Bored at Worship?

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I came across this post awhile ago and have been meaning to link to it. In the post Skye discusses bordem in our worship services, not just from the typical congregant but also the pastor. He also comments on that article that’s been pretty popular online about “Hipster Christianity.”

Here’s a quote from Skye’s post that stands out to me:

“I have been in the church all of my seventy year life and I have been bored for most of it. The trouble is that even though we are looking for a relationship with God, most church leaders/preachers interpret that to mean a relationship with a church.”

via Bored at Church – SKYEBOX.

I know the feeling, there have been plenty of times when I felt I was showing up on Sunday morning because that’s what we do. I personally feel different now as a pastor and don’t think I’ve felt bored at our meetings but I am sure that some do feel this way.

Part of me wants to say the standard thing we always heard growing up whenever we kids would say “School is boring” and mom would say, “well, it’s not supposed to be entertaining!” And I think in an entertain-me culture, where kids play video games more than they do anything else, and where adults watch more TV than even teenagers do (and get less pleasure from it). Beyond just TV bashing, there are plenty of things that numb us: we can turn to the pace of our lives,  our jobs, the constant connectedness through our gadgets, and our lifestyles of consuming, whether through shopping or eating or drinking or smoking. I don’t think any of these things, if we can think of them as practices, getting lived out daily help form us in ways that prepare us to be a worshipping, peacemaking, welcoming, giving, and loving community. They also don’t help us feel like what we do on Sunday morning, whether it’s worshipping in silence, or singing the old songs, or reading and discussing biblical text is interesting, or entertaining. And so what do we in the church do? Try to make it more like those things that work to numb us. A Catch-22 to say the least.

Church, whatever it is, is meant to wake us up, slap us in the face, bring us out of that numbness, redeem us, invite us to walk with Christ, give us alternative ways of understanding the world, living in the world, and working toward truly good lives. To me that’s anything but boring.

Another of the issues here is commitment. We don’t ask for high commitment from folks. Membership is often pointless. There are plenty of people doing things, but if they don’t show up or they let their responsibilities go we don’t approach them, we just look the other way. In a family if you are responsible for something and you don’t do it you get called on it, not so with our faith communities. Why do we settle for doing things half-assed in the church? Is this because we lack deeper commitment? There seems to be no real high-bar for what it means to be within a community.

When I put my hands to something I truly love and care about I am deeply committed. I give it my all. I assume we all have these things. What would it look like for this energy and creativity to translate into our churches? There are plenty of folks sitting in pews on Sunday morning who are there to walk in, hear a good 3-point sermon, sing some songs, catch up with old pals and head home until next Sunday. Let’s face it, we have a hard time giving up something else in our lives to give a little more to our church. I know this because I have done it, a lot. And it’s in answering this question that we might start to get down to the nuts and bolts of the issue. Are people connecting with God? Finding life and real transformation in a way that truly compels them to live and prioritize differently? What does it mean to say  “the Lordship of Christ” if it doesn’t include this?

I wonder how much of this connects to our own lip-service? How much of this is because we don’t really believe enough to actually live this stuff? We believe it enough to think and talk about it, but not enough to let it be materialized. This keeps us talking about real community, diversity, etc. without really entering into it. Without ever being willing to enter into the conflicts, as well as the celebrations, the self-sacrifice as well as the self-enjoyment, of what we are actually called to? This is something I am really struggling with in my own life and ministry. I can talk the talk on this stuff as good as the next person, but some of these requirements are not something I actually want to give myself too. (I like diversity so long as it fits within what I’ve already accepted. That kind of thing.)

Finally, part of the issue at stake is that we still think “church” is the worship service. Through-out the quotes on Skye’s blog it talks about being bored “at church.” This isn’t a linguistics thing, church isn’t the worship service. This could be one big reason why we are bored and it could help us refocus our energies around what needs to change. So long as we continue to minimize what we do to the worship service alone church will be boring. If we truly are bored, then what is it we are doing through out the week to remedy that? My guess is that if we changed our language around this, and began to find ways to make “church” more interesting by incorporating into our other passions we could go a long way.

I don’t know how the communities are that you are a part of, or how you answer these questions, but I’m interested in exploring these questions. I don’t have the answers, what I’ve written above are just broad-stroke guesses. What are your thoughts and stories?

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Wess

A papa, Quaker minister, Phd in Intercultural Studies from Fuller, & prof. Contributor to Antioch Sessions. Angelic troublemaker & #sketchnote preacher. Enjoys #remix, liberation theology, bourbon & a wool vest.
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One thought on “Bored at Worship?”

  1. I forget who said that if we really believed what we say, we’d all wear hardhats to church, because we are messing with the forces of the universe.

    When I was in high school, my civics teacher used to say that “Boredom is the responsibility of the boree.” Never is that more true than in unprogrammed worship.

    At the same time, I’m wrestling with the question of how much can I take of reality? – when there is so much pain, hunger, fear, etc. right outside my door, on every news channel, and across the globe? Is goofing off a sin? What is the right and healthy and faithful balance of work and rest? And what am I going to do if I actually give up all the little things I distract myself with? I am running out of superficial vices and I’m seriously wondering about this. Maybe I need to write my own blogpost rather than rambling on here. But thanks for writing this.

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