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“There are many good reasons to hold a church service on Christmas morning when it falls on a Sunday. There are also many good reasons to not hold a church service on Christmas morning when it falls on a Sunday. But it is a gross overstatement to ‘plead’ with pastors that they do one or the other.”
Dear brother pastor,
I hope that you don’t feel guilty if you’ve canceled your Christmas-Day services. We’ve canceled ours too.
I have the deepest respect and admiration for Kevin DeYoung, have read much of what he has written, and have been shaped by his public ministry. But, I feel the need to respond to his latest TGC blog pleading with pastors to not cancel their church services on Christmas Day.
The reason for this is not because this is one of the biggest theological issues of our day, but because the tone and assumptions of Kevin’s post demonstrate a common issue I continue to notice. Those with public platforms in our evangelical circles can tend to overstate their opinions on issues of conscience and in so doing, shame faithful, loving pastors who disagree with them and undermine their leadership of their local church by communicating publicly to their congregants that their pastor has made a bad decision.
There are many good reasons to hold a church service on Christmas morning when it falls on a Sunday. There are also many good reasons to not hold a church service on Christmas morning when it falls on a Sunday. But it is a gross overstatement to “plead” with pastors that they do one or the other.
We should plead with pastors to preach the Word. We should plead with pastors to shepherd their flocks lovingly and graciously. We should plead with pastors to be theologians. We should plead with pastors to love Christ above all else. It cheapens our pleading to plead pastors to do something as biblically debatable as not canceling services on Christmas morning.
Because this gray area was stated as such a stark black and white by Kevin, let me give you a few thoughts on his points and why we (as a 500-person, urban church) will not be holding services Christmas day.
Probably the most discouraging line I read from Kevin was when he wrote: “let’s not kid ourselves to think that we can encourage everyone to have a meaningful, thoughtfully prepared do-it-yourself service at home.” I would imagine that this doesn’t accurately reflect his opinion of the people in his church family. I know it doesn’t in mine. We should have enough faith in the impact of our teaching, shepherding, and discipling throughout the year (as well as the power of the Holy Spirit) to trust that we don’t need to manage their celebration and worship both Saturday night and Sunday morning. We should also realize, for those in our church whose hearts break for their non-Christian family and friends that the most missionally-minded context for at least one of those celebrations will probably be their homes.
Of course, all of this is assuming that what we’re doing Saturday night is having an actual worship service, and not just a Christmas pageant or sing-along carol session. I agree with Kevin that corporate worship is important and that skipping a weekend dishonors our glorious Savior. I’m just not sure it’s “plead worthy” that we make sure that happens Sunday morning in addition to Saturday night.
And, pastor, whatever you decide to do this Christmas, I hope that you don’t’ feel guilty because of what others have decided to do. My prayer is that you would make a decision that would facilitate your church and your family celebrating and glorifying Christ the best.
Scott serves the church by overseeing leadership, development, global ministries, and counseling/discipleship.
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