I still remember the moment like it was yesterday. We drove along the rutted orange clay roads that led to a small village in eastern Uganda. It was Sunday morning and I was there to help document the work of Arise Africa – an organization that provides support to pastors and vulnerable children. We could hear the music as we approached the mud and dung church. The service wasn’t to begin for 30 minutes, but already there was celebration inside. In that place, with no electricity, no soundboard, no perfectly crafted staging – with only rough-hewn benches and an old Casio keyboard in the corner – church had been happening and was happening and would continue to happen for two more hours. We danced, we prayed, we listened intently. And then something else happened.
Church kept going. Or I should say THE Church kept going.
After the service, families gathered to eat together. Those who had a little took care of those who had nothing. On Monday, people met to pray for students. On Tuesday, the women who sang during church were found singing together as they walked to the water well. On Thursday, children offered to help an elderly man with his garden. On Friday, a pastor joined other men to walk together and pray for their village. And everyone was eager for Sunday, when they would all gather again to celebrate what God had done.
I was reminded in Uganda that Sunday is an effect, not a cause. It is the capstone rather the bedrock. What happened on Sunday in that little village wasn’t the catalyst for what happened during the week; rather, the Church walked into church to be encouraged and to encourage, and to honor God for His daily goodness. Monday through Saturday, the people in that village were loving each other, serving each other, sharing stories of God’s grace, and even dancing a little.
I think about the pressure we often place on Sundays here in the U.S. We labor over the messages and lesson plans, we do our best to captivate with lights, sound, images and storylines. And we measure success by beautiful moments or well-executed programs. But what if we shifted our perspective to see that Sundays are a piece rather than the whole—Sundays are but one chapter in the story of the Church each week. Reggie Joiner puts it into perspective with this powerful statement:
When you combine love, words, stories, fun and tribes together OVER time, they gain a collective momentum, they make history, they build a legacy.
I believe the time he’s speaking of isn’t just the time we have on Sundays.
Our intentions are honorable—I’m not suggesting that we throw away our object lessons and lights and Planning Center timelines. What I am suggesting is that, just perhaps, we stop and ask ourselves what we’re really teaching our staffs, our volunteers, and our church families on Sundays. Are we making what happens on Sundays the main event, the primary focus, the “if you miss this you’ve missed everything!” moment? Or are we looking beyond a great service to the legacy of our real ministry—the impact of that ministry on lives in the day-to-day?
What if we focused our attention to not only what happens in our sanctuaries and classrooms, but what happens when families drive away or click “close” on Google Chrome? And what if, as leaders, we celebrated more the things that happen on a Tuesday or a Friday and encouraged those around us to do the same? I think something wonderful would happen. I believe we would see the truth taught in our messages and lessons come alive in practical ways—and see the people in our care celebrate more when Sundays come.
What Reggie says about kids holds true for adults too. “You are making a permanent imprint on the soul of a child. You are leaving a legacy. You are playing for keeps.”