Why Is Church So Boring?

Church is boring, or so we are told by some who attempt to diagnose ills within modern Christianity. The reason more people do not attend church is that they find it boring. The reason so many of our young people drop out is because they consider church boring.

Traditional worship services are boring, so we need to make them more relevant, more exciting. Long prayers are boring, so they must be eliminated. Long sermons are boring, so they must be reduced. Sermons should grab people’s attention and hold it for fifteen minutes. The preacher has to make his point quickly or people will tune him out. After all, we live in the age of entertainment, and people, especially young people, have short attention spans. We can only hope to hold their attention for a few minutes. People need constant variety. We can’t do any one thing for long, especially preach.

We need lots of lively music, some video clips, and a fast paced program if we hope to attract people and keep them in church. Otherwise, we must resign ourselves to declining attendance and a lost generation. If churches don’t keep up with the times, they become hopelessly old fashioned, completely irrelevant, and eventually obsolete. Does any of this sound familiar to you?

What Is Boredom?

Boredom is the condition of being uninterested to the point of weariness because the situation that surrounds us is considered dull or monotonous. Is it possible for two people to be in the same situation and one be bored while the other is not?

The concept of boredom is highly subjective, depending upon individual opinions and feelings. When I talk about cars, my wife’s eyes tend to gloss over. She seems bored. She tries really hard to look interested, but it’s difficult because she’s not. I find that hard to understand since I am very interested in automobiles.

When my wife talks about home furnishings, paint, and fabrics, I struggle to stay engaged. I really want to share my wife’s interests, and I do succeed to a small degree, but I confess that I find it difficult to avoid feeling bored. That subject just doesn’t interest me as it does Marti.

So what’s the problem? Is the solution finding a way to make the subject more exciting, or should I simply accept the fact that she will never be as interested in cars as I am? We have a wonderful marriage, but we will never share the same level of interest in every subject. Nor should we. It’s really not critical that Marti enjoy the world of automobiles, nor I, interior design. It’s all right to have different interests. Nothing of great consequence is at stake.

Boredom in Church

However, church is different because eternal, not temporal issues are involved. It does make a great deal of difference whether or not I am interested in God. The destiny of my soul is at stake, not to mention many of the fundamental issues of life. But is it the fault of the preacher if I have a low level of interest in church?

Admittedly, vital truth can be presented in a dull manner, and that’s not desirable. But the main problem is often with the attendee, not with the church service. If my wife is not interested in car-talk, is that my fault? The same conversation that bores her stimulates someone who is enthusiastic about cars. If the church attendee is not interested in “God-talk,” is that the preacher’s fault? Should we shape the most important subject in the universe into suitable material for entertainment?

The manner in which we treat a subject communicates a great deal about the subject, and to treat God and the Bible as if it were simply another topic of casual entertainment is to diminish the greatness of God and the solemnity of spiritual issues.

The price for endeavoring to create interest among the bored is too high. Some things cannot be “dumbed down” without distorting the message. In this case, the suggested cure is worse than the disease. Have we forgotten that the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God because they are spiritually discerned? What is church supposed to be about if not “spiritual things”? To make church interesting to the carnal mind requires eliminating the things of the Spirit of God and replacing them with carnal elements.

What’s the Solution?

In the case of the unchurched, we need to accept that they will not be interested in church until God’s Spirit creates a spiritual thirst within them. The solution is not to change church to appeal to their current level of interest. The solution is to pray that God will change their hearts. When He does, they will no longer be bored with church. Inviting them to church is good, but we know in advance, that unless God does a work in their hearts, they will not likely continue.

That’s not the fault of the church or the preacher. That’s just the nature of the unregenerate person who has no interest in spiritual things. Pigs don’t enjoy eating grass, and sheep don’t care for hog slop, and that’s just the way it is. They have two different natures, and only God can change the nature. Changing church to appeal to pigs instead of sheep is both a fool’s errand and a colossal blunder.

In the case of our children, the situation is the same. We know when they become teens they will probably not be excited about church until God gives them a new heart. Will they be bored? I would fully expect them to be. If they are not, it’s either because they have been regenerated and given an appetite for spiritual truth, or else because we’ve changed the style of ministry, and their carnal natures enjoy entertainment.

There is one important difference, however, between the unchurched of the community, and the children of church members. Children can be taught to sit still, to listen, to respect God’s Word, to learn and memorize the Bible. It’s a matter of training. Parents can train them to attend with profit the same way we train our children to attend school. Study, homework, memorization, and self-discipline do not come naturally, but parental training, including a positive attitude toward school, appropriate incentives, and when necessary, appropriate punishments can steer our children through the troubled waters of school boredom, and insure that they benefit from their school experience. We believe school is important, so we work hard to keep them engaged as long as possible.

What is more important than training our children for godliness? We can’t give them new hearts, but we can discipline them toward godliness, praying for God to change their hearts. Will they ever complain of boredom? Probably. Should we blame that on the church and let them choose a more entertaining church, just to make them happy and keep them attending? Not if we’re wise. They don’t need a watered-down, entertainment approach. They need serious worship along with solid Bible teaching. They may not like it, but it will do them good.

