Did you ever play with a Jack-in-a-box? You turned the crank, listened to the song, and waited for the funny-looking Jack to pop out of the box. Then you stuffed Jack back in the box and did it again.

And again, and again!

It was predictable.

It happened like clockwork. After awhile, though, the predictability became boring, and the Jack-in-a-box ended up collecting dust on the shelf.

Sometimes I’m concerned that our churches are becoming like a church-in-a-box. Like the predictable Jack-in-a-box, we turn the crank of showing up on Sunday, going through the same routine, waiting for God to show up, and then stuffing it all back into the box, only to repeat it all again the next Sunday.

And the next Sunday, and the next Sunday!

It’s predictable. It happens like clockwork. After awhile, though, the predictability can become boring, and our church-in-a-box ends up collecting dust on the shelf.

Here’s what I’m pondering:

  • Why do we meet on Sunday mornings?

There are as many mentions in the Bible about Christians meeting on other days as there are mentions about the first day of the week.

  • Why do we get so hung up on the “order of service”?

None of the New Testament writers taught about that. Yet if you want to anger some folks, just change up the Sunday routine.

  • Why do we dress a certain way to go to church?

Jesus had only one set of clothes, which means He wore the same thing to the synagogue as He wore the rest of the week. Yet we expect people to “dress correctly” for church.

  • Why do we call what happens on Sunday “worship,” and what happens the rest of the week “work”?

Shouldn’t everything we do bring glory to God? Shouldn’t all of our lives be worship?

  • Why do we complain about a church service not “moving us,” when we don’t feel the Holy Spirit moving the other six days of the week?

I’m not trying to pick a fight. Really.

I’m just wondering if perhaps we’ve gotten used to church-in-a-box. And if we have, perhaps we’ve also put God in a box too. Maybe we’ve become so accustomed to showing up on Sunday, dressing a certain way, following a certain routine, singing certain songs, and then expecting God to pop out and thrill us.

And then we put it all away until the next Sunday.

Wouldn’t God be more glorified if we didn’t put Him in a box? If we worshiped Him every day, not just Sunday? If we felt His Spirit animating us in everything we do, not just in the churchy things we do? If He popped up all throughout the week, in all sorts of places (like work, school, the grocery store, home)?

What do you think? Have we put church (and God) in a box? If so, how should we change?

9 Responses to “Church-In-A-Box”

  1. Dave Barringer Says:

    Great thoughts!!! Our staff was just going over some of these things. We changed the order of service last Sunday and, quite frankly, it felt awkward. Not because anything was bad/wrong. It was out of the norm and it took people by surprise. I will say. This gave me great idea for a message series for the future.


  2. nateelarton Says:

    Those are great thoughts. I believe we are hung up on Sunday. The church needs to be missional and we pastors must get others involved in the Kingdom of God. We have to stop emphisizing Sundays, if we want our people too. We have to share the wins outside of the service. The church has raised a bunch of fat spiritual gluttons, who jus want to pour another blessing down their gullet without being a blessing. Let’s train them up, move them out, give them responsibility, and authority and permission to be the church and not go to church. Great article. you got my adrenalin pumping Craig!


  3. Rich E Tolar Says:

    This is actually something that I’ve been convicted of lately. Going to church and setting it to the side the rest of the week till next Sunday. Although my intentions are good I know that my mind set isn’t to glorify God, but its to please others. Really good eye opener. Thank you for sharing what God has laid on your heart.


  4. Rick Foster Says:

    I’m ‘soo’ with this line of thought… the denomination I serve God has never been a concern for me. It’s always been about serving and serving Him. The day, how we look, etc. is a distraction I believe that has been thrown in by the enemy over time… and over time, it has been ingrained into our church family to the point that when our church gets stressed by a change- like a new pastor, combining or adding a service, we start taring at each other because we are so used to the rhythmic routine from Sunday to Sunday. If we were focused on our worship and our faith 7 days a week, I don’t think we would have such a hard time with ‘change’. Thanks Craig, this was very timely and well put. Thank-you Jesus for Craig’s ministry!


  5. pilgrimgirl Says:

    Hmmm, then again, what if predictability is getting a bad rap?  Maybe, if “we the people” think church is boring then we need a gentle reminder of what is going on in the service despite what we feel. 

    We are being called to worship by our King/redeemer/father and we have a conversation with Him throughout the service. He tells us his will for our lives – what we ought to be doing; we admit that we fail miserably (come on, did we really love God with all our heart/strength/mind and love our neighbor as ourselves perfectly/every minute, really); then we are told the good news about how we are right with God through Christ and what he did for us; and we respond with praise and prayer, for example.

    So, if a service is being done a certain way “because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” and no one knows the reasoning – that might be a problem. There should be a “rhyme and reason” to the service.   So it would be a good thing if our church leaders keep this dialog/conversation we are having with God in mind as they determine the order of worship.  

    Yes, this conversation typically happens on Sunday.  What if we had a special day, a whole day, to be completely unplugged from the world, to be in communion with God, to be in fellowship with the saints, rest up, take a nap, read our Bibles so that for the rest of the week we go out into the world and glorify God by working hard at our jobs and loving our neighbors?

    Just some additional thoughts, since you asked:-) thanks for inviting me to the conversation.

    Your sister in Christ,


    • Craig T. Owens Says:

      I agree that balance is the key. There are far too many people who simply view attending church on Sunday as something to check off their To Do list for the week. Then they put that away, only to wind it up again next Sunday. There’s nothing wrong, per se, with keeping our church services on Sunday, I’m just concerned that for many people it’s become a meaningless day/activity…


  6. Three Pictures Of The Church | Craig T. Owens Says:

    […] A healthy church isn’t about an “order of service” (there is no such thing listed in the New Testament!) […]


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