fear that God was not pleased…..
Are we carnal Christians? Depends on who’s judging.
Cindy Foster is “Mom” to eight gorgeous, talented, temperamental, noisy, opinionated, alike-but very different kids. She has been married to their daddy, Paul, for 36 years.
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