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Should we observe Independence Day in church?

A music pastor once asked me the question, “How do you treat holidays like the 4th of July in your church?” Great question; here are some short thoughts:

  1. We can’t ignore that the 4th of July is the day of our country’s birth (especially when it falls on a Lord’s Day), but neither should we worship America rather than the Lord. Some churches’ Independence Day celebrations are bigger than Easter!
  2. It is certainly appropriate to thank the Lord for his goodness to us and to pray for our government leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2), and a day set aside in our country for such a purpose provides a fitting time to focus on it. It’s really no different than focussing on the incarnation of our Savior on December 25th, a date used for such celebrations around the world.
  3. My personal practice, in order to not make too much of America, per se, but to direct attention to the Lord and his goodness, has been to choose hymns and plan the service so that it could be transplanted to any country and used to celebrate the Lord’s goodness to them as well. In other words, the services I have planned for around the 4th of July are never overtly “American.” They are services of thanksgiving to God and prayer for our country.
  4. Therefore, I have typically chosen hymns like “Now Thank We All Our God,” “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” or even “God of our Fathers,” but you won’t hear songs like “America the Beautiful,” “The Star Spangled Banner,” or anything like that in our services.

These are all just suggestions of course, but be sure in your thanksgiving to God for our country that you are thanking God and not turning his day into a mere celebration of a country.

Do you have any other suggestions about how to plan a service around Independence Day that brings proper honor to Christ?

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

10 Responses to Should we observe Independence Day in church?

  1. I too have wrestled with this. What I have sought to do is to keep the Lord's Day the Lord's Day. For the past couple of years we have had a special "Patriotic Service" during the mid-week. Ours was just last night, which included the hymns "God of our Fathers," "Faith of our Fathers," "My Country, Tis of Thee," and the chorus of "God Bless America." I had a time of specific prayer for our country, its leadership, and its people, and had a guest pastor in who served 11 years in the military and gave a tremendous message on the Christian's responsibility to our country. I sought to keep the focus on God's goodness to us in giving us the privilege to live in this country, not on worshipping our country.

    I, too, would be interested in other thoughts from guys in how they treat this holiday.

  2. This year, I mentioned it in my prayer (with themes of both national thankfulness and national repentance). Oh, and I preached a message focusing on the themes of certainty of the Word of God and coming judgment from 2 Peter (I'm doing a series on every book of the Bible), and for my introductory illustration, I quoted from the lyrics of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless The USA" to show what people rely on to be constant in their lives often ends up changing. That was about as close as we came to patriotic music. :)

    I will say that this is my 6th year here, and people have grown more accustomed to the absence of the patriotic standards and pageantry, especially as I have made it a point to incidentally explain my reasoning for their absence (we come together as citizens of a Heavenly country, not the USA) at different points along the way. I even was brave enough to remove our flags from the platform this year. It is something that I have worked through incrementally, though- in the process, for example, I let our pianist make her own decisions for an offertory, and in the earlier years here she did pick some things I would not have on that Sunday. As important an issue as this is, I do think that the the way one establishes it in a church if there is a change from previous practice is just as important. It's not worth causing heated conflict over.

  3. Greg, great example of patiently changing a church's practice over time. I completely agree.

  4. Yes, that is where I currently am, in the process. In New England, it is a slower process :-)

  5. Greg, I wonder whether the presence of a large portion of non-Americans in your services helped and/or precipitated your transitions. Any thoughts?

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