By Terry C. Young, PhD
I have been around church circles for most of my life. Long enough to have heard the common refrain, “It’s all about the weekend!” As we contemplated how to best “do church” we would parrot this refrain, underscoring an assumption that the gathering of the church weekend by weekend was the primary effort of pastors, staff, and volunteers. In fact, mountains of time, energy, and resources were invested in providing and delivering weekend gatherings that could be both meaningful and memorable. How else were we to be “the church” if we didn’t have some measure of a dynamic church service weekend after weekend?
Reggie McNeal in Kingdom Come suggests a practical means of testing our current model for church effectiveness and impact. Simply analyze your investment of time and money. He echoes the story one pastor who told him of what happened when he counted the hours involved in producing their weekend experience. Taking his time and the time that staff members and volunteers contributed he discovered to his dismay that 80% of their budget went to support this one effort. It is a telling admission of how ingrained the “all about the weekend” approach has become and how comfortable we may have become on this well-worn path.
Elton Trueblood stated years ago that the true measure of our impact and effectiveness as a congregation is what happens the ninety eight percent of the time when we are not gathered. This is confronting a taken-for granted perspective that has been shaped over decades of church modelling. It is hard to admit how gathering-centric we have become. It is therefore imperative that we return to the fact that our identity and calling is wider than a simple yet important gathering – it is to be a kingdom people of blessing to our nearby community and an ultimate blessing to the nations. Gathering is vital, but to what end? This is in no way a shift away from the priority of worship for this is what the mission of the church is ultimately to lead to and create – a worshipping people. But if worship is responding to God with our whole person then such response should be postured toward what we are calling “the other 166.” These are the hours and days that follow the gathering where a real-world faith must be lived out.
What would happen if we became far more intentional about how we equip the body for the week ahead? What if the weekend was seen as a vital set up for “the other 166?” What if in our large investment in planning for those two hours we also thought about and actually framed some “next steps” for the people of God? What if every weekend people left with some “working-it-out” implications for their front-line engagement?
What do you think? What are you doing to help the gathered to embrace and engage “the other 166” as that environment where the church is most fully the church?