Why the Pause? Some of you may find this hard to believe, but AC3 has had a Pause For The Cause for 24 years running. All those years, we’ve taken the month of August to suspend normal weekend services in order to refocus, recharge and remember why we do what we do as servants of Jesus, and for Whom.
When we were very young and small as a church, it didn’t dawn on us how radical this was, until we went to a church leadership conference. One seminar was on longevity in ministry and we mentioned in the discussion time our newly minted “Pause for the Cause” as one idea to help sustain church leaders for the long haul.
The leaders of the seminar were both impressed and shocked. Impressed that we were that committed to the principles of Sabbath and that aware of the ugly side of the “show must go on” grind of weekend services (which come around with alarming regularity!). Also, shocked by the radicality of it, given the leaps of faith involved – “does the church even come back?” (It does, we assured them). After discussion, they quipped, “views expressed in this seminar are not necessarily the views of…”
It is radical, we know, though I’ve noted with some delight that other churches with national reputations are doing it. Like Louis Giglio and Passion Church in Georgia who, like us, takes two weeks in August to “step away from our normal weekend routine and enter into the rhythm of Sabbath.”
To the average churchgoer, or maybe new attenders to AC3, who sees the weekend service as a lifeline to God, or the only way to grow in their relationship with Jesus, this could be bracing. For others who equate what happens inside church buildings to God’s whole design for Church, it may even seem heretical. Certainly, Louis Giglio has been roundly criticized by many.
But here’s what many leaders and volunteers in evangelical churches know: the church service can become an idol. Yes, I said it. Of course, every part of a Christian public worship service (usually) has godly intent and biblical justification and importance. Its neglect is sin (Heb 10:25). We believe this about our own services, certainly.
However, every thoughtful Christian knows how often Church forms can slowly slide into legalisms and formalities which substitute for a real relationship with Jesus and genuine transformation by the Holy Spirit. This can be true of bible reading, small group attendance, singing, tithing, prayer, etc. We’ve sung a popular worship song that captured this danger and the solution to it, “I’ll bring you more than a song, for a song in itself is not what you have desired. I’m coming back to the heart of worship.”
So our annual Pause is about STOPPING regular and good habits of our communal life – for a short time – to REPENT of any burdens we may have picked up about serving Jesus in the past year, to REST in preparation for the Gospel work ahead of us (which includes putting on services), and taking time to REMEMBER the faithfulness of God in all He (not us) has done for AC3 this past year.
Will the PAUSE be an AC3 fixture forever? I don’t know. It could devolve into a reason to run unhealthy the rest of the year, which would be bad. We could fill it up with so much “out of the building” stuff, it loses it’s “Pausiness”. So, the elders evaluate it every year. We constantly need to balance needs of the vulnerable new attender who might feel lost without a building to go to for a month, with the needs of every Christian to break any equation we naturally make between busy work and earning God’s grace…and, between a building and a Church. For WE are the Church, and we continue to be the Church, even as we take a break from gathering in a building for a few Sundays.
Maybe you need to look deeper into this Sabbath idea, and for that, we recommend Subversive Sabbath by A.J. Swoboda. Then, with fresh heart, and a renewed mind, out of the grace of rest, we will launch into productive labor for Jesus once again. The launch will be gradual, beginning with Church on a Blanket, then Vision Cast, Work and Worship and finally the kick-off of a new ministry season. It will be fall on the Calendar, but springtime for AC3; planting and watering, as God brings the growth! (1 Cor 3:6)