Canceling Church To Do Good

Canceling Church To Do Good

June 23, 2010 by

West Ridge Church along with 77 other churches in the Atlanta area are canceling Sunday services the weekend of July 23-25 in order to do community service (something we’ve seen before). It’s called Community Makeover, and it’s an event that creates an opportunity for the church to get outside of their walls and do some good. Much of this idea really puts a smile on my face, but I think a part of it should give us a bit of a kick in the butt.

I really like the unity that this sort of event brings. We are so good at building up our denominational walls that it’s easy to forget we are all serving and proclaiming the same Almighty God. It’s a good reminder that we are all family and that our differences are less important than loving God and loving people.

I love that this is about the church being the church, that they are getting outside of the church walls, rolling up their sleeves and serving. This is a great example of the church being about what they are for and not what they are against. All of these churches should be applauded for these efforts, I pray that they are each blessed as they bless others. I also pray that we pause and let this sting a bit.

Do we need a special event to serve our community? I’m so grateful that they are taking the time and putting such effort into this. I love seeing this sort of thing, but shouldn’t this be a part of our DNA? I hope that this event serves as a great example of what we should be doing on a consistent basis. I hope it energizes each of these churches—and all of us hearing about it—to love our neighbors, to help those that need help. Let’s not allow this to be an event we just check off our list, but a catalyst of Christ flowing through us in the way we serve.

Community service instead of worship service.
Post By:

Michael Buckingham

With the goal of making the church the most creative place on the planet, Michael founded Holy Cow Creative, the church’s creativity and design studio. He is the former creative director for the Center for Church Communication and Church Marketing Sucks, and is currently the experience pastor at Victory World Church in Atlanta.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

17 Responses to “Canceling Church To Do Good”

  • Laura Burrus
    June 23, 2010

    My church in Austin, TX does this sort of thing twice a year. We don’t cancel church services, but we have service projects for sign-up throughout an entire weekend. Individuals, families, friends can choose which project they want to do during the weekend…either all afternoon on Saturday or all afternoon on Sunday. Projects range from neighborhood clean up, serving at a shelter or helping single moms repair things around the house. We call each weekend “Serve Austin” and our whole church gets involved. It’s just one way we serve our community as a church.

    It started off as just doing community service on Sunday afternoon but because of the amount of volunteers we had sign up, it soon became 2 full days of service. Pretty awesome to see how much the body of Christ can do in 1 weekend when working together.

     | Permalink
    • Fred Baker
      June 23, 2010

      Not to sure I like the phrase, “Canceling Church.” It seems like you are exercising an aspect of the church, serving the community around you. So maybe it should be called Serve Atlanta Day or something like that. If you are being the church you are not canceling church.

       | Permalink
  • Ryan Boyer
    June 23, 2010

    I think it is good, but I agree that it should be or become part of the DNA. The bigger question generated by such a discussion gets to the heart of what the nature of the church is. I’m inclined towards it being about worshiping God first and foremost as a gathered community and then scattering on mission to share the love of God. The first precedes the second; without the vertical relationship there will be dispute on the purpose in serving horizontally.

     | Permalink
  • Eddie Gonzalez
    June 23, 2010

    No special occasion or event is necessary. My family is a part of Life Journey Church in Bakersfield, CA. We schedule 5-6 “Gone 4 Good” Sundays through the year. So, essentially every other month, on Sunday morning, we go to a different place and do work, whatever that may be. The slogan is “The Church has left the building.”

    The last one we had (about 5 weeks ago) was at an AIDS hospice, and we did a lot of yard work, fixing furniture, put together goody bags, etc. This coming Sunday the next one is scheduled, and we’ll be partnering with another congregation to do some needed fixing and painting at another facility. Before, Life Journey tried to do it once a month. But the planning, scheduling, organizing, ended up being strenuous (especially getting bodies together for it).

    Life Journey isn’t better or more genuinely Christian here in Bakersfield because of these Gone 4 Good days. It is a different thing to do here, definitely. Would be considered liberal in such a conservative religious atmosphere here in Bakersfield. But it’s not different for the sake of being different. When my fam first started meeting with the group, we ate and chatted with some of the leadership. They just saw the need for the congregation to be in the community, with our neighbors, and recognizing that the Church is not a building. What better day and time to get the Church to be the Church than Sunday morning when everyone is together already?

     | Permalink
  • Mark Horvath
    June 23, 2010

    Do we need a special event to serve our community?

    Oh gosh, Holy Cow has me commenting on a church site. Lord help us

    Point blank – the majority of church outreach into the community (not all, but most) is a marketing ploy to fill seats. That’s why we (church marketers) send out press releases and we create elaborate videos to play Sunday mornings.

    I worked in ministry for many years. I was always taught that the “world” does not have a thing on us. Then I worked in government homeless services outreach.

