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Today's reading is part of a mini-series I'm doing on the church. If you've already read the introduction to this mini-series, please begin below to read my response to the seventh question.


If you've not yet read the introduction, please read it first. The intro sets up the purpose for this mini-series and will help you to make sense of it all. Click here to go to that intro.


Question Seven: Why Do Church-Goers Act So Bored?



I once heard about a preacher who was less than enthusiastic in the pulpit. One of the church members fell asleep on the front row during his sermon right where everyone could see him. The sleeping parishioner slept quite noticeably. As the members around him began to snicker and point, the frustrated pastor stopped his sermon and instructed the man next to him to wake the slothful sleeper. The man next to him refused and promptly told the preacher, "You put him to sleep, you wake him up!"


Preachers really have to work to be exciting, vibrant, and relevant in the pulpit. The problem is that the world also wants them to be entertaining. It's true, they should keep everyone awake to the best of their ability. I mean, let's face it; we preachers have the best news and the most exciting story ever written to communicate every week. Wow! What a privilege that is. So what's the problem?


Let's consider this question from two angles.


I. First, though the pastor has no excuse for being boring in the pulpit, there are many factors that can contribute to a less than stellar "performance." They warned us in seminary that the work and energy and excitement of preaching is equal to at least 8 hours of manual labor if the pastor puts his all into his preaching. In order to be exciting in the pulpit, a pastor must have lots of energy. Energy zappers fall into four categories.


A. The first one is emotional and might include discouragement, problems at home, late nights with sick or dying church members, early mornings in prayer and Bible study, meeting everyone else's needs but having many of his own needs unmet, and generally not getting enough rest.


Pastor, there is hope. Though some pastors may feel they are not very spiritual unless one or more of these emotional elements is present in his life, we sometimes bring problems upon ourselves.


One of the words we often have problems pronouncing is the word, "No." Too often it comes out, "Uh, yeah;" or "I'm sure I can work that in;" or "Okay, I'll handle it." But we've got to learn to use this important word more often...and to pronounce it correctly. Sadly, some of that which contributes to our poor "performance" on the platform can be directly traced to the mispronunciation of this simple word.


B. The second is physical and might include an unusually large amount of weight gain or loss, not eating right, being sick, struggling with allergies, having a headache, etc.


Taking care of ourselves will add immensely to our energy levels and will, therefore, allow us to be more interesting, more effective, and more powerful in the pulpit. Pacing ourselves, planning ahead, delegating tasks and responsibilities, and asking for help are some of the most spiritual things we can do because they lift a lot of the burden off of us and free us up to do what we were called to do: equip the saints for ministry.


C. The third is mental and can include inadequate preparedness due to any many factors. Consider these.


1. Most frequently pastors feel ill-prepared when they spend a lot of time with sick church members or family members. A pastor must have many, many hours each week for Bible study, prayer, and sermon preparation or else he won't be able to get it all together.


Time management books, seminars, and studies are among the most boring in all the world; but time management is imperative to being effective in ministry. You can't waste time without affecting eternity.


2. Another factor affecting the pastor mentally is being accosted by a church member on Sunday morning with a criticism or complaint. Worse still is when it happens just before walking out onto the platform. Whether or not the pastor deserves it, it can wait.


Church members must be wise and understand someone's eternity is hanging in the balance; you don't want your pastor's inability to focus because of your critical comments to him to be on your shoulders where eternity is concerned. Wait. Don't attack the preacher before he preaches. Make an appointment, and present your concerns to him in love, at a time other than Sunday.


D. The fourth is, of course, spiritual. One of my greatest fears as a man of God is that I would get so used to handling the things of God that they lose their meaning, their excitement, and their special significance. It's a privilege for me to lead God's people; I don't want it to ever become something I take lightly. There are many spiritual matters that can contribute to a pastor's low energy level in the pulpit. Here are a few.


1. Not taking seriously his own personal quiet time. There is nothing more important in life than our personal, intimate relationship with the Father. It is even truer for a pastor because he's seeking to guide those God has entrusted to him in the things of God. If he's not walking closely with God, in what will he guide them? His own ways or will? What a disaster that would be.


So, if a pastor enters the pulpit far from God, he's going to have a lot of trouble hearing the Lord and following His direction. He will preach with uncertainty, not clarity; he may speak with confidence, but it will be a false confidence; he will lead with assurance, but will anyone be following?


