Is the Week More Important than the Weekend?

One of our core Summit principles is that we are not building an audience, we are building a church. We believe, you see, that Jesus did not die to make converts, but disciples, and living out your faith in Jesus in the community is a greater sign of true salvation than church attendance is. Carrying the cross is something you do primarily outside the church, not inside. Which is why we often say “the week is more important than the weekend.” Throughout the week is when you live as a disciple. Weekend Christians are not Christians at all, regardless of a prayer they prayed to “accept Jesus.”

Furthermore, we believe that the church’s true power is found when each member is released to minister in the power of the Spirit. Scripture teaches that each member is blessed to be a blessing. We believe that the greatest acts of ministry, therefore, will happen outside of our walls. The New Testament vision of a church is not simply one group of people gathering around one anointed leader, but a congregation of people filled with the Spirit, all ministering in His power. Thus, we believe that our greatest work is equipping believers and releasing this. I would add that there certainly is a role for a group of people being blessed by anointed leaders—God has always raised up leaders in his church, both locally and nationally. But while Peter and Paul preached some important sermons in Acts, the longest and most powerful sermon was preached by Stephen, a “layman.”

Ultimately, we believe that this strategy is more effective, long term, than simply gathering an audience around an impressive production. Contemporary church wisdom holds that the single-most important factor for growing a church is the quality of the weekend program. Quality programming indeed builds an audience, but will it build a church? The real power of Christianity—the life-changing, though not necessarily audience-building, power—is in the preached word, not in the amps of the soundboard. Likewise, what truly impacts a community is not the quality of the performance but the beauty of Christ’s body on display in and through the church.

This is not to say that there is no place for production quality—there certainly is, just that it should be properly balanced with a focus on building disciples. Production quality is important in enabling people to hear the message, and it can also, in some ways, adorn the gospel. We believe you should do it as much as you can. We just believe that with the limited resources you have, you should not spend a disproportionate amount of your money on it, to the neglect of disciple-making and empowering.

Thus, we have made strategic decisions over the years to spend money on discipling pastors that we could have spent on production improvement. There’s a very pragmatic angle to that for us, too: we believe that transformed lives and empowered ministry is more effective, in the long term, than a slick production. There is no disputing that life-on-life discipleship is a very important dimension of true discipleship. So, we spend money on production, but we balance that with development of disciples. We believe this is the New Testament vision of a church, even if it is out of step with contemporary church growth wisdom. God’s ways are always best.

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  3Comments

  1. Bob Cleveland   •  

    Think of the last time you flew someplace. Which wing on the airplane was more important?

    You can use the same answer here, for the most part.

  2. doug   •  

    I completely agree when you say “we believe that transformed lives and empowered ministry is more effective, in the long term, than a slick production” and I have come to appreciate Mark Dever’s example when he notes that Capital Hill can carry on worship as usual even if the electricity goes out.

    That being said, there is an unintended consequence of so many pastors sharing your sentiment that “the week is more important than the weekend.” In the college town where I minister, I encounter students quite often who believe that Sunday morning congregational worship is optional and is to be equated with “religion” whereas the day to day experience inbetween Sundays is “real Christianity.” In response, I often point out the importance of sitting under the preached Word, the observance of the Lord’s Supper, the encouragement that they receive and offer to others when they gather with other believers for worship, the example they are setting for children who otherwise would not see them worshipping the Lord…not to mention the fact that Christ is among us leading us in worship to the Father (Heb. 2:12) …. I could go on and on… demonstrates to me that Sunday morning congregational worship should be the highlight of our week and an experience that should be central to our faith (and I believe this has historically been the sentiment of the church as well).

    I’m afraid that the younger generation of SBCers is being raised with the mentality of “disposable church” and the blame rests on the shoulders of ministers such as myself who, in previous church plants (this is number 3 for me) used to share ideas that I had been taught such as “I’d rather you go to midweek small group than come to Sunday morning worship” because I, too, believed those smaller settings were where Christianity “really happened.”

    I praise God, however, for helping me see just how important the congregational gatherings are for every believer and for me as the pastor. I tell my people often that hearing their singing, their reciting Scripture together in unified voice, and seeing them sit under the preached Word is a blessing beyond price to me and my own spiritual walk– and I couldn’t care less about whether we had electricity to run our sound system or not- it is God’s presence among and through His gathered people that my heart longs for. And I’m finding that, while some stare at me in disbelief, others grab hold of what I’m saying and have shared with me just how much they treasure the church now whereas before they just thought it was something you did in hopes that the preacher might say something relevant every now and then.

    I would ask you to reconsider your message and lead the younger folks under your watchcare to come to truly value Sunday mornings and to consider how they can be a blessing to others in those times as well.

  3. doug   •  

    Dumbfounded by the lack of conversation over this.

    Michael Horton addressed this in a recent essay that is worth reading. While he is writing from a Reformed perspective that many readers of this blog would not affirm, his points are still valid. Read the essay here: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2012/05/22/why-do-we-go-to-church/

    Quote of note concerning our time of worship on a Sunday morning: “Here the risen Lord of the covenant assembles his people to bless, convict, absolve, instruct, guide, and send them out into the world as “a kingdom of priests to our God” (Rev 5:9). The key moments in this covenantal event are God’s speech, baptism, and Communion—in each case, God being the actor. The very media themselves indicate that we are recipients of the action.”

    Is the week more important than the weekend? No. I wish my alma mater would publish articles such as Horton’s rather than the above so that the future ministers they are producing go into the ministry well equipped to do it well.

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