People are inclined to be more charitable when they know that we love them. When we take an interest in them. When we actively serve them and they can see us serving them. Stuart Olyott used to say you can say pretty much anything to people if they know that you love them. The Bible itself says that love covers a multitude of sins. And, in our churches, love also covers a multitude of boring sermons. If people know and see that we love them and want to serve them outside of the pulpit, you may be surprised to see just how much more interesting they tend to find our sermons. As someone once put it, in a large church people often let you pastor them because of your preaching, in a small church people tend to let you preach because of how you pastor them.
‘Church isn’t boring!’
I saw a podcast with that title in the last few days. And I have heard the sentiment parroted out lots of times. The only problem is that it often just isn’t true. It’s like when your mum tries the old, ‘tidying your room can be fun!’ line. The statement feels more like something we tell ourselves as some sort of coping mechanism. When the kids say it out loud, they’re only voicing what we know in our heart of hearts to be true. We insist that church isn’t boring because, naturally, we don’t want our kids to hate church. But, let’s be honest, more often than not when they say it, and we insist it isn’t, we know the kids aren’t wrong. Certainly not all the time.
What is perhaps even worse when we take the line that church isn’t boring – when we all know that it was – we give off several unhelpful messages. First, we don’t fool anybody. They know, and we know, and they know that we know, it was boring. All we really do when we insist church isn’t boring when it was (and often is) is that we don’t tell the truth. We are either so undiscerning as to render our opinion valueless or we are liars who can’t be trusted.
Second, we can often end up giving off the impression that being bored is somehow unspiritual. The service might have been dull as ditch water, the sermon about as interesting as watching paint dry – and we all know it because we were all there – but the “spiritual” thing to do is insist it was very interesting. The implication is that if you were bored you have been particularly unspiritual. That line of reasoning leaves us with a lot of people, in a lot of churches, who are incredibly unspiritual or in which spirituality is measured by how frequently you happen to say church was interesting irrespective of whether it was anything of the sort.