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Don’t Cancel Your Church Services

Jun 11, 2019 | Church, Featured

UPDATE: This post is about why you shouldn’t normally cancel a church service. Sometimes, as in the case of a pandemic, it may be wise to do so.


“Church is closed today,” I’ll sometimes hear. “Instead we’re going to serve the community. We’ll be back to our regular services next week.”

I hear variations of this. Some churches shut down their worship for community service. Others shut down to give their staff and volunteers a break.

I understand the impulse behind these moves. God is displeased with corporate worship that is detached from devotion and ethics (Amos 5:21-24). And God cares that we get rest.

But I plead with you: don’t cancel your worship services.

Don’t Devalue Corporate Worship

It’s common, and tragic, to devalue corporate worship. Never miss the importance of what happens when God’s people gather to worship.

When we gather to sing, we give God the glory that is rightfully his. When we open God’s Word, the Spirit goes to work. When we confess our sins, we find freedom in the grace of the gospel. When we eat the bread and wine, we remember Jesus’ sacrificial death in our place. None of these are optional. They are the means by which God has given us to grow in grace.

“Christians gather as the people of God to receive his word afresh, to be reconstituted and recommissioned as his,” writes Sam Allberry in Why Bother With Church? “One of the reasons church is vital is that the practice of meeting together is one of the key ways in which God encourages us in our faith. We have been designed to need other Christians to help us keep going in the faith, and to whom we can be an encouragement to do likewise.”

I can’t imagine why we would want to miss out on what God does as we gather together as the church. Corporate worship is not a distraction from obedience; it sets us up for obedience and the rest of the Christian life.

Rediscover Ecclesiology

The real problem is that our ecclesiology — the doctrine of the church — has become weak. “We have primarily talked about the Christian life as an individual pursuit of God and therefore devalued the necessary role of the local church in the life of the believer,” observes Keith Collier. We need to start preaching to the church about the church.

Church is more glorious than we imagine. It’s how God makes his wisdom known to rulers and authorities in heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10). Jesus loves the church so much that he plans to marry it (Ephesians 5:22-23). I don’t know if anything possesses so much hidden glory as a local church. Church is central to God’s purposes, to our formation, and to the spread of the gospel in the community.

We don’t think biblically enough about the church. If we did, we’d be hesitant to cancel it.

Keep Service and Rest in Their Place

I once knew a youth group that cancelled its Bible studies and redirected its focus to organizing a garage sale for charity. The desire to serve is commendable, but service is a response to the gospel. When we jump to service, we miss out on the fuel we need to sustain our service.

What the youth needed was not more good works but hearts so shaped by the gospel that good works became possible. We often overestimate our ability to obey and underestimate our need for the gospel.

So don’t cancel your worship services. Keep doing your service projects, but schedule them another time. Keep giving your volunteers rest, but not by canceling worship. We can’t afford to elevate service opportunities and rest over what happens when God’s people gather together for worship.


UPDATE: This post is about why you shouldn’t normally cancel a church service. Sometimes, as in the case of a pandemic, it may be wise to do so.

Don’t Cancel Your Church Services

8 Comments

  1. Mark

    Great article. I have had this same struggle. I think it also says something when a church can’t carve out another time in the week to serve as a body. (What’s wrong with Saturday?) It says everything else I do during the week is more important than our weekly gathering. I think it also sends a message to the community that our Sunday gathering is a wasted opportunity to serve the community, than a refreshing rest as a church body in the presence of our Lord and Savior.

    Reply
  2. Mark

    If the leadership of the church decides to ‘cancel’ their services to provide a break or to engage in other activities, they should not be surprised if the members decide to ‘cancel’ services for themselves to have a break or do other activities. Churches that cancel services, except for weather-related necessity or the like, forfeit their authority to expect their members to show up at services. I have no idea why churches would enable the forsaking of the assembly.

    Reply
  3. Matt

    I agree with Mark. Our church cancels services (except for morning worship) for every single pagan holiday. This promotes the idea that “church” really isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things.

    Reply
  4. Ken

    Ironic that I read this post today after hearing about a church in a neighboring city cancel its services one Sunday to serve people affected by a recent tornado. Noble as it might seem at first glance, the more I thought on it the more troubled I became. As other commenters have noted, it places a priority of service over worship, of task over study, and of fostering relationship with others over fostering our relationship with God. A better idea might be to go out after the worship service to serve others, thus demonstrating our service to others is a response to our worship of God. There is absolutely no reason our service to others cannot be done at a time other than during our regularly scheduled corporate worship time.

    And as a side note, any time the secular media is praising a church for doing something, ought that not make us question if we are really doing what we should?

    Reply
  5. L

    Sadly, church isn’t that important. No solid biblical teaching, no Word of God coming off the pulpit. It isn’t right but it is reality now. They may as well cancel services. There’s nothing going on anyway.

    Reply
  6. Geoff Lee

    We cancel our evening services for 4 weeks in the summer. Lots of people are on vacation, the volunteer teams get a rest, people socialise and meet up, and everyone returns with renewed vigour in the fall! It provides a rhythm of grace and rest and people can still attend in the morning!

    Reply
    • Darryl Dash

      Yes, it’s a completely different issue for an evening service!

      Reply
  7. Clay

    Great insights, Darryl! The Gospel proclaimed to the people of God week in and week out helps us remember our need for our savior. Good works are a necessary response to the Gospel, individually and corporately, but they should come out of a response to hearing the Good News, not in its stead.

    Reply

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Welcome to DashHouse.com, the online home of Darryl Dash, pastor, author, blogger, and co-founder of Gospel for Life. I also write a column for The Gospel Coalition Canada.

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