Earlier this week, I wrote a little article about Christian students starting University. One other things I responded to in that article was the recommendation that students should seek to attend church twice on Sunday. I want to delve a bit more into the question about what we should do with Sundays and how we should spend them.
My starting point is this comment that I made on Twitter.
I thought it might be a little helpful to give a bit of background to my comments first. I grew up in a Christian family and at that time, it was still the norm in many places for churches to run two Sunday services with the expectation that as many as possible attended both. When I was very small, my dad was acting as the pastor of a small Baptist church in an unpaid capacity whilst working full time. On a Sunday he would lead and preach at both their services and we were often taken along.
After a couple of years, we returned to the church mum and dad had been part of for many years in the city centre of Bradford. A normal Sunday at the church included a morning service, an afternoon “Sunday School” with separate classes for age groups and then for men and women and an evening service. My parents then got involved with the Bradford Chinese Church and this meant at one point that we were in effect attending four times on a Sunday.
At University I attended a church where there were morning and evening services and this was the practice at the church I was a member of post University and then at my placement churches at Theological College until fourth year.
When we joined Bearwood Chapel, there was only the one Sunday morning service initially. However, over time a Sunday evening youth work grew into a café style service with a mixture of people attending, some only in the evening and others returning after Sunday morning church. Alongside this, we were seeing growth and this led to a multiplication of congregations with two Sunday morning gatherings, a Saturday night service in Spanish and from 2015 onwards we attempted in different ways to run something on a Sunday afternoon.
There’s some background and most people will not experience the extremes that I did as a child or later as a pastor. Furthermore, the experience I had as a pastor will be different to the experience Christians have as church members. As a final qualification, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have 2, 3 or even 4 gatherings on a Sunday. Nor am I saying that we would never do it again. I’m simply saying that my experience may prompt some helpful reflection on our understanding and use of Sundays.
I’m planning to tease out my thoughts over a few articles but it would be helpful for me to set out my overall position in advance. In summary.
- I believe that there is such a thing as the Christian Sabbath and that this is Sunday. In other words, our approach to Sunday is rooted in a Biblical command to keep one day in seven separate and holy as a day of rest.
- I believe the purpose then of a Christian Sabbath is to be when God’s people rest and remember together with rest being about enjoyment of God’s goodness. Glorifying and enjoying him bringing true worship together
- I believe that church workers, pastors, elders, leaders are meant to take the same Sabbath day as their church members. They should not take another day as their “sabbath”. This is not the same as saying that they shouldn’t have a day off from their duties – equivalent to how many people spend Saturdays.
Next time we’ll be talking a little more about Sabbath and rest.