Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Letters to My Non-Churchgoing Friends (#2: Worship is Boring)

Dear Friend:
In this second letter, I want to deal with an entirely different objection people raise to being part of a church. "It's boring," they say.

The comment usually relates to worship and there are variations on this theme heard from non-churchgoers, whatever the "flavor" of church they've experienced. People will say:
  • "The praise songs are repetitive and brain dead."
  • "The sermon goes on forever."
  • "They use words I've never heard before."
  • "I don't get those old hymns. The music drags and the lyrics make no sense to me."
  • "What's with the organ?" (Or the guitar, the drums, the keyboard, the kazoos?)
There's a lot of truth to the idea that worship is boring, even in churches with excellent preachers and great musicians. It sometimes seems that we churches and preachers have a goal to so bore people that they won't want to have anything to do with God.

But more than the imperfect efforts of pastors and congregations lay behind this common complaint. It also has to do with our expectations of any public "presentation."

Today, we have constant access to slickly produced movies, music, dramas, comedies, video games, and reality shows. We can watch them on our TVs, at movie theaters, and on our computers and iPods. Even compared with the average, perfectly-coiffed local anchorperson talking about a fifty-car freeway pile-up, the stuff that goes on in worship can seem lame.

Of course, the Good News of a God Who wants to set us free from our sins, hurts, and addictions so that we can have more of life today and an eternity with God, is pretty exciting stuff. But socialized to believe that only violent theft in video games, "hook-ups" with multiple partners, and smash mouth tackling in the NFL are really exciting, it's often hard for us to see the excitement of a life with God.

Most churches and pastors, I think, will try to be interesting. And we know that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, knew the value of entertaining people to educate them about life with God: His stories, called parables, both entertain and call people to faith even today.

But there's something important for us to understand: The purpose of weekly worship isn't to entertain us.

Worship is about taking our gazes off of of our own lives.
  • It's about turning our attention to God.
  • It's about praising God for sending His Son to die on the cross and rise from the dead for us.
  • It's about God giving us our marching orders for the week to come.
  • It's about re-orienting ourselves to the call to turn from sin and to believe in Jesus Christ.
  • It's about being empowered to once more dedicate ourselves to the lifestyle of truly "human" beings: love of God, love of neighbor.
  • It's about drawing strength and inspiration from other worshipers.
Worship, in short, is surrender to God. I used to hate the idea of surrendering control of my life to God. I still rebel against it sometimes.

But weekly worship reminds us of a fundamental fact of life: God is God and I'm not.

That's not always welcome news, especially for many of us in America, accustomed to having just what we want when we want it. But if it isn't welcome news, it is good news. We don't have to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders! We can give our lives to God and He'll keep pumping a new and better life with Him into us!

If even a boring worship service helps us to surrender to God, it will have done its job.


[THANKS TO: Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice for linking to this post. You can find the other installments in this series by clicking on any of the labels below.]

[THANKS ALSO TO: Bruce Armstrong of Ordinary Everyday Christian for linking to the first two posts in this series.]

1 comment:

Jo Anne said...

It's not always true, but to say that Church services are "boring" is usually revealing the state of the individual's heart.