    Church outreach usually is a few hours on a Saturday every other month. Some may even have weekly events. It usually evolves around ‘adopting’ a poor community for organization. Some may paint and do clean up, some start with music and food, even a puppet show. All will evolve around getting people to say a “sinners prayer”. Of course, they’ll be encouraged to visit the church on Sunday. The church group will leave rejoicing in the number of salvations. The victory will be announced from the pulpit on Sunday and everyone will feel good that they ‘impacted’ their community. Sadly, back at the community or organization, except for the fresh paint, very little has changed.

    In government outreach I ride in a van every single day. We drive around looking for hurting people on the streets. We do our best to build relationships so when a person is ready for change we can help them connect to services. In bad weather we are out helping people around the clock. We don’t get paid much, and only for an 8 hour shift, yet when a homeless mother with young children calls at 2am we are there to help. Our primary focus is to build relationships through our actions. We have a commitment to help the hurting in our community and it shows to everyone. This last winter we broke a record for connecting homeless families to housing. It’s hard emotional work with little reward – but we never stop.

    There is a huge difference here. Both are ‘evangelistic’ in nature. But one has impact and the other is mostly lip service.

    It’s all about “souls” – yes it is! But I believe that as long as the commercialized evangelical church continues to focus on a ‘sales quota of sinners players’ instead of genuinely helping people we will see less people in church and more people dying on the street.

    let’s be real here. There are less people becoming Christian’s than ever, and more people dying on the streets than ever. Something is clearly broke. yet we keep doing the same thing.

    Please don’t get mad at me for telling the truth here. And there are some churches that do great works and we need to support them. Yet most churches are simply as lost as the people they are trying to reach!

    The last church I worked for spent $1.3 million on HD cameras they are no longer using and only gives $400 a month to a homeless feeding ministry. Clearly our priorities are whacked.

    – Mark Driscoll wrote:

    “As long as Christians fail to repent of self-righteousness, we will continue to speak of evangelism in terms such as outreach, which implies we will not embrace lost people but will keep them at least an arm’s length away.” “… the transformed lives of people in the church are both the greatest argument for, and the greatest explanation of, the gospel. Therefore, it welcomes non-Christians into the church, not so much through evangelistic programs as through informal relationships like Jesus developed with his first disciples … (this evangelism) considers it vital that lost people be brought close enough to witness the natural and practical outworking of the gospel in people’s lives.”

    – Eugene Cho wrote in the post “The Blog Post No One Wants To Read”

    But how is the [C]hurch responding? How? I’m more and more convinced that the reason why the [C]hurch feels paralyzed is that our paradigm nearly always involves two things: 1] Sundays and 2]our services in our buildings. If we can just think outside that box, we can unleash so much creative resources. Understand what I’m trying to say. I think Sundays and buildings are perfectly acceptable and important but maybe solutions don’t have to intersect with Sundays and buildings. Literally, we need to think outside the box – or – building.

     | Permalink
  • Kirk Orr
    June 23, 2010

    My church has been doing this on the third Sunday of the month, every month, for the past 2 years.

     | Permalink
  • Paul Hickernell
    June 23, 2010

    I agree with Fred. We are not canceling church but strategically doing what the church is called to do. Meet on Sunday mornings at 11:00 in a building is not one of our mandates. Go into the world is. As we are going we are teaching the world what it means to love Jesus.

    At ZION we do similar events during the year called “One Day”. We do it on Sundays to meet with people who do not “do church”. It helps re-enforce our DNA.

     | Permalink
    • Randy Ferreiro
      December 28, 2010

      On the contrary, we ARE mandated to meet together for worship, for the preaching of the Word, for communion. We must not be willing to give that up. Going into the world to teach it what it means to love Jesus is nigh meaningless is WE aren’t being taught what it means to love Jesus through right worship of him!

       | Permalink
  • Justin
    June 24, 2010

    I think that the concept of “cancelling church” should definitely shame us a bit. We should be constantly and consistently involved in our community AND in worship and teaching. These things are not mutually exclusive.

    I agree with Ryan Boyer on the fact that we can’t let horizontal service interfere with our vertical relationship with God and that the latter should naturally beget the former. Christ commanded us first to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength and then to love our neighbor as ourselves. I believe the second commandment to only be possible supernaturally (and therefore enabled by the first), because it is against our flash and sin nature.

    The fact is, the church is just as called to teaching and worship (and called firstly, I might add) as we are to serve our communities. The church should by nature be the greatest service organization in the world—but if that is all we become, we should be ashamed when we stand before our Lord.

     | Permalink
  • Manuel Luz
    June 25, 2010

    What is your definition of “church”? If church is a time and place simply where believers gather, then I guess you cancelled church. But if the church is the fellowship of believers, then they never cancelled church—they were being the church. In our ecclesiology, there should be room for both definitions and a heightened importance and understanding of both the Church Gathered and the Church Sent Out.

     | Permalink
  • Sue Brage
    June 28, 2010

    @MarkH- I love what what you are saying about service being who we are and what we do–all the time!

