On cancelling church services on Christmas day:
“We cancelled services 7 years ago (the last time Christmas fell on Sunday) and received a huge backlash. We’re by far the largest church around, so it was in the paper and (sadly) lots of other local pastors took the opportunity to publicly bash us. Instead, our senior minister encouraged everyone to go out and “be the church” in the community. Some people volunteered at homeless shelters and soup kitchens (kinda think Jesus would have rather seen that anyway).
Others went out to eat as an excuse to bless the wait staff who had to work. Lots of reports (anonymously) of people ordering a cup of coffee and leaving HUGE tips (like $50 or more). One very well off family got to know a young man who was their waiter. He was working 2 jobs to put himself through college and didn’t have a car to go home for Christmas. So they gave him their car. They developed a friendship with him and “adopted” him while he was away at school and paid for some of his tuition. He’s a minister in his hometown now. A little girl baked brownies and went down to the university campus to hand them out to students who were in town. Most were international students, one was a Muslim young man who casually asked her why she was doing it. Expecting, “school fund raiser” or something similar, he got in reply, “well, Jesus would do this.” The little girl invited him to church. He’d been secretly wrestling with his faith and so he came. He was baptized last Easter, because of a little girl and her brownies.
But the best story was one of the local ministers who had criticized our church’s decision to cancel. He hadn’t said anything publicly, but to his friends had talked about how we must not really love Jesus. Christmas morning, his son started having seizures and was rushed to children’s hospital. While they waited, someone anonymously brought a huge spread of food to the ICU waiting room so everyone there could have Christmas dinner. He didn’t know where it came from. Months later, he was at a pastor’s conference and our pastor was speaking about “canceling Christmas” and what all the people did to love our city. When he talked about setting up a buffet in the ICU waiting room at Children’s, this pastor said he began to cry uncontrollably. He spoke to our congregation via video last week and shared that story. His church is doing the same this year.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with having services, but I for one am glad that we don’t. That attitude of “being the church” has continued, we even sometimes cancel random services to do the same and this has become our mantra, “If we closed our doors today, would anyone notice?” We want the answer to be yes, because of what God is doing through us to serve the people He loves.”
- “Bryan,” in a comment on Jon Acuff’s blog