Thinking Out Loud

March 10, 2009

Chopping Down The Sunday Tree

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:43 pm

Ya gotta love these Emergent guys, they know how to liven up the party.   But before I sound a bit flippant, you really need to read this, which is why I’m running the whole quote instead of linking.  Steve Taylor blogs at Sustainable If Able and also goes by the name Emergent Kiwi.   Read this, smile, and then read it again:

sunday-treechopping down the Sunday tree

Say your church is dying. You have good buildings and some community ministry, but Sunday service is dwindling. It consumes a lot of your energy, both from your pastoral leader and your volunteers – to run sound and play music.

Change proposal: chopping down the Sunday tree.

Keep meeting at 10:30 am Sunday. Keep the doors open. Keep the coffee fresh. Keep the muffins warm. But stop the sermons and stop the singing. Take all that energy and reclaim the time for mission. Read a creed. Dwell in Luke 10:1-12. Initiate some listening experiments. Share stories. Foray into the community for simple acts of service. Return to share stories. Re-read a creed. Re-dwell in Luke 10:1-12. Initiate some more listening experiments. Share stories. Foray into the community for further acts of service.

You get the idea.

If it fails, you were dying anyway.

If visitors do come, they are not meeting a shut door, nor are they finding a stressed group of people. Instead they are finding a warm community who like coffee and muffins. Who knows, they might just be attracted by a group of people taking mission and church and leadership seriously. In the meantime, you are reclaiming an existing resource – your time and your pastoral time – and you’re investing that in mission. And you are redefining your stretched life around mission and community.

Do this for 3 months and see what shoots begin to emerge. Who knows. Some shoots will need another prune. But some might be worth persevering with. Some might even need a new name.

The mission tree.

Every time I read something like this, my mind immediately wants to ennumerate the reasons it would never work; but then I’m reminded that the early Church probably looked a lot more like this model than anything we do.

Photo:  I’m not sure what Steve Taylor had in mind, but this one was on a Flickr page titled as “Sunday Morning Tree.”    I couldn’t resist.   It’s part of a “trees” set of over a hundred, which is something I would do if I had a good camera and lots of time.

Trivia:  For my Canadian readers, Steve will be speaking at the Cultivate Learning Party in Hamilton, Ontario this May.    For my CCM readers, no he’s not the guy who made Christian albums and now makes movies.


  1. I like the warm community part. i would hope one could have a warm community and a sermon. Now that sounds like the early church!

    Comment by willohroots — March 10, 2009 @ 6:34 pm

  2. Wow! That’s wisdom!

    Comment by kaybee — March 11, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

  3. i’m totally with you, paul…the part about ennumerating the obvious objections. but can we continue to live in denial and ignore the obvious? my fellowship feels like it’s vibrant and new people are coming into the kingdom, but what about others?

    consider this article a buddy sent me.

    Comment by randy morgan — March 11, 2009 @ 6:32 pm

  4. Hey, that’s the second time someone sent me that link today. For the rest of you, it’s a Christian Science Monitor piece by Michael Spencer aka Internet Monk.

    I like his second point the best:

    Ironically, the billions of dollars we’ve spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures.

    Unfortunately, I think his 6th point is essentially a repeat of this one. (Which reminds me of that quotation, “A faith system that does not impart its sacred texts to its children is one generation away from extinction.)

    For the rest of you, click on Randy’s link in comment # 2, above.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — March 11, 2009 @ 6:47 pm

  5. […] post on this blog – also from Steve Taylor – Chopping Down The Sunday Tree – March 10/09 Leave a […]

    Pingback by The Spirituality of a Shared Meal « Thinking Out Loud — August 3, 2009 @ 10:08 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Your Response (Value-Added Comments Only)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: