Recently I accidently tuned into a radio station playing the song ‘Never On A Sunday’. As I listened I heard couple of the lines which went-
“Never on a Sunday when the church is full of people
And the bells are ringing in the steeple”
And I thought –well that doesn’t work anymore! There are not too many church bells rung on Sundays these days (and when they are the neighbours tend to complain) and the times when the churches were full are long gone. However, it then occurred to me that maybe the title of the song has a message for our future! That is perhaps it is time to conceive a church which is ‘Never on a Sunday’.
What a shocking statement that will be for many. For the fact is that we are so conditioned to think that ‘church’ is really about the ‘religious services’ we provide on Sundays. The idea of a ‘Never on a Sunday’ church was reinforced as I was watching the kids at what we call The Hub dinner one Friday recently. The Hub is a ‘church’ for kids and youth (with an attached small group for parents). Most are non-church families that will not or cannot come on Sundays. The same is true of the vast majority of families at ‘PlayLife’ our ‘church in a playgroup’ and all the people contacted by our (Unbounded Church concept) CrossNet cells each week.
What in times gone by used to be a Sunday ‘work, play, and shop’-free zone has now been consumed by those very things-work, all types of play and much retail therapy. So non-Christians and their families are simply not available to attend ‘church’ on Sundays no matter how hard we try to get them there. Given all of this if we think we will grow church on Sunday (as nearly all churches are still trying to do) then in a play on the words of an iconic Australian movie character “we must be dreamin’”!
A further fact that is making our need to change difficult to achieve is that centuries of our current model have left many church members with frozen imaginations in regard to how we ‘do church’. There will often be an assumption that how church has been done in their lifetime (Sunday-centric) is how it must continue to be done. Further the objection of many to the idea of a ‘Never on a Sunday’ church will be that this just isn’t ‘Church’; meaning not the Traditional/Christendom form of Church that they are used to and are comfortable with.
However there is no biblical reason that a ‘Never on Sunday’ church cannot be created in a range of new ‘society-penetrating’ missional communities. Ones that are still based on and shaped by the New Testament spiritual DNA for Christian community, but that are spread largely away from Sunday and throughout the week. It may be worth remembering too that the Christian church started with Saturday as its ‘Sabbath’ anyway not Sunday.
As the western church continues to fail in its mission to our 21st century culture we need to look at the harsh reality that the vast majority of our resources are consumed by Sunday-centric ministries. These are actually largely inaccessible to a large proportion of the very people we wish to reach and is a major reason for decreasing gospel fruit. This is reflected in the many reports on our missional malaise which have said, not ‘Never on a Sunday’ perhaps but certainly that there needs to be a switch of our resources (including human resources) “away from Sunday gatherings”. Quite shocking maybe but an essential step for a vital church future and missional fruitfulness.
So for the sake of the lost maybe ‘Never on a Sunday’ is a relevant slogan. Well maybe not ‘Never’ but a lot less often, and with correspondingly less resource use. This is all part of being prepared to be-
“All things to all people so by all possible means (we) might save some”
1 Corinthians 9:22