We know that faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and that’s something we dare not trifle with. That is why we must not alter the means God has appointed to resurrect the dead. Changing church, so that spiritually dead people like it, robs them of the only thing that can change their hearts. Conversion is a work of God’s Spirit, and we must utilize the means God has appointed as we patiently wait upon Him to change hearts. “Even so, Lord, for thus it seems good in your sight.”

Greg Barkman 2018 bio


G. N. Barkman received his BA and MA from BJU and later founded Beacon Baptist Church in Burlington, NC where has pastored since 1973. In addition, Pastor Barkman airs the Beacon Broadcast on twenty radio stations. He and his wife, Marti, have been blessed with four daughters and nine grandchildren.

199 reads
1734 reads

There are 10 Comments

TylerR's picture

Editor

Very good stuff! I had one couple attwbd the church for a few months, then leave. They said:

  • The music is not exciting enough
  • The service is boring
  • Young people would never want to come here
  • You must change or you'll never attract anyone

The idea that Sunday is a marketing ploy for unbelievers is an infectious disease in American evangelicalism. Sunday is for God's covenant people to worship Him. Visitors are a very nice secondary bonus. You can't structure Sunday worship around unbelievers or "bored" Christians.

Your soteriology matters here. Mine is Reformed. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

I agree that sometimes the problem is that people are not spiritually driven in any sense of the phrase, but I'd argue that at other times, (not accusing anyone here, BTW!) the issue is that the agenda being driven from the pulpit and the music stands simply isn't what the Scriptures say, and in particular isn't what the passage being preached on is getting at.  And then what you get, particularly when the Gospels are preached, is teaching shorn of its Biblical power.

And then people wonder why, as they've preached their agenda instead of the Scriptures, people aren't responding.  'tain't rocket science, really. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Sometimes a church can be deliberately old-fashioned and "traditional" in a bad way. That is, they can freeze church culture in a particular era and never move from it. I get that. Its bad.

Other times, a church can be pathetically trying to market itself to the world, with little thought to ecclesiology. That's wrong, too. That was what my comment was directed towards.

My church is going a bit more formal. I'll be chatting with the ministry leader's soon about adding responsive readings for creeds and Scripture. We already do public Scripture reading, so the responsive readings will be in addition to that. We're adding prayers of invocation, confession and blessing, too. 

I've already moved from ad hoc, extemporaneous closing prayers to scripted, deliberate prayers of application after the sermon. Nothing crazy; the scripted prayer is usually about 3-5 minutes.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry Nelson's picture

...in the photo accompanying the OP article is well understood by me!  If you ever saw that episode of The Andy Griffith Show, you probably remember how vapid the "sermon" was!  See it here for yourself:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXU--fCB1f0

No Scripture whatsoever, no exposition, no application.  It's just a motivational talk of sorts (and a not very good one at that).

Bert Perry's picture

Larry, that's what I grew up with as a young Methodist.  No kidding.  We used to describe it as preaching the daily news, and did you notice the esteemed academic basically was composing his "sermon" during the morning's hymns?  Flashbacks, brother!

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Key concept in Greg's article: who is bored? There's a big difference between changing church to be exciting to the unregenerate vs. changing church to be exciting to thriving (and hungry) believers. Somewhere between those two you have believers who are immature/unhealthy/not thriving... and maybe some effort to help them by being a bit more engaging than strictly necessary is gracious? (Sort of like using funny story problems and attractive images in kids' math textbooks?)

So...if the most mature and vibrant believers in the congregation are bored. That calls for some ministry analysis. Maybe there are small ways to mix it up that don't involve any violations of principle.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Aaron makes a good point:

maybe some effort to help them by being a bit more engaging than strictly necessary is gracious? 

This is why it's a good idea to solicit and accept feedback outside your pastoral echo-chamber. Our ministry team (which consists of the folks [men and women] who lead children's SS, music, teens, other key things, etc.) meets once per month and chats about this. Some very good ideas come out of these meetings. Are pastors mature enough to have a forum where key people can disagree with you, or suggest better (even more biblical!) ideas?

Last night, we chatted about our liturgy on Sundays, and how to integrate congregation participation into prayer on Sundays, rather than just the pastor's corporate prayers. Great stuff. The other elder and I wouldn't have found the solutions on our own.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry Nelson's picture

Is there anything inherently wrong with using some video clips?  Perhaps four or five times per year my pastor will use a brief video clip of some sort during a sermon to illustrate a point he's trying to make.  In our case, we have twin 16-foot LED screens in our main auditorium, so this is easy to do.  Since he doesn't do this thoughtlessly or carelessly, these invariably accomplish his intended purpose quite well.

If one grants that some people are predisposed to be "visual learners" and moreover if there is any truth to the premise that "a picture is worth a thousand words" then why should we be opposed to a means of instruction that modern technology has made available?

Bert Perry's picture

Take a look at Luke 5, where Christ ends His sermon, more or less, with a huge visual--throwing the net out for a huge catch of fish.  If that's allowed, I can't see why other visuals wouldn't be.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I don't see a problem with it, myself. ... but also have no interest in it at all. I guess the question would be who is this helping? I can pretty easily imagine some profiles of individuals that a well-made short video clip could edify.

Some probably argue, "but regulative principle"! But proponents of RP usually have no problem with telling stories, or displaying visual teaching materials...  A video is just a different way of visually telling a story.

But if the thinking is, "we have to do this or we'll shrivel away in irrelevance!" we're on the wrong track.

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.