The truth is, church is not all about us. Church is not what we think it should be. Church is not how we feel it should be, or even how we are feeling that day. Church is about God giving to us, and us giving to others. “Let us consider how to stir up one another,” the Bible says. This is a very we– and not a me-focused mentality.
Every Sunday when I look out on the pews, I’m reminded of childhood. There’s always a child picking his nose, yawning, sleeping, tapping, sprawling over her parents, etc. I remember many years sitting between my parents in the pew, gnawing on my arm like Yakko, Wakko, and Dot from Animaniacs, just trying to get away. In one hysterical episode entitled “Chairman of the Bored,” the Warners are tortured by the longest, most boring, one-sided monologue of their lives—thanks to the drone-like voice of guest Ben Stein. Well, that’s how I often felt as a child growing up in church. And I see that look on the faces of our youth today. I even see it on the faces of millennials. Why does church have to be so boring?
Think about what sometimes happens before the sermon. There’s either an old hymn that uses language no one uses anymore (what is an “Ebenezer,” anyway?), or there’s contemporary worship music that, in most churches, sounds like karaoke night at the local pub.
Think about the sermon itself. The bulk of the sermon is a long monologue, much like Ben Stein’s. Personally, I try to keep this monologue down to about thirty minutes when I preach—but still! That’s longer than most citizens are willing to bear—we’ll hit fast forward through the president’s State of the Union address several minutes in (and what he says affects our lives immediately—can’t always say the same for the modern sermon.) Perhaps the pastor manages to say all the right stuff, but he says it in a very dull manner, and you leave asking yourself, “so what?”
Think about what happens after the sermon. There’s another old hymn or contemporary worship song to sing. Didn’t we just do this? Taken as a whole, it’s easy to see why some people think church is boring.
Think about communion. From a child’s perspective, the Lord’s Supper is probably one of the dullest aspects of the service. At least today, children are typically allowed to stay in the service during communion. In the early church and middle ages, this wasn’t the case and children were dismissed from this part. There is nothing for children to do but sit still (after a long car ride, after at least one to two hours into the service, more sitting). A kid might be thinking, “Ooh, I’d love to climb those stairs right now.” “What if I cracked a joke right in the middle of this somber silence? Would I get a few chuckles?” “I hear the chewing; I hear the slurping; I see everyone participating in something that doesn’t involve me.” “Now I have to listen to all the sporadic coughing after people drink the red stuff. I’m so bored!”
Week after week, it’s easy to see how boredom can quickly set in, especially when we’re confronted with so many alternative options that are entertaining—Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, the movies, plays, the news, our favorite sports team, a ballgame, etc.
What if church is actually not boring?