The ideal time for worship is…


Or no time.

Or I haven’t got the slightest idea.

Here’s what I do know. That maybe Sunday morning is ideal, and maybe it’s not. Maybe 8am is great for your congregation and maybe it’s terrible. The same could be said for 11am. Or 9:30am or any other time for that matter. Or maybe 5pm on Saturday. Or 5pm on Sunday. Or 5pm on Wednesday. I don’t know.

I say a post on Facebook by Mark Tidsworth that got me thinking about this. Here’s what he wrote:

“Worshiping at 11AM on Sundays made good sense in agrarian America, becoming “the sacred hour” over time, but wildly disconnected with the way people live in 2023. Culture and habit are really strong drivers when it comes to religious practice. Surely we have “baptized” many other beliefs and practices, yet being so immersed in them, we may not have the eyes to recognize them for what they are. Reflecting on a Sunday evening.”

The comments on this post have been really interesting. People have been engaging in good conversation about the topic. Healthy conversation actually, which is great to see. Exploring possibilities and considering challenges.

Here’s what I added to the conversation:

“There is no ideal time. We have to get passed that notion. Just like there is no ideal time for anything else. And we have to ask ourselves this – what is church? If it’s a committed community of believers, then that community will figure out what the priorities are and commit resources towards those priorities – the resources of time, money, and people. That’s what you do when you are committed to something. It’s not going to be perfect. And we aren’t looking for perfection. We’re looking for commitment to each other and to God. Because of what we also receive from each other and from God.”

A simple and imperfect reflection on an interesting topic.

I wonder what it would look like to have asynchronous worship throughout the week? I don’t even fully know what that would mean in practice. Would that mean small groups gathering? Maybe then there would be a larger gathering of those smaller groups? I don’t know. And what would the small groups be doing? Good question. Is this model ideal for all congregations – probably not. Again, it depends on the congregation.

And that’s the key. What’s important to the congregation? What are they called to? How are they called to be congregation? Those are things that each congregation needs to discern. That takes time and energy. It can’t be done quickly or haphazardly. It takes intention. It takes prayer. It takes listening to the Spirit and to one another.

There is no silver bullet. I think what were really doing is moving further away from a one size fits all model of doing church and more to an organic model, if I can call it that. It’s something that might take bits and pieces from here and there – maybe parts of models that work for it, but not a whole model. And it will put it together to form its own thing. It won’t be perfect. It may not even be pretty. But it will work. And it will take work. It will need constant attention and work because it’s a patchwork of things that were not designed to go together, but certainly work together. And there won’t be an instruction manual for how to make it work. We’ll be figuring it out as we go.

The best part about this is that it will require us, no, scratch that, it will force us, to reach out to others who are doing the same thing. We’ll quickly realize that we can’t do this alone and why should we. And that we aren’t competing with others either. Thanks be to God for that! We’ll need to cooperate. I can only hope that the days of churches worrying about the next church over “stealing their sheep” will die off. Stealing someone’s sheep implies that churches are a commodity. That’s what sheep are after all – just a commodity. Anyone who’s ever played Catan can tell you that.

Churches aren’t supposed to be commodities are they? Maybe we need to do some rethinking? Some re-evaluating?

In a more organic church model, if we want to call it that, churches become something else out of necessity – they move towards being community. They do this because the most important thing in them are the relationships. It’s not the building, or the stuff in the building. It’s not the money. It’s not the tangibles. I use the word community on purpose. Not family. Family can be a dangerous word. It can be positive for some people and it can be very negative for others. Families can be tight knit and wonderful full of great memories for some people. And for others, families are full of memories of abuse and trauma. For some, families are warm and inviting. For others, there are only two ways in to a family – through birth and marriage – everyone else will always be an outsiders. Church should never be a family in my estimation. It’s a community of believers. Maybe a household in which God is the head of the household. Part of my reasoning for this is that in our day and age, people come and go – it’s a part of life. People move in and people move out. We need to make that accessible without high barriers that come with families. Communities don’t have those barriers. And families come in all sorts of forms now. The word family is a loaded word – when we say it, so many people already have a picture in their mind of what a family looks like, and who it a part of it. A community on the other hand allows for more diversity.

Back to the main point of the post – the ideal time of worship. There isn’t one ideal time for worship. There’s a time that is best for your community of faith. And your community of faith needs to discern when that is. It may be when you are gathering now and in the way that you are gathering. Or it may mean that you need to change things up. Or it may mean some alterations. It may mean that you have some questions to answer. It may raise some questions that you haven’t thought about before – like how best to incorporate those who are homebound? With the advent of amazing technology that we have access to now, what are the possibilities?

What is the ideal time of worship? Anytime. Or as it says in Scripture – whenever two or three are gathered in Christ’s name.

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