Church is Boring

Church is Boring March 11, 2008

Well, yes it is sometimes. Entered into with a spirit of willingness and openness, time in church can mean that the spirit of God bores a hole all the way into the center of our beings.

Oh—perhaps you didn’t mean THAT kind of “bore” with the phrase “church is boring.” Instead it meant, “I’m not being entertained in church.”

Hmmm—definitely truth there as well. Although some churches do have “entertaining” worship services, the church really isn’t in the entertainment business. It’s in the transformation business. It’s in the reconciliation business. It’s in the forgiveness business.

At the basic level, “church” is a group of people who come together to learn more about God and to encourage each other to grow in holiness. Holiness simply means that we become more and more willing to live as God intended us to live: aware of God’s grace which is given freely yet costs so much, exercising our talents, receiving disappointments and tough times with hopeful hearts, forgiving others, wrapping ourselves and those around us in love, actively seeking the well-being of the created world. The transformative work of holiness is boring indeed. It digs huge holes into most our preconceived notions about what life really is about.

In most churches, people sing songs together because there is something about music that helps us to get beyond ourselves for a while. Some of this music is ancient and unfamiliar and boring but the act of at least trying to sing and hear the words gives them an opportunity to bore into our minds and thoughts.

In most churches, portions of the Bible are read aloud. These readings help us enter the lives of the people who have sought from the beginning of recorded history to find and experience God. As we enter into their lives, we find a place to find direction for our own experiences of God. Sometimes, people fall asleep while the Bible is being read—but those words while boring can so beautifully bore into the soul nonetheless.

In most churches, people spend some time in prayer. This time helps us to stop just for a while and really concentrate on both talking to God and hearing from God. The action of prayer can be a boringly mysterious experience that sometimes leads us to fall into a holy sleep and sometimes leaves us exhilarated by concentrated attention on the Holy One.

In most churches, there is an opportunity to give money. This teaches us that life is much more than what we have—it is also found in what we give. It becomes a physical act that mirrors a spiritual reality: because we are blessed, we have a responsibility to be a blessing. The boring time when plates are being passed around the gathering will often bore into our wallets as we consider both our willingness and unwillingness to give freely.

In most churches, there is a message or sermon or meditation offered by the pastor or another person who has spent disciplined time learning the ways of God and the words of the Bible. This is done to offer instruction and encouragement. Learning about God is a life-long process, and learning to be a Christian and live like a Christian is also a life-long process. This time of instruction and encouragement offers ideas and hope that a person can take home and ponder and seek to live from. Learning to be a Christian is no different than learning any challenging skill or area of knowledge: it takes discipline and work and good instruction and much, much practice. Yes, sometimes people fall asleep while listening to those frequently boring messages—but they may bore into the soul nonetheless.

In most churches, there are multiple opportunities for service. These opportunities give people a chance to get to know one another and work together and give good away to the people around them. So as we boringly pick up trash and feed the hungry and clothe the naked and visit the prisoner and heal the sick, we find that such acts bore deep within and find a well of gratefulness and renewed energy.

In most churches, there are opportunities to receive what are sometimes called “sacraments”—a word that suggests a special meaning to what is taking place. The most common sacrament is the experience of communion, where we remember in special ways the gift that Jesus gave to us when freely giving himself for all. This is a focused time to be still and simply receive the gift; to be quietly bored and let our minds wander with contemplation of things generally ignored.

In most churches, there is a time to talk about or think about the places where we don’t measure up. The church word for this is “confession,” which means to agree with God about these things. This time is not punitive, but refreshing. It gives needed space to be honest about ourselves and to receive the power from God to start again—as many times as is needed. Confession, honestly practices, is rarely boring and also overwhelmingly boring as light is shed on areas before kept dark and hidden.

In most churches, there is a time to greet people sitting nearby. This time is a reminder that we are all in this together. We are not alone—and there is great comfort in this knowledge. It is a boring routine of shaking hands and saying “hello” and “welcome” except when you are feeling exceptionally lonely and then the boring routine bores new hope and healing into your loneliness.

In most churches, many meals are eaten together. It’s a boring routine of cooking, serving, standing in line to get food, sitting with unfamiliar people, and cleaning up afterward. Those times of communal dining bore warmth into our lives because shared food means shared lives and shared lives mean a community strong enough to withstand any trials coming our way.

Yes, church is boring. Thank you, Jesus, for boring your way into my life and giving to me the words of life.

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