Some time ago I was interviewed about how to respond when someone claims that attending worship at church is boring. This is the first of two posts based on that interview.
What is your response when you hear someone say, “Church is boring?”
My first response is to ask, “Why do you say that?” For starters, even the most God-pleasing worship service would likely bore the unconverted person, whether they profess to be a Christian or not. “The natural person,” the Bible makes plain in 1 Cor. 2:14, “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
In light of this, and in view of the fact that many who attend church are not true believers, I would expect church to seem boring to many people. They do not possess the God-given, spiritual capacity to find the satisfaction, nourishment, and refreshment in worship as do those indwelled by the Spirit of God.
If I am confident that a person is genuinely converted and still they say, “Church is boring,” then I want to ask about their expectations and determine if they are reasonable ones.
Beyond that, I would ask about the particulars of the service, trying to discern if the worship leadership is seeking to promote “worship in spirit and truth?” (as Jesus put it in John 4:24).
Should “boring” ever be a term used to describe church? Why or why not?
Sadly, sometimes “boring” is an appropriate term. There is such a thing as dead orthodoxy. To refer to John 4:24 again, worship that is done “in truth” but not “in spirit” is heartless and potentially boring. To present the endlessly satisfying and perpetually fascinating God who is “holy, holy, holy” to His worshipers in such a way that does not call for “reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28) is deplorable.
In my own case I’ve found that the immediate cause of boredom in worship is usually thoughtlessness on my own part. If I do not focus on and think about what I am encountering in the service, I may be bored, but it’s my own fault.
If God is presented faithfully to me in worship, that is, if the Word of God is read, if the songs we sing are true to Scripture and point Godward, and if the sermon faithfully proclaims the Bible, then enough of God’s revelation is present to capture my attention. I cannot sit back, fold my arms, and wait for the worship leaders to stimulate or entertain me. That’s not their job. Their job is to present God to me, to magnify and exalt God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. And if I am seeking God, they will make it easy for me to encounter Him and to find Him fascinating, not boring.
The old adage about horses has application to worshipers here: you can lead a worshiper to God, but you can’t make him worship. God forbid, however, that the worship leaders themselves appear thoughtless and unmoved about the God they are presenting to the worshipers.
And yet, I’m reluctant to allow the use of the term “boring” as a possible descriptor of worship. Doing so may be merely reflecting the values of a society that places such a high priority on amusement that the most common word of blessing on someone going out the door is “Have fun” or “Have a good time,” and the most condescending evaluative curse is, “That was soooo boring.”
To permit worship to be analyzed on a “boredom scale” is to use the wrong measuring rod. To call worship “boring” could imply that we can evaluate it in the same way that we appraise movies, TV shows, and other forms of entertainment. It also puts pressure upon the worship leaders to focus on making worship more exciting or interesting rather than considering it upon more explicitly Biblical grounds.
This interview will be continued in the next post.