Is this where Protestantism is headed in the United States?
A recently released LifeWay Research report indicates that 10% of Protestant pastors did not plan to hold services on Christmas Day. Commenting upon this finding, the President of LifeWay Research, Ed Stetzer, said:
Having church on Christmas Day when it falls on a Sunday seems as if it would be as much of a given as having Thanksgiving on a Thursday, but this has been an issue of discussion and contention in recent years. Also, just because an overwhelming majority of pastors think that way doesn’t mean those in their congregations necessarily share their perspective.
The data are worth contemplating:
- 6% of Protestant churches planned to have a Christmas Eve service, but no service on Christmas Day. 28% planned to have service on Christmas Day, but no service on Christmas Eve. 63% planned to hold services on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Compared to other regions of the nation, Protestant pastors in the South are the least likely (62%) to hold Christmas Eve services.
- Full-time (71%) and part-time (74%) pastors are more likely to be planning a Christmas Eve service than bivocational or volunteer (53%) pastors. Pastors identifying themselves as “mainline” (87%) are more likely to have a service on Christmas Eve compared to those identifying themselves as Evangelical (70%).
- Nearly as many Protestant pastors plan to host services on New Year’s Day (88%) as Christmas Day (91%). 26% are planning for their church to hold services on New Year’s Eve.
- 74% of Americans agree (strongly or somewhat) that “Christmas is primarily a day for religious celebration and observance.” But, 67% agree that, “Many of the things I enjoy during the Christmas season have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ.”
Is this snapshot in time an anomaly or does it portend what will become a trend? What may be going on here?
The Motley Monk offers two interpretations:
- Secularism: “Christmas” has become “Giftmas.” Electronic devices, snacks, and food provide the glue binding families together Having everything we want, who needs the Incarnation?
- Me and My God – We’re fine with each other: Like it or not, the liturgies planned for the “domestic church” are far more meaningful to many people today. Celebrating the Christmas and Easter liturgies as well as Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving Day liturgies at home builds up the domestic church. And don’t forget the mega-liturgy of Super Bowl Sunday! Requiring attendance at church on a family day is nothing but a man-made legalism, forcing people to focus upon an institution and contributing big collections than it is about authentic worship of God.
Where these two ideas hold sway, it makes sense that pastors would limit the number of worship services. After all, many have families of their own!
But, as this idea takes root in a congregation, it is likely to become engrained as an attitude in young people. In a generation or two, public worship on Christmas Day (and Easter Sunday) becomes an artifact of a quaint but bygone era.
These results reveal nothing new to The Motley Monk. It’s an attitude held by many of his European friends who identify themselves as Christian. For them, celebrating Christmas and Easter are important family liturgies that do not require attending church services. These friends assert that “spirituality” is a very important part of their lives but is entirely unrelated to belonging to or practicing any institutional form of religion.
The Motley Monk respectfully disagrees. This attitude slowly erodes families and society of the important moral values that religion and religious practices inculcate.
How long will it before Festivus replaces Christmas so that no one will be offended?
Let the discussion begin…
To read the LifeWay article, click on the following link: