Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bored At Church?

Can we be really honest for a moment? Are you bored at church? It might not be a fault on your part--not a lack of love for God at all. For years, my boredom--and the accompanying guilt--was a weekly burden.

In fact, there might be a very good reason you're bored. It could be because your church services are more stifling and passive than God intended. It could be because all you're doing on Sunday is talking or singing (which is talking set to music) about being a Christian. Except for prayer (5 min if you're lucky), there's almost no practice time on Sunday for typical church members.

It's like signing up to be a musician, joining God's orchestra, if you will. He gives you a world class instrument. You search around and join a group of other new musicians for weekly lessons....and each week you sit quietly, for years and years, and watch a small group of special leaders talk about what their life as musicians. They might play a little music as a demonstration, but you and me certainly don't get to make any noise during the lesson.

At first, that can be inspiring and exciting. But after a while you realize that your weekly training session will never offer you the chance to play any music--not unless you can somehow get onto the elite team that plays in front of the crowd. You're on your own if you want to practice your instrument.

But that's just how church works (you might be thinking).  Pastors "equip" the saints on Sunday and it's up to us to practice on our own during the week. That's biblical, right? And everyone who loves Jesus comes every week, sings the songs, and takes good sermon notes on how to be a Christian.

Actually, James talks pretty harshly about this approach.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that —and shudder.
James 2:14-19

Typical churches (even the huge, "successful" churches) do a terrific job inspiring faith and a terrible job of helping people practice their faith. They spend Sunday after Sunday convincing people to believe in God, so to speak, and give no time to putting that faith into practice. Members are just supposed to sit there and silently think about what we believe. (And we wonder why so many churches are dead.)

Yes, most churches offer "side ministries" where people can walk out their faith during the week, but that still leaves the question on why Sunday--the premier gathering time for the whole church--is designed as such a passive experience. And in case you're wondering, this approach to church (presentations only on Sundays) is not required in the Bible. Our current church service pattern was established during the middle ages, actually.

There might be a good reason you're bored at church. Your church might be boring. You might be spending each Sunday becoming educated on music theory, but still not actually be a musician (able to play well).

But you don't have to be bored. Maybe it's time to find a church where you can actually play your instrument during the lesson--where you can practice your faith. That's not going to happen if you spend then next 10 years sitting quietly while the leaders talk. To paraphrase James: ideas without action produce no life.

(If you're excited about this idea, but dismissing it as impractical, don't give up too soon. Check out other posts on how our member-driven church is actually doing what I'm talking about. It's not hard and you could do it, too.)

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