It’s the holidays—a time of year when churches are often on the move and active in a community. Anytime a church is in motion and doing something in the community, that action reveals something of the character and nature of the church and her mission. But what if a church decides to lay low? What if little to no movement is taking place at all? Is this a “bad” thing for a church? Shouldn’t we all be doing something???
We live in a culture defined by motion and noise. The bigger the motion and the louder the noise, the more people stop to take notice—just check out your favorite Black Friday YouTube video for examples of motion and noise over the holiday. We’re all human and sometimes we can start chasing noise for all the wrong reasons. That’s why I believe it’s critical for churches to first ask if the lack of motion is really such a bad thing.
What does it say about a church that decides to loaf over the holiday? The word “loaf” has received a bad rap in our society. A loafer is seen as a lazy person in a culture that is obsessed with work and productivity. If the loafer isn’t doing anything to contribute to his or her own financial well-being, then the assumption is that something must be wrong with them (which may or may not be true). As working and being a productive member of society, you could make an argument that maybe Jesus’ was a loafer. Yikes!
Like individuals, churches can certainly be loafing—and we can loaf for both good and bad reasons. For example, we can get caught in a church routine that’s easy and doesn’t require anything at all from us. Congregations can falsely believe that if the pastor shows up to work, then the church is fine, when nothing could be further from the truth. If a congregation never feels the need to roll up its sleeves and contribute to the work of ministry because it has a well-paid staff, then look out! An attitude like this could be the sign of early demise for a church.
But there is another side to it as well. Loafing is a basic human need. Human beings need down time and rest. As a rule of thumb, families that take time to simply loaf together for an afternoon picnic, or throw a Frisbee together, or take a nap in the porch swing—these kinds of “loafers” usually become stronger families. They have thrown off that need to constantly be “doing something” and have learned to enjoy one another.
The same is true of church families! Rest is a biblical command. Churches that don’t find time to rest run the risk of burning themselves out. Recreation and play are so important to a church as well. To take a twist on an old saying, “The church that plays together, stays together.” I believe playing, loafing, recreating together is a huge part of the glue that keeps churches from splintering and it can be just the recharge that a church needs between the more public activities and charities it performs. Especially around the holidays!
So, it’s the Christmas holiday. Shouldn’t our church be doing something?
You can just about bet that any two people in the same church family will answer this question differently. It’s not often that we’re all feeling the same things at the same time. One group might have a ton of energy and be ready to get out there in the public eye with a great ministry idea like delivering hot meals to families. Another group in the same church might feel the need to dial back some activity so they can rest and spiritually recharge.
Clergy have a pretty tough job when it comes to managing the what, when, where, and how of church activity. There are so many voices and desires represented in our congregations. Whether you feel like your church is doing “too much” or “too little” this holiday season, will you commit to pray for your pastor/priest/rabbi? Will you roll up your sleeves if they ask for a hand in ministry? Will you give your spiritual leaders the opportunities to rest and play if needed?
I know from experience that they will appreciate it.
David Allred is the lead pastor of High Places Community Church at 123 Randolph Road in Oak Ridge, working alongside founding pastor Martin Fischer. High Places owns and operates the historic Grove Theater, which is also home to numerous arts organizations who share a vision for improving quality of life in Oak Ridge. For more information see http://highplaceschurch.com.