Should Churches Celebrate July 4th? (And How Much)


Independence Day is a unique holiday for the American church. An overt Christian connection does not exist like with Christmas or Easter. July 4th is also specific to the United States, so churches outside of our country—as expected—would not recognize the holiday.

Four predominant views exist concerning whether American churches should recognize the holiday in a worship service. These views are on a spectrum, and godly people can have widely differing perspectives.

    1. Display of patriotism. Churches should embrace the Independence Day holiday and celebrate it with much fanfare in worship services. Leaders should encourage activities in worship like the Pledge of Allegiance, singing the Star-Spangled Banner, and recognizing politicians in the service. America is a Christian nation, and churches are essential to preserving this vital part of our identity.
    2. Draw for the community. Churches should use the holiday to invite people to church. The celebration becomes an outreach tool. Some patriotic elements will be in the service, but the greater focus is using an after-church activity like a block party or kids’ event to encourage guests to be on your campus.
    3. Distraction from the purpose of worship. Churches should avoid celebrating July 4th because it confuses people and wrongly conflates God’s mission with patriotism. Christ should be central in all aspects of worship, not America. The priority is not loyalty to country but rather God’s glory. While a church may acknowledge the holiday, no part of the worship experience should be patriotic.
    4. Distortion of the gospel. Churches should condemn the use of patriotic elements in a worship service. Mixing patriotism with Christianity creates a false religion, and worship that includes elements of July 4th is likely idolatrous. America is not a Christian nation, and the church has no allegiance to any country.

Personally, I fall into the second category, and I believe the July 4th holiday is an excellent outreach opportunity to draw the community to your church campus. What are some ways to maintain balance with the holiday celebration?

Recognize context while keeping Jesus central. If I’m in another country, I expect the churches in those contexts to reflect elements of the culture. The local language, dress, customs, and celebrations will be present in the church. The American church can be contextual without losing the centrality of Christ. As a holiday, Independence Day is often ranked third by Americans as their favorite, behind Christmas and Thanksgiving. You are missing an opportunity if you ignore July 4th.

Minimize politics while acknowledging themes of loyalty and freedom. I never mention individual politicians from the pulpit, so I don’t like the idea of recognizing in worship a “special guest” who happens to be a local politician up for re-election. However, there are some excellent biblical themes to pull from the principles of July 4th, like freedom and loyalty. In the same way historical illustrations can complement biblical texts in sermons, the backdrop of Independence Day can highlight God’s truth.

Introduce elements of patriotism without changing the normal rhythm of worship. The ideal is to keep patriotism contextual without it veering into idolatry. I admit this balance is difficult. For those who believe patriotic displays in church are dangerously close to idolatry, I acknowledge the slippery slope exists. However, an entrenchment mentality is just as dangerous and, in my view, more likely to cause churches to neglect the Great Commission.

One way to maintain balance is to avoid special patriotic worship services and instead add a few patriotic elements to your normal flow of worship. Many churches already have this strategy for holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. The same approach can work for a July 4th worship service.

Hold any special activities after the worship service. A few years ago, our leadership team strategically decided to utilize the Sunday closest to Independence Day as an opportunity for outreach. Historically, the Sunday around July 4th was one of our lowest attended of the year. Rather than give up and write off the Sunday, we strategically invested in it by holding a big block party event on our campus after worship. We encourage our members to invite their friends. The Sunday is now our highest attended of the summer.

How much churches should celebrate July 4th is a controversial subject. I’ve given my perspective, but I would enjoy reading your take in the comments.

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Posted on July 3, 2024

As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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  • I am sympathetic with your position. The first one is untenable to me and the last two are my favorites (and essentially one and the same point) – especially in the light of the rise of Christian Nationalism in the country and the obvious idolatry of things like the Trump Bible and a host of other “Christian” things that must make God cringe. But being unaware of the context and ignoring it all together is obviously not a faithful option – we preach in and to the real world. So I am a minimalist on the 4th of July. I mention it in the prayers and announcements and may or may not refer to it in the sermon, depending on the text and the topic/theme.

  • If you preach expositionally through books of the Bible, then the other elements can be themed without taking too much focus. Since I am in a Southern Baptist church, we have Religious Liberty Sunday the day closest to the 4th. We will have songs that would be considered patriotic but are thanking or praising God for the opportunity to live in this land. We will probably have a video in the service that talks about what religious liberty is, but we will continue our study of whatever book we are in (which happens to be Haggai this year).

  • There is a fifth view since we are country was founded on biblical principles. We celebrate the fact that God has founded a country based on Judeo Christian biblical principles, and that God gave us this country something to celebrate, recognizing the sovereignty of God in the creation of our country.

    • The biblical principles argument is a tenuous one. Yes, they were important for some but for people like Jefferson. Franklin and many others – these founders were deists but intentionally not Christian. So to state what you say is to overemphasize the side of history you align with and ignore the equally important one that you don’t. I prefer to share a more balanced and honest view of history with my people so they are equipped to live in the country and make good choices, guided by what we teach and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. A living spirituality seems to serve them better than pretending the country was formed on an ideal one that never completely happened. Thanks for the dialog.

  • Stanley Zantarski says on

    We can be thankful for the men and woman who serve us and the freedom’s we have, however, the Christian Church’s conflating of their faith with man-made systems like a predominately corporate version of capitalism and the Constitution is one of the main problems with our country. The health and wealth gospel along with the hyper-grace gospel came from evangelical and protestant Christians.

  • David Clegg says on

    For me it is a matter of Time & Place. There is a time and place for everything.
    I am very patriotic, but I also feel that a worship service should focus of Christ. I also feel that the way that most other special days (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc) are done are a distraction from worship if they take the focus off of Christ.
    We will do a patriotic focus in another event, but not in a regular worship service.