Broken systems (3) – a conclusion


Our “town,” Hume, has its maintenance shed between the hamlets (townlets) of Fillmore and Hume.  Every morning when there’s new snow on the ground—which is often from November through March!—from the maintenance shed emerges this overgrown golf cart-snowplow (with a snowblower attachment).  It makes its way around “town,” clearing the embarrassingly cracked, broken sidewalks nicely but leaving driveways more blocked than they had been.  Taking our neighbor’s cue, we now call this thing, with its driver, “Cart-man.”  Invariably, after one has cleared the snow from his driveway so he can leave for work, he goes back in to get his briefcase or lunch . . . that is the time that Cart-man cometh. (Insert Jaws music here.)  The machine clears the sidewalks again, leaving ridges of driveway-blocking snow that must to be re-shoveled so you can get your car out.

I have long wondered who decided that Cart-man constitutes a bona fide service to our community.  The way I have it figured, about 10% of our population actually walks the sidewalks on blustery, snowy days, whereas 80-90% of us drive cars and need our driveways.  Cart-man is hindering life for more of us than he’s helping.  Not to mention that in this part of the country, if you’re walking the sidewalks, you probably have boots, right?  Walking on a snowy sidewalk isn’t all that problematic if you have boots.

I wish the “town” would cease & desist with Cart-man’s job (and maybe the Cart, too!).  This manpower could be better put to use helping to plow or shovel old ladies’ driveways in the winter and actually fixing the sidewalks in the summer.  Another broken system, I think.

Writing all of this gives me minimal catharsis.  It’s written with entertainment in mind first, but then with a view toward asking, again, as I asked after discussing Chase’s broken system, what about the church?

What systems are broken in Christendom?

What are we doing in our church operations and processes that doesn’t make sense?

What legacy systems remain in place merely because no one has paused to reconsider for a decade, or a century?

I’ll put one legacy system forward:  the second church assembly on Sundays.  This practice has been a tradition in some denominations for years, but what sense does it make to ask everyone to come Sunday morning, then go home, then trek back again Sunday night?  Why not just capitalize on the one assembly—whether morning or night, it matters not to me?  Extend it, deepen it, broaden it . . . but don’t have two of the same thing on the same day, separated by six hours.   That’s a broken system, people.

Lest anyone think I don’t care for church assemblies, think again.  An important part of my Christian identity is wrapped up in Christian gatherings.  I do want to make the ones we have count, and I’d rather see us have three or more such opportunities on different days throughout the week than to have two of them on the same day.  But as with most systems, each specific context requires consideration and examination.  What works in our neck of the woods may not be best in yours.

What church systems need fixing, in your estimation?


5 thoughts on “Broken systems (3) – a conclusion

  1. ababblingbrook 01/20/2011 / 12:33 pm

    I must interject a disagreement to your complaint about second-assembly gatherings, simply because if the system is done right (not the same service) it can act very well. Our church has been having morning and evening services for as long as it’s been around, I believe. The morning services are all the same, and then the evening is usually a continuation or a completely different service. The time is a little more casual, much closer in feel and a chance for more people who wish to start and end their Sunday in the company of other believers to gather and worship. Very few churches in the area, especially those who are truly alive in Christ, offer such an option. The material and message is different, and offers a chance for a more reflective communion and prayer time that doesn’t drag the morning service out beyond the attention span of most attenders. My only regret is that I am usually unable to attend the evening because of school or work during the summer.

    In the end, the evening offers a new opportunity for a different reflection: preparing to start the week with our eyes on Christ, leaning on one another, devoting time to some different venues of closely focused worship or “church family time”.

    On the subject of same-service second assembly, by all means it does get somewhat tedious. But why do we have multiple services at all? Traditional versus contemporary for example.

    Interesting post, sir. I’ll be updating later today as well 🙂 You’ve motivated me.


