Closed for Christmas 3: Scot McKnight's Good Will Toward Megachurches

Advent 2005, rather than a season of peace and good will, may be remembered as a month when cantankerous Christians did battle with the culture and one another. This was the year a Florida church spread Christmas spirit with a billboard that read, "To Hell with Happy Holidays," and Christian activists went to bed with dreams of boycotts dancing in their heads.

But the story that has caused the most uproar on this blog has been the closure of megachurches on Christmas Day. Christian leaders on both sides have defended their positions with vigor and conviction. With Christmas just a few days away, I wanted the final installment of this conversation to be thoughtful, intelligent, and charitable.

Scot McKnight, professor of Religious Studies at North Park University, has insightfully addressed the Christmas closure controversy on his blog. Below are a few quotes from his post.

My suggestion is this: let's be a little more charitable in light of what the NT does and does not say. Let's permit our brothers and sisters, once every seven years, to make decisions that we might not approve of but know that they answer to God, that we answer to God, that it is about worship of God and incarnating the gospel in our world for the good of others and the world.
Let's ask a question at the heart of the discussion: Does the NT teach a Sunday morning worship service? Well, the evidence isn't what some are making it out to be. We need to be fair here: there is a distinction between what is taught and what is mentioned or hinted at as something practiced. And there is no clear text legislating that Christians are to meet for worship on a Sunday morning.
let me assume that many who are blogging and commenting about this issue are low-church Protestants where local churches make such decisions ? that is, the local church pastor and board of elders/deacons/whatever, as leaders of a congregation, make the decision about whether or not there will be a worship service on Sunday morning. If we believe in such a theory of church government, then we get decisions like this and we have to trust those elders and pastors and churches to make good decisions.

You can read Scot McKnight's entire article at his blog,

Whether your church building will be open or closed this Sunday, I hope you have a blessed and merry Christmas. -Url

December 20, 2005

Displaying 1–10 of 24 comments


January 26, 2006  11:00am

I think given the evidence of the NT that 2000 years of Christianity makes it abundantly clear that the "Lord's day" is the first day of the week e.g. Sat. It is irrefutable. So to choose to attend or not is an individual decision. At best it is poor judgment. At worst it leads to even more spurious and rational defenses that get more strange as one reads them. To obey is better than sacrifice said the prophet. end.

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January 04, 2006  9:13pm

Personal testimony, if you will. I went to the evening service at the Lutheran church I attend. I sang in the chior. I also had to work midnight that night, 10pm to 5am. I came home and went to bed. At 9am I got up, was in the church at 9:30 to practice with the chior again. We had the divine service. I got on my knees at the chancel to recieve the body and blood of my Savior. I went home afterwards and had to go back to work at 2pm that afternoon. I had to, for in the job I work in, no one wants to work on Christmas, but someone has to. I wouldn't have missed either service. I wouldn't miss the chance to worship and laud his name with angels and archangels and all the hosts of heaven. I wouldn't pass up the opportunity to recieve the sacrament of communion on the Lord's day that wont come again for another 7 years. Why would anyone want to be anywhere other than with our Lord and Savior? "That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth, The spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill, God's truth abideth still... His kingdom is forever"

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John Cuthbert

January 04, 2006  5:49am

Scott, at least utilize your considerable theological knowledge, training and good mind! This IS an issue, don't sidestep it with calls for Goodwill. This IS a current theological issue effecting the Church of Jesus Christ. Economically, large churches have difficulties staying open on a poorly attended Sunday. Say it for what it is! This is an ECONOMIC issue! And many of these large mega churches bring in MILLIONS! Theology and tradition have been swept aside due to economies of scale. And to have the gaul to rationalize, "to spend time with family," give me a break.

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Dan McGowan

January 01, 2006  7:51pm

Phil M - I have re-read your post/question a few times and have yet to focus in on what it is you are asking - but I'd love to discuss it with you if I can figure out what it is you are trying to ask! LOL... help us out here.

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Just Thinkin'

December 28, 2005  12:55pm

I was more disturbed at churches (including mine) that didn't have a Christmas Eve service because Christmas fell on Sunday and complained about other churches not having a Sunday service for the same reason. I ended up going to Christmas Eve service (different denomination than mine) with a friend and was very blessed. It was an excellent Lessons and Carols service with a great sermon on being truly surrendered to Christ. I ended up missing Christmas service at my church because I didn't wake up in time (due to being up late with prep and being sick).

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Phil Miglioratti

December 27, 2005  12:22pm

Serious question to those who are aghast that Willow Creek was closed for Christmas ... It seems to me that logic requires not only that they should not close on Christmas but that they would ONLY be "open" on Sundays. That would leave several thousand unable to attend "Sunday" worship services. If a congregation should not have seven "Christmas" services to accommodate tens of thousands on days other than Sunday, should they only meet on Sunday? Serious question... Phil Miglioratti National Pastors' Prayer Network

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December 24, 2005  3:11am

It's now Christmas eve, 3:05 a.m. It occurs to me at this odd hour that the controversy over certain churches being closed on Christmas Day is really nothing more than a false crisis created by some Christians to shame others. I don't remember what part of "Closed for Christmas" on this blog I saw it, but a Vietnamese Christian had posted on the persecuted church, and it convicted me in a powerful way. It said to me, "Hey, mainliners, evangelicals, Roman Catholics, everyone else in the US: Consider how incredibly blessed you are that not only do you get to worship freely, you have the freedom to criticize those who choose to do things differently. Think about what you're blessed with, and what you're taking for granted by making this such a big issue, when there are clearly more important things in the world to deal with". I hope that somehow, we all decide to look past this whole mess, so that the next time Christmas falls on a Sunday, we don't have to go through this. Let's all have a blessed Christmas!

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Big Chris

December 23, 2005  12:17pm

I appreciate Scot's post, and said so on his blog. I am among those who have taken heat for their belief that this has been blown way out of purportion. Some of these large churches are having 10 or more Christmas services Friday and Saturday night, bringing in 10's of thousands of people to church. Many of those will be the kind of people who don't attend church regularly. Many of those critics will be bunkered down Christmas day in their churches with the same people who have always gone there, and if they are lucky a couple of hand fulls of non-regular attenders. Big Chris

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December 22, 2005  9:31pm

"...thoughtful, intelligent, and charitable." Evidently some of the commenters didn't respect the author's wishes or read the comments on parts one and two and realize their position had been explained ad nauseum. I may be wrong, but I don't think God cares about our traditions. He doesn't care about nativity scenes, Palm Sunday, or boycotting Halloween. He didn't send His Son to this world to establish traditions and judge whether our reasons for interrupting them are practical, selfless, or enlightened spiritually. Personally, I don't care what other churches do. There are over 1,700 churches in my area. Not only do I have choices, I doubt God thinks any of them are doing everything right. Watching exchanges like these makes me want to curl up into the fetal position. But hey, maybe that's a good thing. Just evidence of a "child-like faith."

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Dan McGowan

December 22, 2005  6:16pm

What? Church is closed on Sunday? Huh? Man, I wish someone would have told me! Cuz, then I would have bought cigars, porn and booze - cuz, you know, that's what happens to followers of Christ who don't meet on SUNDAY!!!!!! Here's a thought... some churches will be open on Christmas. Some won't. And, in the end, somehow - - God will STILL be in control, right? Happy Festivus!

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