Someone once said that if I miss a day with the Lord, God will know it. If I miss two days with the Lord, I will know it. If I miss three days with the Lord, everyone will know it. That has a lot of truth in it. People can tell when their pastor hasn't spent time with God. This perilous neglect will greatly affect every aspect of his preaching.


2. Having unconfessed sins in his life. The Bible is clear when it informs us that we are all sinners (Rom. 3:23). I don't know of any pastor who feels his life is sinless. But one thing pastors should know better than most is how to come clean before God. When we sin, and we all do daily, it's imperative we confess our sins to the One who is faithful and just to forgive them and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).


To neglect this basic but important aspect of the Christian life is to refuse the power with which the Spirit seeks to infuse us. I don't know about other pastors, but I sure don't want to try to preach in my strength. That would be an awful experience.


When we as pastors are living in sin, it affects our preaching tremendously. Get it out, 'fess up, come clean before God. He's depending on you and me to be His mouthpiece to the people He's entrusted to our care.


E. Personality - Some preachers are flamboyant, boisterous, and loud by nature. They could even keep a sloth awake. I have some preacher friends with loud, deep voices that make you think you're hearing the voice of God. It's easy to stay awake when the preacher is entertaining by nature.


But, to say it bluntly, some preachers just don't have it in them to be boisterous. That doesn't make them any less important to God and His Kingdom. In fact, they were created like that by God, on purpose; created just the way He wanted them, and are doing exactly what God called them to do. So encourage them, pray for them, and listen carefully to them. I once heard someone say, "It's the quiet types you've gotta watch." They may not say things loudly, but they're usually the ones who speak the truths of God most profoundly.



II. Second, there are some factors that are solely the listener's that can affect the perception of the sermon. Here are a few.


A. The first one is one that no one really wants to hear: maturity. This has to do both with general maturity as well as spiritual. When we are immature, we seem to need to be entertained more than spiritually fed. When I was young and young in the faith, I thought the pastor should be brazen and say bold things. It helped keep my interests if he jumped up and down and did other unusual things.


As I matured in both ways, I began to be more interested in substance rather than showmanship. I wanted to learn, to grow, to get to the meat of the word. About one well-known preacher/teacher we both love, Lygia once said: "I know he's old and doesn't speak well, but his teachings are so rich that I could listen to him all day." And she's right.


When we're immature, we seek to be entertained. If the sermon seems boring and if the issue's not with the pastor, perhaps the issue's with the hearer in this area of maturity. It may be worth exploring.


B. Next, there are the same four areas potentially affecting the listener in many of the same ways as there were affecting the preacher: emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual.


1. Emotional - Have you ever stopped to think about what your face, expressions, and countenance are saying to the pastor as he stands to preach God's Word? I once heard a minister of music say that sometimes it was really hard to lead his people in worship because they looked scary; they appeared unhappy, mean, or downright distraught and he couldn't seem to cheer them up.


Our emotions need to be checked when we're in worship. Sometimes we can bring a bad attitude from work or home right into the worship center. When we do that, it affects our worship of the Father and can scare the living daylights out of the ministers. Try doing what Paul did and you might get a whole lot more out of worship than ever before: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, 'Rejoice'" (Phil. 4:4).


2. Physical - A pastor once told me that one of the most spiritual things we can do is to get a good night's sleep on Saturday night. He was right. If we're not well rested, worship, and especially the sermon, can be a challenge through which to stay awake.


3. Mental - I've found that my thought life can directly affect my worship experience. I have to mentally lasso and tie down those thoughts that distract me in worship, like, "Man, I've got a lot to do," or "I'm hungry, I wonder what's for lunch," or "I can't forget to call so-and-so." We've got to reign-in our thoughts and stay focused on Jesus. There'll be time for all that other stuff later.


4. Spiritual - Do we come to church ready to worship? Are my sins confessed; have I forgiven those who've hurt me; am I holding a grudge; have I cheated the Lord our of His tithe? Sometimes we think the children of Israel were slow learners, but, at times, God has to teach us the same lessons over and over.


Let's work harder to come to worship with hearts clean before Him so that we can worship Him in Spirit and in truth.


Still awake? In conclusion, let's revisit our question: "Why do church goers look so bored on Sunday morning?" As you can see, there are many reasons, and many more I've not listed.


So, pray for your pastor to be right, rested, and ready to preach the Word on Sunday morning. But let's also pray for ourselves that we will be right, rested, and ready to hear the Word of the Lord. God does plan to speak to us every time we meet with Him. You listening?










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