    • Brian Casey 01/21/2011 / 9:10 am

      Thanks for the input on this. I’ll jab back a bit, I think. The particular activities on Sunday night aren’t the problem—and I’m certainly glad you’ve found your Sunday evening stuff beneficial—it’s the fact that there are two separate meetings on the same day. It’s the pure inefficiency I decry, whether Sunday evening is more as you describe, or more like a mini-Sunday morning! The more in-touch churches have tended to gravitate toward something a little different on Sunday evenings, and that part is good, in my book.

      I simply think it’s too much on one day, and ends up contributing to a perpetuation of Sunday-only Christianity. We need more, not less, togetherness and study and worship, but why two separate things on the same day? Granted, the likelihood of getting a larger crowd on a Tuesday evening is not all that great in most areas, but I suggest, at least, that the Sunday evening thing is a legacy system that should 1) be abolished because it makes no logistical sense, and THEN 2) reinstated in particular contexts such as the one you have experienced, if and only if proves a) to meet real needs of a particular group, b) to be meaningful, and c) not to be a strain on gas tanks and schedules, so that it can actually be well-attended! (If a Sunday night gathering becomes–as it does so often–merely another excuse to drive to the building and show your faithfulness, it might be draining the saints more than building them up.)

      On a related note, in some periods of my life, and in some areas (considering travel, other weekly rhythms, etc.), I would frankly prefer to have ONLY Sunday evening gatherings and not meet on Sunday mornings at all. While some would complain that this leaves out the obvious “celebration” time of the realization of Jesus’ resurrection, I would counter that the scriptures don’t emphasize the exact time of His rising. From the gospels, we just know it was Sunday morning when they found the tomb empty, but when did He rise? 1 Corinthians does specify that He was raised on the third day, so could it have been 1:33 a.m.? 4:16 a.m.? And we think we get low attendance at Easter “sunrise services”! 🙂

      Further, and more important, I love the evening connection with the Last Supper, which was in the evening on the first day of the week! A wonderful sort of “settled,” content feeling that can come in following this particular example.

      My ideal, besides some gathering on Sunday would be to transfer your good Sunday evening experiences to Tuesday evening, and then to have small groups, or maybe “accountability partners” or “prayer partners” meeting on Thursdays or Fridays. Three different times per week would be great, but I recognize that this pattern is not feasible in some living-style contexts. (Don’t get me started on “soccer moms.”) To sum up: if Sunday evenings are good and are meeting real needs, OK; but if they’re a struggle and a drain, replace them with something else!


  2. ababblingbrook 01/21/2011 / 11:24 am

    Ah, but now I must interject with a very simple question –

    Who is making you attend both times?

    We have chosen as a family many times to not attend the Sunday evening because of family togetherness, illness, weather, or just a feeling of staying in for a night. It’s not often, but we do it. Our church also cancels evening service around holidays.


    • Brian Casey 01/22/2011 / 11:47 am

      OK, that’s fair! My upbringing–perhaps legalistic, I’ll admit–had me at the building “every time the doors were open.” And although this particular Sunday night pattern isn’t currently part of my life, there is still a 17% sense of guilt for not being there all the time when the family is gathered.

      On the flipside is the question of the conception of the Sunday night. If it’s supposed to be all-church, well, make it something undeniably up-building for the whole church. If it’s supposed to be targeted to a specific group (say, young families or youth or oldsters, then fine.

      If we might see the “intended audience” aspect differently, it could be related to background and generation, i.e., I’m a little bit Boomer, a little bit PM, a good deal Gen-X, and maybe a tiny bit Gen-Y (and a very little bit country, and only a little more rock-n-roll), and all those things influence how I feel about assemblies … which are, after all, explicitly spoken of so very little in scripture! For me, the decision not to be somewhere when a part of the Christian family that I’m directly involved with IS there, just doesn’t feel right. That’s me, given my particular baggage.

      Don’t even ask me about Chapel in this context!


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