Petra Retires!
In Search of a Deeper Repentance

Closed on Christmas.


That's exactly what tens and perhaps what hundreds of thousands of people will discover when they show up at some of America's largest megachurches on Christmas this year.  Although Christmas falls this year on a Sunday -- the primary day of worship for Christians since the first century -- megachurches like Willow Creek and Fellowship are choosing to close their doors. And I'm certain that many, many other churches (both large and small) will do the same.

Is this a smart move?

And why are churches making this decision?

In an interesting article, AP religion writer Rachel Zoll is quick to draw attention to those within evangelical circles who disapprove:

"This is a consumer mentality at work: `Let's not impose the church on people. Let's not make church in any way inconvenient,'" said David Wells, professor of history and systematic theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in Hamilton, Mass. "I think what this does is feed into the individualism that is found throughout American culture, where everyone does their own thing."

So what's your take on this whole thing? Are people making a mountain out of a mole-hill, or is this "closed-on-Christmas" thing (or perhaps what it's a symptom of) a significant issue?

Fellowship_church_2 * thanks to Matt for sending me the article link.


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Lakewood in Houston will be open Christmas Eve and Christmas day. It is said to be anywhere from the sixth largest to the largest church in the United States.

My local congregation will be having church, too.

Suzi, I'm glad to hear about Lakewood and your congregation being open on Christmas. Although only 10,000 attend services each week at Faith Community Church in West Covina (the megachurch I grew up in), they too are having 3 services on Christmas Eve and two on Christmas day. You may have already guessed it, but the primary church I pastor will also be open Christmas morning.

I guess there's still hope, huh?

Two thoughts come to mind. First, I'll bet most of these same churches which will close their doors on Christmas Day will also have spent the previous month talking about how people are unusually open to the Spirit at this time of year. From one side of their mouths they proclaim this to be a great opportunity to sow Gospel seeds. From the other they turn their back on a great opportunity to sow Gospel seeds.

Second, I wonder how many of these decisions were based on finances. How many of these churches, figuring attendance might be down as their consumer-parishioners opted to stay home, decided not to open because their sales-offerings wouldn't cover variable expenses for the day? (Damn! That's cynical.)

Full disclosure: Our church is having both a Christmas Eve service and a single Christmas Day service. (There are normally two Sunday morning services.)

I need to repent (hopefully in a deep way) and pull back from my earlier cynicism. I am just speculating, and I should be more kind and loving to by brothers and sisters.

In my first thought: Christmas Eve events hadn't crossed my mind. I imagine most of the churches who will close their doors on Christmas Day will culminate the season the night before. The double-mindedness I imply probably isn't there to the degree I accuse.

In my second: In addition to phrasing my comment more charitably, I should acknowledge that financial stewardship is a valid factor in these decisions. It might be argued that it has been over-weighted in some cases; but, again, that is speculation on my part. I've not sat in on any of the meetings where the decision to close was made.


I don't understand it at all Chris. First I don't understand the whole Church is for reaching the Lost. Like it's the pastor's job? I thought Church was to Glorify Christ for being the God who became a Man and Died so I might live. I thought it was about God, not us.

I mean we go to church to remember, to celebrate the Eucharist (which means thanksgiving doesn't it?)

Then it's we who are to be living Epistles and 'win folk to Jesus' Monday thru Saturday.

Also, I would think that since the last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was 1994 (i think) there should be some planning to ensure the doors are open Christmas day.



I don't see that it matters a whole lot. I think the early church we speak of so often placed more of an emphasis on being together, not so much as when and where.

Besides, times change and culture does affect both doctrine and tradition. Anyone really want to go back to the time to segretation or when drums were evil?

While I wouldn't want to have 11 services, at least Fellowship is going out with a bang before closing their doors on Christmas!

To remind people of the significance (symbolically), I keep telling them about our Christ Mass that we will have on Dec. 25th. I have wanted to have worship on Dec. 25th last year but it didn't happen.

i like church services on christmas day. to me, that's the real idea of the day. everything else is just extra.

i'll tell you the sunday that will be a problem though - new year's day, after staying up all night on the 31st! that's one that i could easily skip.

Tammy, you're right about New Year's Day - in fact, there are churches already planning to be closed that day as well, or at least cut back on the number of services, offer a later service, etc.

What does all that mean? I suppose it depends on your convictions about such things.

Big "HELLO" to all you Schoch's!

when we were pastoring i don't think we ever closed for a holiday. however, we did anticipate a smaller group of people. we also had to anticipate a smaller offering. which translates, in a small church, to no pay for the pastor for a few weeks.

we were working on the holiday, and not getting paid even straight time! :D

that's how it felt sometimes when everyone else was free to do whatever they wanted and party all night and sleep in, etc.

i empathize with pastors during this season. others get extra time off work, and pastors work harder than ever.

i think pastors should all have the first week of the new year off to do whatever they want.

Tammy, I'm feeling this with you. In many places there is clearly a "double-standard" being practiced. Pastors (and their families) are expected to be at everything, while parishioners come to hardly anything. And when they choose not to give on top it all, and then blame the "leadership" for the low giving and attendance....

Well, you know.

My past ministry experiences often included closing for Christmas (including those years when it fell on Sunday). For the past five years, we've gathered together on Christmas morning for a short but very meaningful time. When we started, I was shocked how many in our congregation enthusiastically showed up! Over the past 20 years, I often felt a little bit of resentment that I had to show up for even a Christmas Eve service, but now I look forward to being with our church family on Christmas morning, without any resentments at all over how it might cut into my time at home with wife, kids, & extended family.

I'm also with you when it comes to giving pastors time off -- especially, but not limited to, after Christmas and Easter.

As a young man, I was mentored by pastors who forced me to take 3-4 consecutive days off in every quarter except the one my vacation fell in. These "quarter breaks" have remained part of my ministry DNA, so to speak, and I now actively encourage my staff to do the same.

I presently try to take at least 2 of these quarter breaks in addition to 3 weeks of vacation each year. I also try to break away for a 48 hour prayer retreat every 3-4 months.

Sometimes I feel like it takes ALL of this to keep me sufficiently sane and energized to care for people. ;)

but now I look forward to being with our church family on Christmas morning

Chris, I think you're touching on something key here. In addition to the question, "What is the purpose of gathering?" we must also ask, "Who is our family?"

If I say, "I'd rather stay home with my family than go to church on Christmas," then I have communicated something about the place of the church in my life, namely that my ties to the church are not of the same degree as the ties to my genetic family. I'm not necessarily saying this is problematic, even though I would probably lean that way; I'm just highlighting an aspect that I haven't seen discussed much.

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