There are many lists of church bulletin bloopers that are circulating on the internet. On one copy of these humorous mistakes, I found a comical entry that read, “Church Bored Meeting this Sunday at 4 o’clock.”
The real mistake may not have been in the misspelling of “board” but in the time. Some believe that the “bored of the church” meet at ten or eleven o’clock every Sunday morning.
One of the primary reasons non-churchgoers give for not attending church regularly is that the worship services are perceived to be boring. I readily identify with what they are saying because I have endured more than my fair share of boring services. (There are few things more boring than being bored by your own sermon.)
There are many reasons that a worship service might be perceived as boring. One reason may be that we sometimes forget the purpose of worship. We experience a sort of liturgical amnesia. In our postmodern culture, worship is often reduced to either monotonous rituals or bizarre entertainment. I contend that worship is much more mystical and majestic than any of the above. Worship is an encounter with God, an opportunity to honor God by offering praises, saying prayers, reflecting on the scriptures and encouraging others.
A lack of active participation may also cause people to become bored. Perhaps our media-saturated lifestyle has subtly taught us to watch and enjoy a show with no participation or obligation on our part. Be alert to the subliminal notion that we are to be passively entertained in worship in the same way that we are entertained by a concert a play, or a television program. Meaningful worship may include highly professional music or insightful humor or profound oratory that both inspires and entertains, but the purpose of worship is not the entertainment of the worshipper. Worship is a participatory experience and an interactive discipline.
I have observed that worship is more likely to be perceived as boring by those whose attendance is irregular. Faithful worship participation has the advantage of both familiarity with the worship style and acquaintance with the sequential texts and themes of the liturgical season. Those who just “drop in” now and then have missed previous experiences of worship that were perhaps foundational to the current experience of worship. The cumulative experience of worship enriches each new opportunity for worship.
Worship is so crucial to our spiritual development that we cannot afford to treat worship casually, attend worship occasionally or observe worship passively. The gospel says that God desires worshipers “to worship in spirit and in truth”(Jn 4:24). A genuine encounter with God could never be boring.
Barry Howard is senior minister of First Baptist Church in Corbin, Ky.
Pastor at the Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. He also serves as a leadership coach and columnist for the Center for Healthy Churches.