After major efforts by millions of evangelicals to make our point about the secularization of Christmas, we were faced with churches canceling their services on Christmas Day. Talk about shooting ourselves in the foot and becoming the laughing stock of the secular humanists. We have, once again, provided the ammunition for the guns aimed at us. As my granddaddy would say, ‘We ain’t too smart are we?’
While these churches sent DVDs home for the family to watch and others offered services throughout the week leading up to Christmas, the plain and simple fact was that on the day we have historically chosen to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, many churches across the country had their lights out and doors locked. Some witness!
Secular papers love us for this kind of stuff. Headlines such as, ‘Churches Shut Doors on Christmas’ were seen nationwide. The timing was perfect in a year when Jon Gibson’s book on the attacks on Christmas and the emphasis on putting Christ back in Christmas were at the forefront of the public debate.
In a day of political correctness and pressure to embrace all faiths (It was our holiday first, by the way!) many evangelicals have caved in. Following the lead of ‘preachers’ like Joel Osteen, our next step is to tell people they are going to heck if they don’t trust Jesus because hell is such a mean spirited word.
We now have an increasing number of churches that are caving into convenience. Leading evangelicals (I’m starting to think I must use that term loosely), argue that it’s a family time, so many are gone during the holidays, blah, blah, bah humbug. Scrooge is alive and well; he just learned to give his attitude a positive spin. It’s not that he doesn’t support Christmas, it’s just that Christmas is ALL ABOUT ME!
I’m not a legalist, although some reading this article might disagree. It’s just that in my humble and accurate opinion which I highly respect, this is the wrong signal to send to a post-modern world where there are no absolutes. We’re letting the culture impact us more than we are impacting the culture.
I also resent one of the leaders in evangelical circles (who was recently on the cover of Christianity Today) saying that in traditional churches the attendance would be up but in younger churches it would be down because so many would be out of town. First of all, is he implying that only traditional people and old people are worried about Christmas? I hope not. Secondly, the average age of our congregation is in the mid to lower 30s, and we had a huge crowd on Christmas Sunday. We had hundreds of visitors, and we celebrated the birth of Jesus on the day that believers have historically celebrated it. Enough said.
Now, however, I’m wondering which evangelical church will be the first to cancel their Easter services? That day is coming, you know. We no longer have Easter Break, it’s Spring Break. Spring Break often coincides with Palm Sunday and Easter, giving non-believers and believers excuses to be at the beach instead of in the pew on the days when we celebrate what Christ did for us on the cross.
It’s just a matter of time before some politically correct, hip, laid back, ‘with it’ pastor of an ‘evangelical’ church decides that we really shouldn’t inconvenience our members to attend church on Easter Sunday. After all, we’ve got eggs to hide and the Easter bunny is really such a precious thing for our children.
Since one church said they made their decisions based on the fact that ‘people vote with their feet…we notice when they want to attend services and when they don’t…we take that into account.’ Mark it down; it’s coming. No Easter.
Let’s think about this. The disciples voted with their feet and ran for the tall grass in the garden. If Jesus had ‘noticed that people vote with their feet,’ he wouldn’t have gone to the cross. If Jesus was just interested in noses, he would have considered the feeding of the 5,000 and the loneliness of the cross and shut the whole thing down. We would be DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SIN if Jesus had paid attention to the public.
Since when do we let carnal, disobedient people decide what a church will do or will not do? Since when do we let people who have religion, but not Christ, decide what ministries we should offer and when?
Just think about it. You can get a DVD of the movie King of Kings and watch it at home. You don’t have to come to church. Or, pull out that copy of The Passion and watch it with your family on your big screen TV. You’ll be able to pause it to go to the restroom or to get a refill on diet coke and jump right back in to the scourging. Better yet, pause it when the nails are being driven into his hands for your sin and turn to the person sitting with you and say, ‘That had to hurt.’
No need to gather at Christmas to sing the great songs of the church regarding the virgin birth. No need to gather at Easter to sing the great songs of the church regarding the resurrection. Just stay home, dye a few Easter eggs and make a token prayer over lunch thanking the one who died for you.
I want to congratulate this new generation of preachers who are falling into the hands of the gospel of convenience. Well done thou prophets of hot tub religion. Blessings to you who have made church about family more than faith. You have built a church on sand that is twenty miles wide and one inch deep. Our forefathers would be embarrassed at what we’ve done in the name of Christ and the church. We’ve accommodated ourselves to the whims of the people rather than submitting ourselves to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I’m guessing they will have church on April Fool’s Day. After all, the fool has said in his heart, ‘I do church on my terms.’
© 2006, Michael Catt
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.