One of the Best Things Our Sunday Morning Gathering Can Do Is Bore “The Hell” Out of You

Recently, I was meeting in the corner booth (of the local McDonald’s) with the men in my triad (spiritual formation group) and we were talking about our Sunday morning gathering. I said “one of the best things our gathering can do for people is bore the hell out of em.” Sorry if this seems counter intuitive but I nonetheless believe it is true – literally true. Let me explain.

We had just finished discussing the intense pressures of managing all the details it takes to make it through a typical week in our American suburban lives. Some of us discussed how we can’t sleep because we keep remembering things we need to take care of in the middle of the night. We discussed the many mundane little things we have to do just to live normal everyday life – including sending in receipts for expenses, sending in receipts for healthcare flex accounts, filling in never ending forms for a mortagage re-fi, take children to the doctor, sign them up for sports/music programs, and so far we haven’t even got to what we need to do to fulfil responsibilities for our jobs. We’re not complaining so much as reflecting and evaluating. For many of us, this the state of our tormented lives.

Then what about church? Well, it seems church demands some additional things of us well? yes? Or is church the means by which we make God fit in to this crazy pace? For many, I fear, church has become a Christian necessity we perform on Sunday. Sometimes we pastors try to make it more appealing by selling it as a goods and services of the religious kind that might help each person better sustain what has become the rushed existence of our suburban lives. As a side note, sometimes, even more “stupidly,” we try to make church a place to take care of our kids, attract them to Christianity. We actually choose a church because of its appeal to our kids in the midst of this hectic American life because we do not have the time to patiently connect with and present with our kids. Church becomes an accoutrement that enables our families to survive the empty pace of Americana life.

In response to all this, what we may need is the opposite. We need a place where we gather to be trained out of these cultural insanities to encounter the living God.

It is stunning to me how many many people I encounter in a month who cannot even acquire even a modicum of mind space cleared of societal clutter to meet God.  We live in a society where God is being organized out of our life experience (and this is most certainly true of our young people). If we don’t have the means to discipline our lives from societal noise, real living with God, listening and responding to his voice is lost from our horizon. God becomes an item to believe, an obligation to take care alongside the many others. And then, and I am dead serious here, other demons take over our lives. Our loneliness/our emptiness becomes filled by multivarious forms of fake pornogaphic substitutes. Demons take over. I see it everywhere.

In the midst of this, sometimes the best place (the only place) I can point people to is the gathering on Sunday morning. Go to the gathering. Not to get pumped up and inspired. Not to take some notes on the three things you can do to improve your Christian life. NO! Go to the gathering to shut down from all the noise – to submit yourself to Christ – the practice of confession – the listening to the Word – the submission to the receiving of the gift for life at the Table – to then once you have seen God again, praise Him as the one true source of your life in Jesus Christ. Go to the gathering to connect to the world that is all around you but somehow you have completely become lost to. Here is where the demons can be revealed and expelled. It is with all this in mind that I suggested that maybe the worst possible sign that our Sunday morning has got off track is to see that our youth are mesmerized (in the wrong way) and actually love listening to an entertaining sermon. For there is some learning here that we must lead out children into if they are not to fall victum to the “demons.” This is when I dared to say that sometimes “one of the best things our gathering can do for people is “bore the hell out of em.”

The challenge at Advent is not to have a show that will entertain everyone into romanticizing Jesus (although celebration is very important – we’re partying at Life on the Vine this weekend). Instead, the challenge at Advent is to learn how to wait for Him. Learn patience and wait. Prepare the place where He can come into our lives. It is in this Spirit that I say, one of the best things our Sunday gatherings can do for us this season is to “bore the hell out of us.” What say you?

Posted in Post-Attractional, Worship and Mission
17 comments on “One of the Best Things Our Sunday Morning Gathering Can Do Is Bore “The Hell” Out of You
  1. Ty Grigg says:

    Oh good – I feel permission to be boring! No, but seriously, a good word that I regularly need to hear – the Sunday gathering resists the patterns of the world to perform.

  2. I think this is where some of the non-liturgical church traditions are missing out. I'm not saying "high church" liturgy is THE way to go, but there's something about those simple forms, those routines that we can depend on and find peace in, that allows us to destress, declutter, and refocus our lives. Maybe those of us in "low" churches can take some notes here and figure out how to provide that Sabbath Rest in our Sunday morning gatherings…

  3. matttebbe says:

    This post bored the hell out of me. And I embrace that as one of the best things that ever happened to me.
    :)

    Good stuff, Dave.

