What is a “Sunday Christian”?

In my testimony I use the term “Sunday Christians” when talking about my childhood. When my mom read that, she didn’t know what to think about it. Was this a negative thing? We ended up having a good discussion on how we grew up and evolved as a family in our spiritual growth. Do I think being a “Sunday Christian” is bad? No, I do not. Here’s how I see it.

My family went to church regularly during the school year. Our attendance was sporadic during the summer months because we spent weekends primarily on our boat (something normal for someone who grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan). We went to Sunday school and other church activities. The pastor taught exclusively from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, so I learned stories from the Bible. We said our rote meal time and bedtime prayers. These were good things. We were good Lutherans. Our bodies were in the right places around good people. We learned morals. The ten commandments. Discipline. As my mom said in our discussion, “It was a good start.” And she is right.

At that time we did good things. But it didn’t go much further than that. We did not learn how to grow in a relationship with Jesus. We did not learn how to read our Bible and meditate on scripture. We did not learn how to pray beyond memorized prayers. I did not see my parents doing these things. They didn’t know how to either.

By the time I reached high school, there were no more Sunday school classes for me – It was either adult Sunday school and the occasional youth activity or nothing. By that time I wanted more. I had surrendered my life to Christ but there wasn’t much opportunity to grow in that relationship. It wasn’t my parents’ fault. As I said, they had us in the right place. I just happened to outgrow that place.

Fortunately there was a new youth ministry that started reaching out to students at my school. Student Venture (now Cru High School) was an outreach ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru). It was meant to bring students into a relationship with Jesus and disciple them. It was everything I was missing from church.

Then my Nana passed away right before I graduated high school. That was a big turning point in my family’s personal growth. She was the spiritual leader of our family. She taught my dad to walk in the way of Jesus and he, in turn, was committed to the church. She encouraged our church activities. I now have her Bible and the margins are full of her personal Bible study notes. Church was very important to her, therefore church was very important to our family. And then she was gone. Now what?

My dad searched for Answers. He read “In Light of Eternity” by Randy Alcorn. It was a quick read but he started raving about it. He began to read more books by Randy Alcorn and Max Lucado. He became on fire for Jesus and wanted our family to know about it. He began buying these books in bulk and handing them out to people he knew and met. He wanted them to know about Jesus, too. My mom quickly followed suit.

My family, then, moved from doing the right things to engaging in a relationship with Jesus. It became a part of family discussion more than ever before. My parents moved from Sunday Christians to followers of Jesus, not just by works, but through an active relationship with Jesus.

My parents and I have different stances on theology. I have long since left the Lutheran church. The rights of passage — infant baptism, first communion, and confirmation — don’t sit well with me. It wasn’t really my choice to do these things. It was just what a good Lutheran does. My parents connect meaningfully with God through rote prayers and call and response church services. I do not. As an adult I have primarily gone to non-denominational churches. The important part is that we hold the same core values of Christianity — that faith in Jesus means that we accept his free gift of salvation through repentance and surrendering our life to him, that our relationship with God be restored.

If you are a Sunday Christian, you are in the right place. It provides a good foundation for you to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ. I encourage you to grow from doing the right things to not just being a “good person,” but also realizing how desperately you need a savior to pay the price from your sins and reconcile your relationship with God. I encourage you to continue growing in a relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.