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.
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.
IS THE CHURCH? - PART 7
Question Seven: Why Do Church-Goers Act So Bored?
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!"
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?
consider this question from two angles.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
The third is mental and
can include inadequate preparedness due to any many factors.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
Second, there are some factors
that are solely the listener's that can affect the perception
of the sermon. Here are a few.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'"
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.
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.
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.
work harder to come to worship with hearts clean before
Him so that we can worship Him in Spirit and in truth.
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
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?