Are Mary and Martha Fighting Again?

Recently, it seems en vogue to diminish the role of the Sunday assembly in the name of supposedly more Kingdom-oriented things. If you’ll allow me to caricature a bit–some churches see themselves as revolutionary by canceling Sunday services and heading out into their communities to serve–where the church will actually do someone some good–rather than huddling together by themselves to serve themselves and yada yada yada. I know what they’re trying to do, but…

When I hear Christians speak this way, it makes me wonder why a church can’t serve Jesus in a time slot other than Sunday mornings–and why any church would view worship as a self-serving time. Worship, from a biblical perspective, isn’t a self-serving occasion at all. It’s about Communion with God and sharing life with God together in His presence.

Why churches feel they must try to diminish worship gatherings in order to mobilize the church for some supposedly greater good is puzzling. Perhaps they aren’t trying to do so. Perhaps they can’t think of another way. Whatever the case, I have a hard time believing that Martha suddenly trumps Mary today.

If our concern is a lack of missionality or relevant servanthood, there are ways to cultivate these virtues without scapegoating Sunday assemblies. In a church with no service pulse, the problem is clearly not spending too much time in genuine worship. It’s spiritual malformation. Genuine worship is inclusive of a servant’s heart and life. Offerings of worship without right heart or in the midst of unjust living are less acceptable to God.

Worship in assembly and worship in the Romans 12 sense of “all of life” are symbiotic, complimentary, and corollary. However, service not rooted in Jesus as Lord isn’t worship. It’s doing “good.” There’s nothing wrong with that. But, it’s not worship. In order for justice and service to be part of the Romans 12 life, it must be rooted deeply in Christ–and worship helps root us.

Mary and Martha don’t need to fight again.

Let Martha sit a while. Then, after being in the Master’s presence, let them both arise to serve. Knowing Jesus as they do, they will soon recognize Jesus out there among the poor, where worship continues as they serve Him as He is present among the least.

What do you think is behind the current movement toward community impact as opposed to communal worship? Do you see them as completely different things?

 

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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3 thoughts on “Are Mary and Martha Fighting Again?

  1. Well said, well said!

    I don’t know what the dynamics are behind said churches opting out of their gathered worship times in order to spend that time doing ministry related projects around the community. But I wonder if there is an inability to mobilize members for such ministry during other times of the week. If that is to be the case in some circumstances (and that remains an “if”) then it says more about the spiritual/missional health of the church than their ability to replace times of worship with times of ministry activity.

    Grace and Peace,

    Rex