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.”
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.