By now it seems everyone has formed an opinion about the decision of megachurches throughout the country to not hold services on Sunday, December 25th. Some see it as proof that the American church has surrendered to consumerism. Others believe it is simply an exercise in Christian liberty.
Jon Weece of Southland Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky, has been one of the megachurch pastors at the center of the controversy. After being bombarded with criticism from both the media and church members, Weece preached a passionate and defensive sermon on Sunday concerning the church's decision to not open on Christmas Day.
A few quotes from Weece's sermon are below. You may also listen to the entire message at the Southland Christian website.
"I was deeply saddened by the knee-jerk response of the Christian community as a whole to give the benefit of the doubt to the media and not a church or a Christian brother. I'm still troubled that more Christians did not stand up for us. Can you see or begin to see that the devil is stirring the pot on this?"
Praising the elders decision to give staff and volunteers the Sunday off, Weece said:
"You chose to value families. People over policy. I've watched too many ministers in my life sacrifice their families on the altar of ministry, and ego and pride ..."
"Christmas began as a pagan holiday to the Roman gods, and if we were to really celebrate the historical birth of Jesus, it would either be in early January or mid-April. I'm only pointing out the historical technicalities not out of intellectual arrogance, but again because of the illogical, ill-informed and even hypocritical arguments that were aimed at me this past week."
Comparing the critics of the church to Pharisees, Weece said:
"There were some whose zeal even in the days of Jesus was misguided. They emphasized religion over relationship."
Earlier in the week Southland spokeswoman Cindy Willison defended the decision:
"The intent was not to send the wrong message. The intent was to face the reality of our logistics and to still have a meaningful celebration of the birth of Christ."
Willison said Southland requires a staff of 90 and up to 700 volunteers to make each set of weekend services possible. She also affirmed that the church was being family friendly by giving staff and volunteers a day off.