Closed for Christmas 2: The Megachurch Response

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.

December 15, 2005

Displaying 1–10 of 46 comments

Andi

February 18, 2006  6:12pm

I happened to run into this discussion in February. I am a catholic who used to be an evangelical. To the catholic lady, Christmas starts on the evening of December 24 because the jewish custom, and all the first christians were jews, the day starts on the evening. We celebrate on December 25 because Jesus associates his birth with Hannukah in the gospel of John. John calls Hannukah the feast of Dedication. The jewish feasts were celebrated on a lunar calendar.Pope Gregory changed the calendar to a solar calendar. All the events of Jesus life were associated with jewish holidays. Easter is associated with Passover. Dec 25 was not Jesus real birthday, but it is a liturgical calendar replacing the Jewish holidays which were instituted for all time. Therefore, since the holidays were instituted for all time, to not attend on Christmas is wrong. The mega church is just another consumer activity, so of course since they are really a "store" they close on Christmas.

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lgamphor

January 10, 2006  12:11pm

Two thousand years of tradition accross religious lines should say something about the LORD's day. I know Jon Weece's father. I wonder what his take is on this? Also, it is not just Xmas. It is Sunday–Mia Ton Sabaton. On the first day of the week etc. We do not operate on a lunar calendar. Culture is not evidence. Jon should just suck it up and drive on. I think unfortunately that the example set by megachurches in this manner is what most people will remember rather than there examples of living Christianly

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John W. Sackett

January 03, 2006  10:54pm

Wow! What a lot of interaction on this subject. It seems we all want to get it right and be right. I too was disappointed in the lack of Biblical perspective on most of the reasoning put forth. Romans 14:5,6 is helpful to me on this one."...Some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. Each personshould have a personal conviction about this matter. Those who have a special day for worshiping the Lord are trying to honor him..." and then also conclude by reading verses 10 -12. I think we move into the danger zone when we try to nail down for others convictions over which God has given us some latitude. Perhaps He has given us that freedom so that we don't become to legalistic. I hope that each of us were able to show Christ's love and message of the wonder of incarnation this Christmas, and that we enjoyed however we did it.

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Csquared

December 31, 2005  6:05am

If, and I agree, Christmas began as a pagan holiday to the Roman gods and is not Jesus' actual birthday, there is no legit reason to cancel Sunday services if Christmas happens to fall on that day. This pastor has, himself, defeated his own argument. If you are a Christian, Sunday is your Sabbath, period, not to be trumped! They preach "fellowship," but close the doors on the day we are supposed to celebrated the birth of the baby Jesus. It is the arrogance of these baby boomer, elitist megachurches that allows them to do as they please. Just question one of them and watch how defensive they become. They have the canned answers for everything. A reply I received on the subject, and I quote, "We are doing this for families, those little churches have to have services on Christmas, they need the money." Listen closely to the megachurch goers near you, it is frightening what they believe. They and only they have the Holy Spirit, all denominations and other religions are wrong and they "believe" better then you or I or anyone else. I have never been introduced to a more arrogant, judgemental, superficial and ignorant group of people.

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abbey sodemba

December 25, 2005  9:31am

Merry Christmas to all the Mega churches leaders, too bad not all memebers are looking for physical fellowship but Spiritual connections on Sunday the happens to fall on Sunday. This has certainly sent negative message to our ministries in the 3rd world. and specially what America is trying to accomplish its presence in the Muslim world. Should not have made a media converstaion This impact is devestating.How can we fix the problem?

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Jimmy

December 23, 2005  10:38pm

With a world that is leaning more toward getting rid of religious symbols and contents in schools, communities, and in public, I believe we should use this Sunday to step up and show the world how real we are about our faith. We've been grilling retail stores, the ACLU, and hard core left politicians that we need more Christ in Christmas. We were outraged about the whole "Happy Holidays" and not being able to display religious themes in our yard. Now when we have a chance to show the world how much we really love our God, several churches have decided to close. I think that it's a slap in the face and a set back for us. The world is not changing anything on Christmas. Kobe is still going to play Shaq, there's going to be some football games, news reporters will still report the news. But the church is changing to make the day more convient. Without Jesus, there would be no Christmas. Now we have a chance to celebrate the day in his house and we don't. The day is about him and we can't lose sight of that.