    I do question your comments about outreach being nothing more than marketing. I seem to remember an awful lot of press (videos, FB, Twitter, etc…) when Mark Driscoll took a team of pastors to Haiti? How was that different from the sort of “marketing” you describe here? In both cases, churches were joining together to help others.

     | Permalink
  • Ant Hodges
    June 29, 2010

    This is exactly what we should all be considering. Going to the people, serving in our communities, a church without walls, not just expecting them to come to our Sunday services.

    I agree with Fred Baker – ‘cancelling church’ ?? Urgh! It’s really about releasing the church -in terms of the fact that church is the people not a building or sunday meeting.

    Why don’t more of us do this to show the towns and cities we are in that we exist and that we are just normal people!?

     | Permalink
  • Kelli Munn
    June 29, 2010

    “Do we need a special event to serve our community?

    I often find that churches participating in these types of annual events are the same ones who do the most for their communities on an ongoing basis—because it is part of their DNA. Or, if they aren’t doing a lot, participation helps to re-engage them in that regard.

    Getting back to the communication aspect of all this, let’s never apologize for using our talent as communication professionals to promote events like these through available means such as social and local news media. While the primary motive is always service/ministry to the community, these events also provide an opportunity to convey to a wider audience (than just those served), as the post writer pointed out, what the church is for and that it cares about people. Marketing ploy? No. Marketing opportunity? You betcha.

     | Permalink
  • Carin LeSeure
    June 30, 2010

    Isn’t it interesting how when we focus heavily on one thing – service, evangelism, outreach, inreach through discipleship, teaching, preaching, worship, prayer, number of people saved, number of people served, number of people coming to church………….someone cries out that we’ve lost our focus, because we’re not paying attention to one of the other things…… cancel a corporate worship gathering to go do horizontal service and we’ve lost our focus, or get criticism because we should be doing that stuff all the time, or because the big event doesn’t really change things.

    Like the Trinity, you can’t focus on one at the ignorance of the others but they all have different roles. Our calling as Christians, and churches, is similar….we are called to do all those things…sometimes…since we can’t do everything all at once. SO..while the big event may not change much for the people being served, it may inspire an ongoing committment to service in someone for whom this is their first experience. Part of the need for such variety….ongoing service, big events, outreach events, worship together……is because everyone is a different place on their journey of growing in their faith. There’s no ONE right place, or right way, but we dabble in all of it so we try to reach as many people as we can in different ways.

    At the end of the day….whatever it takes to reach people for Christ…in big and small ways…whatever it takes to push someone along in their spiritual growth….all of those things are God honoring. And yes, we should also find a time to gather to worship vertically, take time alone to pray and worship….and if sometimes we need to put the action where the worship was, and do the worship where the action should be….so be it. Maybe someone will be reached in some way….so it’s worth it. AND….if you’re one of the ones engaging in the discussion at all, chances are, you understand the bigger picture, and ALL of the things we’re called to to….it’s all important. So, you’re probably one who will find a time to serve outside of Sundays without the big event, or who can take time to worship if “church” is cancelled to go serve. If that’s the case, then you have an additional responsibility in discipling younger Christians in their faith, as you continue to grow in yours.

    A masterpiece has many colors, but you can only paint with one or two at a time. Just be sure to use each color, not neglecting any, and showing others how to paint as well.

    Great article. Great comments. Great discussion.

     | Permalink
  • israel
    July 3, 2010

    Wow! I’m amazed at what the church can do if they unite and really do things to reach out to the community. I’m a pastor here in the Philippines and the MISSIONAL concept is unheard of. But we started little things to reach our community on a daily basis: feeding the kids, giving away free coffee, clean-up and giving school supplies. I pray that we can also do this in the Philippines.

     | Permalink
  • Sheila
    July 9, 2010

    Sounds a lot like the Love Your City movement which I think was pioneered by Cincinnati by Steve Sjogren. I agree with the above comments. We are the church and we need to be the church, not just attend it. If we can’t live without our corporate worship, that could be a sign that we are relying too much on Sunday and not feeding ourselves from Monday to Saturday – much like what Willow Creek discovered. It also sends a vibe that the community is not important enough for us to come to them, to support them, and it reinforces the vibe that we all can’t get along together – christians with other christians and christians with non-christians.
    As well, I agree that the concept of service shouldn’t just be a once a year event but it should be who we are 24/7 or as others have said, part of our DNA. My question is therefore, why isn’t it in our DNA?

     | Permalink
  • Stephen
    July 9, 2010

    I’m not really sure why Christians try to emphasize one attribute of the faith at the expense of another (except for the marketing power of shock and awe). “Canceling church is a bad thing, unless it’s for the greater good of serving and keeping perspective.”

    In the church’s long history of “reactionism” which previously led to the protestant church, then denominations, now we’re in an age of individual church reactionism, where the pendulum swings from where it’s been. How about Christians do church right without the momentum of being upset at how its done wrong. This exists in the overseas mission field. Stop coming up with trendy ideas, and just humbly serve. There’s no magic formula to figure out here.

     | Permalink