Confessions of a Sunday School Dropout: Church = Boring?

Psalm 150

One of my favorite ads of all time was one that I read coming back from Atlanta one day. I stopped at a gas station and one of the ads there read like this:

“People don't like to chat at gas stations. There seems to be an uspoken rule of silence. This isnt' a church, an elevator or a public restroom. It's a place to fill up your wheels. So let's give a hearty “hi” to our fellow filler-uppers.” - signed Mini Cooper. I laughed.

Someone at Mini cooper nailed it on the head and knew a bunch of us would get it and some of us would be offended. For me, a Sunday School drop-out, it nailed it right on the head – church was an uncomfortable place – an awkward place – a boring place. I need to confess here – I had a lot of great naps in church.

But I don't hear anything like that in what the writer of the psalm 150 said though! The description that we have is in keeping with how worship often took place in the Old Testament as we'll see in a minute. Not only was singing and music part of the experience but so was dancing. I doubt many ever fell asleep listening to cymbals clashing together. In his letters to the Ephesian church and Colossian church, Paul wrote that “... psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,...”(Eph 5:19/Col 3.16)

So what happened? I confess – I don't know exactly. Somehow, the church grew comfortable with the pattern of boring – And so I ask your forgiveness. I'm convinced that wasn't the way God intended it to be – no one should be able to say, as I did, the reason they dropped out was over boring worship. I can tell you that the idea of boring irritated John and Charles Wesley! In the song book of the UMC, Wesley's words about it are written plainly: “Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.”

Wesley said we ought to, “have an eye to God in every word you sing.” I can tell you that as we prepare for worship every week, Brandon and I have an eye for every song that is chosen. More often than not you are likely singing words directly from the Bible itself. Sometimes, the songs will help you feel lighter and other times the same song – will cause you to be more thoughtful. God works in all times and in all emotions not just in warm fuzzies on your shoulder. Renewal comes often in song and worship.

In Acts 20:8-12 there is the story of , “a young man named Eutychus was sitting in the window, and as Paul kept on talking, Eutychus got sleepier and sleepier, until he finally went sound asleep and fell from the third story to the ground. When they picked him up, he was dead.” As we keep reading, we find that Eutychus is brought back from the dead which is a great thing. In a rather tongue in check way, there is a lesson there for preachers, for there is a call to be respectful of those who come to hear. Through the years, there is a phrase often repeated that goes something like this, “it is a sin to bore a child with the Gospel.” The Gospel isn't intended to be boring - it is Good News! I confess, at times we preachers have done just that. While there isn't a scripture to back it up – I think that story comes close and the next point certainly takes it one more step.

It might be an individual church grows in number without children crying out and disrupting services but the UNIVERSAL CHURCH is, I think, being robbed of its sages.

The hardest thing I do every week is find someway to communicate the core of this message so the children understand it. Jesus said "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." Jim Griffith who has coached many new church pastors, including me, says, children learn more about faith in a new church start – imagine how many teachers can come out of Crossroads in the years ahead!

Worship, what we often call church, is a time of celebration and with any celebration comes invigoration – a renewed joy for life and for God. One of the toughest guys in the Old Testament was King David but even thought a king, David knew his place was below God and he needed to worship God. 2 Samuel 6:14 tells that on one occasion of celebration, David laid aside his kingly garments and crown and put on a simple linen garment worn by the priests and got jiggy with it before God. But he didn't do it inside – David took it to the streets.

And that is where we come to the point – the life changing -exciting power of God isn't meant for a building. That maybe the biggest sin the church has committed. There is more to church than what happens in here. Two books that have renewed my thoughts and vision for Crossroads this year are Irresistable Revolution by Shane Claibourne and Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris.

We are called here to be RENEWED – to be JOYFUL – to grow SAGES – but also to be INVIGORATED – to take it to the streets which we're going to do literally this Saturday as part of our gas buy down. Church should never be boring because it should be never ending!

For the mp3, Click Here!

(note: these are not a verbatim of my sermon but the working notes along the way. Getting into the mind of a pastor...I confess - I'm far from perfect!)


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I respect your ideas and point of view, but I come away with nothing helpful, as usual when I look for help on this topic. For the thousands of us born again Christians who are bored with church (most of whom don't admit it even to themselves) the advice is always the same - how can you be bored with the Gospel? Sing the songs that bore you with enthusiasm! Do the same things that have bored you for years with joy! Really not helpful.

Ken L. Hagler said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comment and I'm sorry that my sermon isn't helpful. I'll admit for me it is a work in progress. Looking back at old sermons and posts is helpful and I wish I could have had your comment prior to writing this sermon.

Worship, as I do note in the sermon, is not solely defined by what we sing - it also what we do with what we do with the message of the Gospel. It has to do with our preparation FOR the worship experience as well. I would ask you, do you come with anything to offer to God (in asking, I'm pointing the finger back at myself)? I'll admit this has been a growing edge for me as I have begun a more intentional study and practice of spiritual formation.

You're right in calling this out and I'll continue to wrestle with this but I'd challenge you with the same. Not just what are you expecting from church but how are you preparing for the time?

Anonymous said...

You're bored because of the delivery, not the Gospel. Most sermons/classes are geared toward an 8th grade level. For those of us that want a deeper experience, a deeper encouter with God, it's up to us to find it. Since I'm bored in church classes, I've found challenge by teaching those classes myself. It forces me to study, REALLY study, which for me, takes the boredom out. I've also considered taking a seminary level classes where I'll be challenged, not bored. Lots of times it's the topic of the class or sermon that's boring and the teacher or pastor doesn't do much to make it interesting.

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