Right in the centre - Reaching out versus peering inward


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

I have often pondered about laws and traditions around the Christian church.

In 1906, Canada’s parliament passed The Lord’s Day Act which was intended to protect Sunday as a day of worship and rest. The law was struck down by a 6-0 vote of the Supreme Court in 1985. 

Christian churches still hold worship and instruction services mainly on Sunday mornings. In comparison to 1906, or even 1985, attendance is down, way down across the land. Many church buildings have been torn down, burned or re-purposed.

Sunday became a replacement for Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. On-line I found this explanation. “Why did we change the Sabbath to Sunday? While Jesus himself did not make a final break with the Sabbath, he so weakened it in the minds of his followers that they found it natural to move from worshipping on the Sabbath—a day of restrictions —to Sunday, a day associated with the joyous freedom brought about by the resurrection of Jesus.”

It may be hard to determine if Sunday, as The Lord’s Day, has played out the way Jesus intended. The Sabbath was wrapped up in, some would say strangled, by rules. It has always been a puzzle to me how the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament (Old Covenant) could morph into hundreds of rules. One clue is that Jewish academics and theologians didn’t trust people to take the Ten Commandments and live by them.

The ancient Christian church followed a similar path of piling on rules upon rules to “help” God out. It has been thus for over 2000 years. Occasionally reform or revival breaks out and a re-set takes place. It isn’t long before the rules prevail over the Ten Commandments and the Church slides back into legalism.

Why do churches insist on having their main event on Sunday at 10 or 11 a.m.?

You couldn’t likely pick a worse time for young families. Five days of school and school activities followed up by a Saturday of catching up on shopping and household duties leaves people pretty much tired out by Sunday. By noon Sunday, children and some adults are hungry and attention spans dwindle.

Maybe I am over reacting but it seems to me that Jesus and his disciples met most days and frequently, not just Sundays. I don’t think they were as addicted to Sunday mornings as churches have become.

It has always been so, but a lot of people can’t make it to a Sunday morning meeting all the time. Doctors, nurses, all health care workers, factory and shift workers, police and fire staff, the list goes on. I strongly feel that church organizations need to be much more flexible.

It has often been decried by church members and leaders that bars and hockey rinks are better attended than churches. There are some reasons for that. Both bars and hockey rinks are less judgemental than some churches and maybe more fun. Did you ever wonder why bars have round tables? It’s so there can be face-to-face interaction, something that is largely missing in churches. Hockey rinks are more fun than many churches. 

Churches are set up like lecture halls and that is ok, to a point, as it is an efficient way to deliver a consistent message. However, if there is no chance for discussion at some point, the eyes front, central podium is prone to becoming a position of control. The pulpit or podium has been used by the church hierarchy to wield their control more than it has been to spread the Love of God.

The secret for survival for churches is to remain relevant and become more relevant in today’s world. Churches should be out and about. Rather than crying about hockey tournaments being on Sunday, perhaps they could volunteer to have kids activities at the tournaments. Between games, the hours get pretty empty and boring so maybe there’s a way to fill those hours with kids activities.

I also know that churches are always short of money (or think they are) but wouldn’t it be cool if a church actually signed up as a sponsor at local sporting or other events.

I know this column is a bit far-fetched and perhaps way off base but I do know this. Many churches have died and many more are attended by very old people. Jesus always went out into the community. He went to the people and if churches don’t follow his example, they won’t be here in ten years.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.