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?
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?
Every organization is prone to forget why it’s there. People come and go, the founders pass away, the culture changes. Sometimes an organization can wake up and find it’s lost its way. Other times, the organization never wakes up.
The YMCA started in London in the 1840s as a Christian outreach to young men in the inner cities during the industrial revolution. Now, the YMCA is a gym with a robust after school youth program.
Baptist fundamentalism began as a protest movement against theological revisionism and apostasy. Within one generation, the movement’s various flavors fractured over the issue of secondary separation. In some quarters, the mission drift is so extreme that evangelicals have long been considered ” the enemy,” rather than modern-day heresy and compromise.
So, mission drift happens.
On that note, here are some short reflections for pastoral ministry from Jesus’ interactions with the Sanhedrin’s representatives during the early portion of Passion Week. They’re about “mission drift,” too.1 It’s not a new thing.
This isn’t about Lordship Salvation. It’s about whether you actually reverence Jesus Christ as Lord in your heart and give Him allegiance in your life. On Palm Sunday, the crowd said Jesus was its King. They lied. How many pastors are lying? How many professing Christians?
“Excellence” might not be the business leadership buzzword it once was, but it’s far from dead. A quick search at Amazon shows plenty of recent business titles with “excellence” in them, and even if the term isn’t the biz word of the day anymore, the concept has never waned.
This is because the business world understands that making what they do, and how they do it, better is essential for their survival in a competitive marketplace. Maybe that marketplace mentality is partly why ministry leaders sometimes view excellence as a “a business thing.”
But they shouldn’t.
A Christian view of life and ministry has the pursuit of excellence at its very core. The flipside is also true: to the degree we accept shoddiness and haphazardness in our churches and ministries, we’re embracing a deeply unchristian way of thinking and acting.
A Culture of Excellence
Here is the last part of our “Purpose and Principles” document, developed and unanimously approved by our 1996 Elders’ Board. It grapples with what we consider to be reasonable and the proper balance in matters of how we conduct services, when we separate, and political activity. It continues to explain what makes our church distinct from both mainline churches and other evangelical churches. This line in particular grips me: “Our concern is that we are headed toward involving our people in edification and ministry, not matching anyone’s model.”
Sometimes people think I or our elders don’t know the rules for the game of “doing church.” In many ways, however, the difference between HPC (Highland Park Church) and more typical approaches is intentionally engineered based upon convictions and understandings derived from a fresh study of the Word back in 1995-6.
Besides studying relevant Scripture portions, the elders (yours truly included) read Gene Getz’s book, “Sharpening the Focus of the Church” as prerequisite preparation. We had a second meeting every month for the better part of a year to construct this document. When you consider all the individual work we did at home, this was quite an undertaking.
Our approach was to be different from the typical conservative evangelical/ fundamental church by trying to get as many people involved as possible in our services and church life. One key statement is, “We want people to be attracted to HPC primarily because they see God at work in the lives of our people.”