Rumor has it that woke liberal leftist pastors are considering doing the unthinkable on Sunday, December 25. When they should be gathered with the people of God celebrating the birth of Christ they will be nestled in their beds demonstrating their worldliness.
Heathens and heretics!
I will be honest, I could not cancel church on Christmas Sunday. That comes from conviction, but also from my tradition and training. My dad (also my pastor through my formative years) wavered slightly in his view of eternal security when people dared to cancel church for Christmas or Super Bowls or anything else. During my 30+ years as a pastor in Iowa, I was the last in town to cancel for snow. One Christmas Eve in Cedar Rapids we had great attendance because everyone else canceled and people came to Northbrook because they knew I would be there. My pianist and music leader were stuck and home, but I was there.
It’s who I am. Old dogs; new tricks, you know.
It’s a conviction too. Church matters. I know, church is the people, not the buildings. That’s kinda my point. The gathering of God’s people to worship matters and on the day we celebrate the Incarnation, the coming of Christ to earth, it seems strange to me to respond by canceling worship. Family matters, but the church family coming together to worship matters as well. To me, it is better to bring our families together in worship, in a simple service, than to just stay home.
That is my opinion, my view on this. Because of this, I will be preaching on Christmas morning at my little church in Nebraska.
I am also a Baptist who believes in the historically cherished principle of autonomy. That means that my first paragraph is a load of hogwash. Many churches are canceling and I don’t think they are woke or heretics or heathens. My son and I got into it recently, exchanging insults freely, because he canceled his worship service. I questioned his commitment and called me old-fashioned and some other things I didn’t really understand.
We have become spiritual busybodies who do not trust the Lordship of Christ or the power of the Spirit to guide others. We need to practice autonomy, allowing our brothers and sisters to follow Christ even when we do not fully agree with their decisions.
Joel Rainey posted on Facebook explaining why his church is doing a pre-recorded service instead of meeting together. I would make the following observations about his explanation.
- His reasoning was thoughtful, pastoral, and came from a heart that desired to honor God and serve his congregation.
- He did not do what I would do if I were the pastor of that church.
- I am not the pastor of that church so, in the long run, my opinions are pretty meaningless.
- Joel has a Lord who died to save his soul and a Holy Spirit who guides him. He will give account to Christ for his decisions, not to me.
Have we forgotten the principle of autonomy? Baptists used to ask for the right to follow our own conscience, but now too often we demand that everybody follow our conscience. Vote as I vote, or you are liberal and woke. Do as I do, or you are unfaithful to God. Decide as I decide or I anathematize you. Autonomy and soul competency have been sacrificed on the altar of conformity.
Romans 14 and 15 tell us that there are issues of conscience on which we do not have to agree. One person observes the Sabbath and another doesn’t. One person eats or drinks certain things, another doesn’t. There are so many such issues and this is one. I could not cancel church on Christmas Day without feeling as if I’d compromised myself but faithful Christians can come to different conclusions.
What do we do when such issues arise?
- I follow my conscience and lead my church to do the same. I answer to Christ and so must do what I think is right.
- I respect the Lordship of Christ and the ministry of the Spirit enough to allow other believers to follow THEIR conscience without seeking to control them with my conscience.
- We practice autonomy, which in a sense, is freedom of conscience on a church level. My son does his hipster, millennial stuff and I do my old fogey stuff and we respect each other’s decisions. Joel does his bigger church thing and I do my smaller church thing. We respect that different churches do different things to worship the SAME Lord.
- We can share our convictions to try to CONVINCE one another but must not try to CONVICT others. That’s the Spirit’s job. We must never condemn others because they have different views. Iron sharpens iron and the sharing of opinions and seeking to influence others is healthy and good, as long as we do not try to become the Holy Spirit.
Boiled down, it’s pretty simple. Make a solid, biblical decision about Christmas Sunday (those are already made for this year, right), and then respect those who make different decisions.
This isn’t one of those hills we need to die on, or kill on.
DISCUSSION: I would be interested in hearing what YOUR church is doing, and why. This is a “no condemnation” post (except for my first paragraph). Share your thinking, respect others.