Do Our Church Calendars Show Grace or Works?

How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion? How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place? –Eugene Peterson

Many churches are way too busy. Programs, ministries, events, seminars, conferences, studies, etc. dominate church calendars in many churches today. Churches seem to add more and more to the calendar in hopes that the more there is to do the more people will come and hear about Jesus, and often times with hopes they will bring their friends and family to hear about Him too. However, I have never heard a pastor or church say, “The more we did, the healthier we felt as a church” or “The more we did, the stronger the discipleship and relationships were” or “The more we did, the healthier and stronger our marriages and families became.”

Usually, when churches load and overload the calendar with more programs, more events and more things for people to come and attend, something gives elsewhere. It may be family time. It may be marriage time. It may be neighbor time. It may even be time away from the Lord. Instead of coming to more events and programs, people usually pull back at some point. Churches that load the calendar with more and more seem to look like the surrounding culture and just add to the clutter and noise.

I love Eugene Peterson’s thought here when we think about the busy and over-scheduled church. Churches and pastors often talk about faith by grace and not works, but most churches function in a way that emphasizes works over grace. “Come to the next big event; come to the new program; make sure your kids don’t miss the fun, new thing; get to this 5 week seminar.” What if instead of more there was less? Instead, more intentionality with fewer things and a greater importance on time at home, time together, and family worship? I’ve heard pastors talk about the importance of families not having their kids in every local program for sports, activities, etc. and then in the very next breath plug the upcoming event for kids or the whole family. Do we even hear ourselves?!?

As the church enters into the Advent season in the next few weeks, I encourage churches, pastors and families to step back and take a look at your calendars over the coming weeks, months and year. Are you living a faith that shows you are a people of grace or a people of works? Please don’t hear me wrong, programs and events are not bad and evil things. But simply step back and see what you personally are involved in and what your church is asking of people? Are you allowing space to be quiet and present? Are you allowing space for families to worship together? Are you allowing space for people to truly know their neighbors? As we think about Advent season and the year ahead that follows, consider Eugene Peterson’s thought again and how can your life and/or your church make room for people to live by faith and not by works:

How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place?” – Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor

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