Life 201 is a new, weekly advice column headed by pastor, counselor and RELEVANT Podcast member Eddie Kaufholz. Eddie answers questions and gives advice on issues you want to hear about. Email your questions to Life201@RELEVANTmagazine.com.]
I feel bad saying this, but going to church has become really boring for me and I’m really thinking about not going anymore. Any good ideas?
First of all Phil, I want you to know that there’s no reason to feel bad or ashamed for asking such an honest and helpful question. Furthermore, I’d like to preface my reply by saying that church can be boring for me too. I’m a pastor, and most people assume that I live for the Sunday services, which isn’t always the case—more on that later. For now though Phil, just know that you’re not alone in feeling like you feel.
Let me ask you a few questions:
Are your eggs in the right basket(s)?
My assumption, when you say “church,” is that you’re referring to the hour and fifteen minute music and lecture time that happens on a Sunday, typically. And if that’s what you’re not fully connecting with, well, you’re not alone. Donald Miller recently wrote an inciting set of posts (here and here) on how the western concept of church (worship and a sermon) just isn’t a place where all people of all learning styles can easily engage. Whether or not everyone agrees with him, we can definitely be sure he was saying something a lot of people are feeling.
So Phil, fundamentally, do you know the way(s) in which you best connect with God? I ask this because I’m guessing that your boredom may not have anything to do with a lackluster service, but may have everything to do with you not setting yourself up for success. Do you know how you worship best? Is it through listening to a sermon and corporately singing? Is it through reading, writing, being transparent in a small group, being in solitude, hiking at daybreak, etc., etc.?
My encouragement for you is to explore who you are in relation to how God has wired you. Then, as you gain clarity on the ways that you best hear Gods voice—doggedly pursue those disciplines. Also, John Ortberg wrote an incredible book called The Me I Want to Be about all of this, you should it read it. It helped me in answering the question I just posed to you.
Speaking of questions, here’s another one…
What are you bringing with you to church?
Phil, maybe your boredom isn’t caused by a learning style mismatch, maybe it’s due to whatever you’re bringing with you into the service. I am keenly aware when I stand in front of the congregation that every person in the room is in a different place. Some are having the best days of their life, some are in deep mourning. Some trust the church, some have been deeply wounded by it. Some trust Jesus, and many don’t … and the list goes on and on. So how are you right now? What’s on your mind? What baggage are you hauling into the sanctuary?
I find that the times where I’m bored with church have little to do with the quality of the sermon (there’s something to be learned in any half-decent Scriptural reflection) or the authenticity of the worship (banjos=salvation), boredom kicks in when my heart and mind are somewhere else.
Phil, is the life that’s happening outside of the sanctuary something that you’re praying about inside of it—or is it something that’s preying on you and keeping you from being present? If I had to guess, I’d say that this is the main question that you need to be answering.
One last thing…
Phil, I’d quit making the Sunday service your sole form of sustenance. At this point in the Church, we’ve moved far enough away from the original design in Acts to safely assume that what we’re doing on Sunday is about half (at best) of what we need to be about as a community.
At its origin, the Church was a place where people deeply engaged with one another’s stories, shared life and food, prayed, and invited new people to be a part of the journey. A church service in and of itself isn’t bad, by any means, but it is not everything. To get everything, you have to diversify your investments and examine what it is you expect Sunday to be.
That being said, I wouldn’t quit going to church. I know some see it as antiquated (and it may be), or an efficient way for a small staff to get a bunch of people in the door for collecting the tithe (ouch). But I see it as more than that.
I think church is an opportunity to catalyze the community into taking their next right steps toward, in all seriousness, changing the world. Maybe you’re not a sermon guy, and maybe music isn’t your thing, but the power of a group of people coming together for a common purpose is undeniable. My hope is that the Sunday service is more than a scripted hour, but rather a celebration of stories and an acknowledgment that what’s happening Monday through Saturday, in countless ways, is a very big deal.
Good luck working this out, Phil. And thanks again for asking the question—I bet a lot of people benefited from your honesty.
Have a question? Good! All identifying information will be kept anonymous. Send an email to Life201@RELEVANTmagazine.com
Eddie Kaufholz is a writer, speaker and podcaster and serves as a director of church mobilization for International Justice Mission. He also hosts and produces "The New Activist" podcast. You can find on Twitter @EdwardorEddie.