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Doctor Science

December 22, 2005  6:39pm

David asked: If you are not having worship at your Church on this Holy Day of Christmas because "this is a time that families should spend together " how is it that they can't be together at Church on Christmas Day , then go home and be together some more after Church ? They're together in both places, Church on Sunday morning , and home in the afternoon and evening . I believe this doesn't work for many people because Christmas is a time *extended* families get together, and many of us have religious differences within our extended families. For all members of an extended family to be in the same church (or even the same denomination) is now rare, and I'll bet it's particularly rare for mega-churches. Your system is perfectly traditional and is still followed by many parish-based Catholic families, but if there are religious differences within the extended family it's a recipe for resentment or outright conflict. Theoretically, religious differences within an extended family could be an opportunity for evangelism; in practice, they more often lead to shouting, tears, and acid reflux. I'm not surprised that many families decide to celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Peace with actual peace. I also think you're overlooking the extent to which Americans at Christmas travel to be with their extended families. Here again, I'll bet that megachurch members are more apt to travel than other Christians, and so are less likely to be at their usual home on the 25th.

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Carrie

December 22, 2005  10:22am

I go to Southland Christian church. At first it really upset me that so many Christians were putting up a fuss about our decision to not hold services on Christmas morning. But then it came to my attention that it's okay and even good. If Satan were okay with our decision then no one would be upset. The devil hates what's going to happen Christmas morning as a result of Jesus' love flowing out of his disciples. I'd encourage everyone that listens to Jon's message to go out and spread Christ's love on Christmas day!

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Paul Shagnot

December 21, 2005  2:37pm

Why does December 25th have anything to do with whether or not we worship on Sunday? Since when is worship, or the lack thereof, for the benefit of the worshiper? I thought it was by the worshiper, for the only One who matters.

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Anh Vu Sawyer

December 21, 2005  10:09am

I am a Vietnamese refugee and, sadly, all these arguments about celebrating the Lord's Day this Christmas or not remind me that I have forgotten how wonderful it is to be able to worship God together freely with others and not get into trouble with the police. A few months ago I helped translate for a Vietnamese pastor who was visiting a Christian publishing company in the US. He was surprised that some of his old Vietnamese congregation members, who were so lucky to move to the US, no longer kept the daily gathering for prayer and worship like they had done in Vietnam. They used to meet early in the morning before going to work. Some had to take an hour or so to get to the church. Here, they told him that people in America only worship on Sunday; besides, it's too cold so early in the morning. I believe these Vietnamese Christians didn't go to church daily in their country because they had to, but because this was the time where they received their daily strength, peace, encouragement and guidance from God and from each other. They also did this because they loved God and they loved one another. They did this because it's satisfying and it fed their hunger for more of God. They did this because, just maybe this was the last day they could worship before the police found their house church and closed it down… You may say, but this is America, who cares, we can worship whichever way we think fit. But I am reminded of Hebrews 10:24-25: "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Christmas Eve in Vietnam was truly magical and full of wonder as we waited for Christmas Day, our Lord's Birthday. Usually, we would be worried about the shelling and rockets that always came at night, but on Christmas Eve, as we sang and recited the Gospel story of the birth of Jesus, we were given this indescribable joy that overcame our fear, and a sweet hope that our worshiping Him and preparing for His Birth would bring the greatest peace that we all longed for. For many Vietnamese Christians, Christmas Day marked the first day of the New Year: Sunday school teachers gave the children gifts – fruits, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, I still remember! – and a big pot-luck feast after the Christmas service. As long as I live, I will thank God for this free country. And I thank you for bickering about this Christmas Day 2005. You have helped me to re-examine my own heart and see where my Lord is in all things: how I live my life according to what He has taught me, how His love for me has changed me, and whether my own love for Him is visible (not necessarily audible) through me and my relationships with others. I am genuinely glad that Americans don't have to go through persecution for their beliefs, but, at the same time, I've begun to be keenly aware of the blessing of the hardships I had to go through. Without such hardships I wouldn't know the incredible joy of being in God's presence and the great pleasure of worshiping Him, in His house, freely with my brothers and sisters, let it be on Christmas Day, the Lord's Day, or every day. It's a privilege.

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