  4. Brian Thomas says:

    I love the idea of going to church to shut down from all the noise, but when I have planned for this as a part of our service it is incredible how uncomfortable it makes people. I used to think it was because we have lost the art of being silent in our verbally intoxicated world. Yet, as i was reading this I was thinking about the ways that we as a society tend to shut down from all the noise (alcohol, pornography, mindless video games, movies, books, shopping, etc.) I wonder if our discomfort comes from the fact that we don't know how to shut down in healthy ways or if its because we are afraid that in our silence that God might speak to us, and that is what really scares the hell out of us. Maybe that's the real reason we feel compelled to be so polished musically or so entertaining in the pulpit. We just don't know what we might do if God actually showed up. Scary things happen when he shows up and you just never know what he might say.

    On another note your post reminds me of the words of Jud Wilhite, "When people are talking more about your programming, props or humor than Jesus after church, you have failed.” Maybe the number of times we have failed, failed without even realizing it should be what scares us.

  5. Lee Wyatt says:

    I have long thought such "boredom" is a spiritual gift and asyou say, absolutely necessary for us North Americans. Isn't the biblical name for it "Sabbath"?

  6. Matt Johnson says:

    Love it, Dave. What crossed my mind was an elder who has often said to our leaders, "It's a sin to bore people with the gospel." And I wonder, "Is it therefore holy to entertain them with a crucifixion?"

    My Advent series is on worship, and the third week we'll be looking at how Anna prepared for the Messiah's arrival–with prayer and fasting. We'll be fasting from any kind of music that morning, something that I hope will bore the hell out of my congregation. Now I've got some juicy quotes to open up the service with–thanks!

  7. Carolyn says:

    I have never found walking with and focusing on the divine to be boring, so when I get bored in church, it means I have been drawn away from the divine, often when there is loud and busy things going on meant to entertain. This means that I agree with your principle, but not your choice of words to describe it.

  8. Powerful David! thanks!

    • Randy Tumblin says:

      I love to be bored. I find that the Holy Spirit can usually speak to me somewhat clearly when I am bored. There seems to be a connection between allowing myself to be bored, still, silent, patient; and the creative work of the Holy Spirit. This type of boredom will make many uncomfortable, especially in our public worship gatherings. I love the idea above about a fast from music during the worship gathering. How about a timed…. sort of….. three minute silent prayer? Kind of like a "fast from verbal prayer." If God can speak to us each week in a 3-5 minute song filled with words and music, maybe He could speak to some equally in 3-5 minutes of prayer without the noise of the music and words.

  9. Exceptional post. Thanks for your thoughtful assessment of the nature of Christian worship.

  10. David says:

    David – thank you for the kind of reflections that actually causes me to pause and reflect. May our "boredom" increase.

  11. David, when i was at LOV, Tebbe was there. I can only assume you are much more boring since he left and maybe this post is an effort to justify the reality of LOV Post-Tebbe?

    (Fantastic post, btw).

  12. Will says:

    I think way too much time, money and conversation is put into worship gatherings. Pastors and worship leaders believe they owe it their congregations create compelling worship gatherings. Members of congregations believe pastors and worship leaders owe it them to provide compelling worship gatherings. Both forget they owe God their lives to "do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God" to make the world around them look more like God's vision for the world. But that's hard to remember because everyone is overly concerned with creating or having a good experience Sunday morning. If they do not much changes. If they don't not much changes. God have mercy on us!

  13. Kevin Bobrow says:

    David,

    Thanks so much for the insightful post–I wasn't sure where you were going, but casting the Sunday gathering as an antidote of sorts for our unhealthy pace and our inability to commune with Christ is right on target. I don't know if that means we must literally be "bored", but from my (one and only) experience at Life on the Vine I think that body is definitely on the right track in helping those who are there to slow down and to think/be silent/learn to be shaped by the Word.

    I will take this reminder about what our services must be (and should never be) with me… Thanks.

    Kevin

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David Fitch
Betty R. Lindner Professor of Theology
Northern Seminary
DMin in Missional Leadership
Prodigal Christianity
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