Yesterday was Mother’s Day. Ed Stetzer mentioned that this is typically a day where church attendance really increases. In his article in USA Today he quotes:
Christmas, Easter and Mother’s Day have become the three days of male holy obligation when their wives and mothers are able to guilt them into the pews,” says David Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church.
This peaks like a candy kiss on Mother’s Day when “pastors tend to gush over women in their sermons,” Murrow says.
“But on Father’s day, men get a ‘straighten up’ lecture: ‘Dad, get right with God, reconcile with your kids,’ etc. You would never hear any suggestion on Mother’s Day that women could improve on their relationships,” Murrow says.
This sentiment won’t happen at Redeemer, but the reasons are more theological and pastoral than equitable (let’s make sure we talk good or challenging about both Dads and Moms.) There are reasons why we, and many other churches don’t “celebrate” Mother’s Day, even though one could argue this makes the least amount of “sense.”
It has NOTHING to do with the appreciation that we have with women in general and mothers in particular. There is no higher calling than a mother. You would have more materials if Mom worked ‘outside’ of the home, but I think your family would still get a lot less in return. I’ll settle for less stuff and more of Mom in my kids lives. So in other words, I value mothers. Instead, there are other factors involved.
Before I get to them, I do want to say this. There are some things that I believe are appropriate. Praying for mothers in a pastoral prayer on Mother’s Day as long as you pray for the mothers that never were, and for the spiritual mothers in your church too. Our children’s church material was Mother’s Day specific. Now on to the reasons why we don’t “celebrate” it.
1.) Worship is God-centered not man-centered. God is the one who calls us to worship and Jesus describes the Father as one who actually “seeks worshipers (John 4).” We respond to Him and His grace, offering up our voices, prayers, and tithes. Grace motivates us to give of ourselves and grace comforts us as we realize we don’t do so hot all the time. Then because of the gospel, we hear God speak to us through His Word. We respond to the gospel in repentance and belief each week. There just really isn’t any room for a Mother’s Day highlight or emphasis. It really doesn’t fit with a God-centered worship service.
2.) Worship is Christ-centered. We celebrate Jesus life, death, and resurrection each week. We don’t want to do anything that would take away from this celebration. The service is about Jesus and what He has done. As a result, I would also not ask veterans, or Dads, or teachers to stand up, though I’m extremely grateful for all of the aforementioned. We are there to worship Jesus. There is plenty of time to appreciate and serve mom, Dad, veterans, teachers outside the worship time.
3.) Pastoral or pragmatic/utilitarian? One could argue, that before the service starts we could have Mother’s Day flowers handed out by ushers and greeters. Or we could have mothers stand up BEFORE the service starts. One could make the argument that if you do this BEFORE the call to worship that it wouldn’t take anything away from Christ. Hypothetically one could argue that, but there is still another problem. Mother’s Day is a very hard day for some women. Very hard. Christmas is a hard day for some (I’ve never heard Easter being hard though…) because of terrible family experiences or the loss of children. Mother’s Day is undoubtedly hard for those desiring to be Mom’s, but for some reason the Lord has closed their wombs. Mother’s Day is hard for those who’ve had abortions. I hadn’t ever thought through how hard it was until a professor in seminary brought it to our attention; he and his wife would leave every year at the time and get away and mourn. They couldn’t face the, “Ok Mom’s, stand up now and let’s see who is the youngest or oldest,”(like we’re at a bridal shower!). I’ve never thought of Mother’s Day in the same way since.
Now for many women, Mother’s Day is great. But we can’t only think about the numbers game or else we’ll fall into utilitarianism: the greatest good for the most number of people is the RIGHT thing to do. If the gospel offends someone, then let them be offended. I don’t want to hear about me being a sinner. I’m OK with that.
But as a pastor, I can’t put a stumbling block in the way of worship. I don’t blame women who have miscarried or never become pregnant for skipping out on church that day (and if you know me, you know I don’t think there are many more legitimate reasons to gather weekly for worship!) if the focus of worship or a sermon is motherhood.
Basically the two main principles are those Jesus summed up for us: Love God and Love Others.
While our church has issues, like them all, I think we do a good job with Mother’s Day. A woman explained how much she appreciated it how we handle Mother’s Day here. Drawing attention toward Jesus and away from us, with a sensitivity toward those who may be more prone to mourn. That’s a good Sunday in my book.
Excellent, Geoff. Also, please don't forget those who would love to have been married and become mothers; who would have been excellent wives/mothers. Can you imagine how painful it is for a single woman to be in a service where all the mothers are asked to stand, or a flower is given to each mother? I think that's probably as painful as some of the other kinds of cases you mentioned.I always remember the excellent series preached by a former pastor on the value of all woman, the equality before God of men and women while there is a difference in roles….Adri
Adri,Thank you. And yes, I forgot to include single gals as well. Great point and thanks for reminder. I can't imagine how tough that would be. And to make it tough IN a worship service…just not good.
I think we need to be careful about avoiding topics that may be painful to people. There's a way to do that in a way that is both kind, gentle, and healing. Additionally, whether single or one who has suffered miscarriages (we have) we, as a church, need to learn how to rejoice with others for the blessings they have (and likewise others need to learn how to enter into our losses). There are ways of doing this on Mother's Day AND throughout the year on a plethora of issues.
Anonymous,I agree with what you are saying, at least for the most part.My first priority in a worship service is exalting Christ. Whether the congregation comprised only happy mothers, I still wouldn't have mother's stand up and be counted. I also don't believe in having graduates stand up, veterans etc…And I agree that the single gal should be moving toward rejoicing with the mother. Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.I don't want to avoid painful topics. I agree with you there! I'll eventually be preaching on divorce in the Sermon on the Mount. That will bring up pain for the biblical as well as un-biblical divorces in the church. I don't avoid painful topics in preaching.That's why I preach expositionally and allow the painful topics to come up.We shouldn't avoid painful topics, but should point people to comfort found in Christ. I just don't think I'm being overly sensitive here for not highlighting mothers and telling those women (on perhaps the hardest day of the year) to rejoice with mothers right now. In my mind, that's not kind, or patient. The same way you wouldn't tell someone that all things work for the glory of God RIGHT after their kid died. Hannah's husband was rebuked by the Lord for his insensitivity to barrenness.But the pursuit of motherhood can be idolatrous, and when it, or the pursuit of it becomes the only thing,that is not good. We must deal with that stuff too.May we all, pastors and parishioners, mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. Again, thanks for your thoughts!
Do you have an approximate time frame on when you'll preach on divorces?