Are There Better Things to Do on Sunday Morning?

Recently I had a great conversation with a friend around the complexities of evaluating our priority of ‘attending church.’  There really are a lot of complexities.

After all, perfect church attendance is not how we are rescued into the hope and joy of being in Jesus Christ.  We are instructed to live our entire lives as worship (a living sacrifice), therefore our worship is not confined to a Sunday gathering.  Today, more than ever before, we have great Bible teaching available to us anytime and anywhere through a plethora of podcasts.

The truth is that we have so many demands on our time that this discussion becomes very relevant.  Can we or should we be doing something else each weekend rather than gathering together with the church?  Or, maybe we are asking how important it really is so that we can measure it against the other opportunities that arise on occasion?

Perfect church attendance is not the path to righteousness.  So, where is the line that must be drawn?

Perfect church attendance is not the path to righteousness. So, where is the line that must be drawn?

There have been a handful of times along my journey that I have come back to this question.  I have enjoyed participating in triathlons.  With very few exceptions they all happen on Sunday morning.  It is easy to find yourself asking, ‘Is it really that big of a deal to miss gathering with the church?’

Now, as a parent whose children are involved in even just a modest level of extracurricular activity, it becomes so relevant.  My daughter LOVES to play volleyball.  She literally cannot get enough of it.  It is fun as a parent to see her so passionate about something.  As parents, Lori and I know that we are just around the corner from an ‘opportunity’ which is going to ask that she play volleyball regularly on Sunday mornings.

Those who know me would not confuse me with a legalist for a moment.  I want to be clear that missing a Sunday morning at church for some type of family activity is NOT erroneous.  Perfect church attendance is not the path to righteousness.  So, where is the line that must be drawn?

First, we do need to understand the significance of the gathered church.  As we read the Bible, we can observe that one of God’s first actions after Jesus ascended (left the earth) was the creation of the Church (Acts 2).  A person who reads the Bible must see that God birthed a movement of co-laboring followers who would need the gathered church to participate in full obedience.  At the most basic level we need to understand that church participation is a foundational characteristic of any Christ-follower.

Second, we should wrestle deeply with the values we hold and the values we communicate.  Seizing an opportunity on a Sunday morning to engage an irregular activity, in my estimation, does not communicate a diminished value for the gathered church.  However, if I was to allow my daughter to play a volleyball season which had games every Sunday morning for ten weeks then I would be  communicating and discipling a value into her life and heart.  In that case I would be discipling her to believe that the gathered church is important but not necessary for Christ following obedience.  I would be demonstrating and teaching her that the gathered church is of value until something arises which might bring more pleasure in the moment.

At the end of the day, I have to remind myself that all of the great activities in which my children participate are just a fleeting flash of light amidst the eternal perspective of living life in Christ.

How do we draw the line between legalism and biblical discipleship and fruitful living when it comes to this discussion?  Every decision we make in life displays our values.  To be legalistic about church attendance in order to display or earn some type of righteousness would NOT be displaying a value of Christ-exalting living.

At the same time, if we choose a pattern which prioritizes anything over the gathered church then we are also not displaying a value of a Christ-exalting life.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  (Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV)

Have these struggles become relevant in your home?  How have you navigated these waters?

Matt Powell serves as teaching pastor at Crossings Community Church, a body of believers whose mission is to engage, equip, and empower homes for gospel transformation in Katy, TX.

  • Ursina

    Heated debate at our house last night on this topic. And I will qualify that we don’t have kids in that stage of life yet. But, two thoughts came to mind after:

    1) Isn’t part of the problem that we don’t really understand how incredible it is to live in a country that doesn’t persecute you when you worship God in a public setting? Talking to missionaries that left for other countries can be very enlightening. They also often share that they MISS the community of weekly worship.

    2) Talking to parents I sometimes get told it’s a “They want to be the light” argument. After watching sports in the US I sometimes wonder if their faith gets checked at the door. And how much of a light are we at that point?


    • Matt

      Ursina, so maybe similar to the way that I would cherish swiss chocolate and any opportunity to enjoy and savor it all the while those living in your homeland would take it for granted and be much more nonchalant? 😉

      I’m kidding a little but not really…. I think you are correct. On one hand it is a blessing that we have such access and freedom to be the church. On the other hand, we are so spoiled and desensitized to it’s significance whereby it is easily neglected.

      I agree… and I also think this corresponds to our pervasive cultural christianity. If we are swimming down the stream of cultural christianity then we do not NEED the church. However, if we are truly living our lives spent for the gospel of Jesus Christ then we will yearn for the blessings of worship, nourishment, and support found within our local community of faith (the church).

      To your second thought, yes it does get checked at the door often times. However, it is a great context to build loving relationships with those who are not aware of the hope we have in Jesus. But I would not be sympathetic of that argument applied by someone who decides to enter a league which would remove them weekly from participation in the local church for an entire season. I think that would be a symptom of larger spiritual issue of the heart.

      My thoughts :)

  • Joel

    Great post. Our kids see what we value by what we do or allow them to do. If we think of the gathering of believers as an opportunity to minister to people rather than an event to consume and critique, we would be more aware of the significance of our absence.

    • Matt

      That is a good point, Joel. There is a selfish/consumer mindset hidden within the presuppositions of someone who would choose to be absent from the church for a prolonged period of time (in the case of this discussion). The church (i.e. the people) are missing out on something when a piece of the body is missing.

  • Mary Beth Cameron

    Going to church every Sunday means absolutely nothing to our children… if parents aren’t having spiritual conversations with their kids in addition. It becomes teaching moralism or legalism and NOT teaching following Christ. It always shocks me how many of our Young Life kiddos grew up going to church every Sunday and how little they know about Jesus. There is value in attending church with your family, but it becomes a mere introduction to bible vocabulary if biblical principles are not being lived out in the home. That’s why I love the Crossings Community Church. It is an imperfect body of believers, but anyone who sticks around long enough has heard that we urge “parents are the primary faith trainers in the home, NOT the church.”

    • Matt

      You’re exactly right… Mom and Dad must be walking in the kind of obedience that has them longing to be with the church on Sunday… where they are so spent for the sake of the gospel that they cannot wait to be in the presence of God corporately with their local church family.

      That will greatly help in modeling the value of the gathered church to the next generation.

    • Joel

      Right on.