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How do you treat Independence Day in your Church?

A music pastor recently 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, is 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 plan 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.
  5. So we will acknowledge the day and thank the Lord for it, but you won’t hear a “Patriotic” sermon in our church. My pastor plans to continue his series in Hebrews!

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.

2 Responses to How do you treat Independence Day in your Church?

  1. We place flags across the front of our church property along the street, 6 feet apart, 3 x 5 flags (nylon, they fly better). We also place a flag in each window inside our sanctuary and the five flags representing our 5 branches of service across our altar with a 1 x 2 flag hanging over our pulpit. We also pledge allegiance to the U.S. Flag, the Christian Flag and the Bible, along with songs like: America the Beautiful, This is My Country, The Battle Hymn of the Republic and The Star Spangled Banner. This is just a part of what we do. As Pastor, I served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 6 years and am a true American and wish every church across our nation would recognize and observe this important day in the life of our nation. If the church doesn't keep the dream alive, who will?

  2. I lead worship and music at our church, and we will have a pre-service scheduled, -but it will start at regular time. In that early segment of the service, we will have a video that shows interviews of people (that were) in countries where worship was illegal and the effects (good things and bad things) of how it affected their lives to have to worship God in secret. We will have the Christian flag, bible, ( and American flag) marched in (similar to Vacation Bible School) and recite the pledges to each, then sing a patriotic song from the hymnal. Then have a gathering at the alter for prayer, as we offer up a prayer of thanks to God for our religious freedom in this country, …and a thanks for the ones before us that God used to provide that religious freedom for us. After that prayer, we will then move into our regular praise and worship time and a message from the pastor.

    For me, (and I have seen it done) it would be a mistake to plan a worship service of indoor fireworks, lots of razzle dazzle and other things of that nature that some associate a secular 4th celebration with. …so I feel led that for each element that we will be doing for this wervice at our church, to make sure that each gives a very clear message of why it is part of our worship service, but more importantly, -how it glorifies the Lord.

    Or in Short, The audience will be the Lord, -not the ones sitting in the seats. ……..Great topic!!!

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