A Church’s Most Important Hour of the Week?

clockSunday Morning Worship is not the most important thing a church does each week. I don’t mean to offend, but the notion that Sunday Morning Worship is the most important thing we do together is killing us.

The reality is that most parish pastors spend the great majority of their time each week preparing for that one hour when the congregation gathers for worship.  In holy preparation, pastors do some or all of the following:

  • exegete Scripture,
  • write a sermon and accompanying liturgy,
  • conjure up a Children’s Story,
  • coordinate the music,
  • oversee publication of the bulletin,
  • make the slides,
  • ensure that there will be ushers/money counters/nursery volunteers.

Corporate worship comprises only one (or maybe two) hours of the week but the majority of our efforts are poured into that brief slice of time on The Lord’s Day. But even the most inspiring worship experience does not spiritually mentor and equip most people.  Too many of us compartmentalize our faith into basically two pieces:  Sunday Morning and The Rest of the Week.  We come in, sit down, sit still, and leave smarter/holier/at peace.  Often, we don’t even experience peace.

Exhibit A:  The parishioner who sat through worship and then yelled at another driver in the church parking lot on her way home.

Being a follower of Jesus is not about “coming to church” on Sunday.

What’s More Important that Sunday Morning Worship:  those times when God’s people connect out in the community.

Exhibit A:  Jesus met people in homes, by drinking fountains, on the road, at the beach, at festivals.  And their lives were changed – sometimes in infinitesimal ways and sometimes in enormous ways.

Yes, Jesus taught in synagogues and in the temple, but mostly he connected with people in ordinary places.

The most important hour of the week for Church is when:

  • relationships are nurtured,
  • new leaders are mentored,
  • broken people are loved,
  • Jesus is recognized.

We have met for generations in sanctuaries on Sunday mornings at 11 (or 8:30 or 9:30 or 10:30 or 5:30) for corporate worship.  In a perfect world, we have gathered to proclaim and receive the gospel, praise God, confess our sins, find inspiration, and be spiritually fueled in order to go out and serve.

In the real world, corporate worship has often been about seeing our friends, experiencing stirring music, hearing an elegant sermon (or a mediocre one), and going out to brunch after.  We all know that people can sit beside each other in pews for generations and not really know each other.

How can we better become The Church?  Small groups, dinner clubs, circle meetings, prayer partners, game nights, cook outs, mission trips, retreats, service projects, craft projects, parties.  And maybe even during corporate worship on Sunday mornings.  But honestly, it doesn’t usually happen on Sunday mornings.  Or it doesn’t happen solely on Sunday mornings.

So – church professionals – why are we spending so much time on what happens on Sunday mornings?  Our parishioners expect it, of course.  But corporate worship is not the main thing.  It’s the dessert.

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6 responses to “A Church’s Most Important Hour of the Week?

  1. I guess I wonder if it can be the centerpoint even if it’s not the main thing? I mean…the center point of a circle is small compared to the circle, but without it it’s extremely difficult to draw the circle either. The time when we corporately encounter the Word should, I think, be the centerpoint of our life together. Not the majority of our life together, but the rest of our communal life radiates from that center.

    I’m not saying that has to be on Sunday morning or evening or whatever, or that it has to be as much of a production as we often make it, but that it *does* matter that a community gathers to encounter God together.

  2. RE: Your first “Exhibit A”, and then there’s the church member who on leaving the church parking lot hit the pastor’s car, got out, looked at the dent, got back in his car and drove away without going back inside to tell the pastor.

  3. Pingback: A Church's Most Important Hour of the Week? | L...

  4. Hi Jan,
    Thank you for this insightful blog. May I share it in our presbytery e-news, giving you the credit of course? One thought: in addition to being the dessert, I would describe worship as the culmination, a coming together of all the other experiences you described throughout the course of the week. There is something sacramental in worship itself when it is born out of all the relational experiences shared in the course of the week. It is the moment when that vertical and horizontal relationship to God intersects. (not the only moment but a moment when the whole community is gathered). And then it concludes with a charge to live into those experiences once again – to be the church beyond that one hour on Sunday. Now having said all of this, I am a big fan of desserts so that imagery also works for me!
    All your friends in New Hope say hello!

  5. Nice article. The number of people in worship has become a major way that churches “keep score”. In the Presbyterian Church (USA) we track membership, worship attendance, christian ed enrollment and financial contributions. Perhaps this is the wrong snapshot of a church. We do not track how many people came to the soup lunch last year, how many people came to the food pantry, or how many kids were helped with math in the after school programs. What would happen if we started tracking and reporting how many people our church “helped” every year?

  6. I understand and agree with the premise. However, small groups, dinner clubs, circle meetings, prayer partners, game nights, cook outs, mission trips, retreats, service projects, craft projects, parties can just be social outings, if they aren’t planned with sharing our love of Jesus as the primary focus.

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