by Rev. Anthony R. Voltattorni
I would argue that those words make up the single greatest excuse why Christians are increasingly absent from church.
“It’s not interesting.”
“It doesn’t keep my attention.”
“The service isn’t my ‘style’ or ‘preference.’”
“The sermons are hard to listen to.” etc.
In the end, it basically boils down to: “Church is boring… so I don’t go.”
But that statement presupposes the belief that church is NOT supposed to be boring. Who said that? Who’s been going around telling everyone that church is not supposed to be boring, because so many seem to believe it. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that church should be boring. It’s not as if the goal is to see just how boring a pastor can make the Divine Service! No, achieving a heightened level of boringness is not the aim here. Neither, however, is it to ensure that you are not bored. If this were the goal, then I can imagine a hundred other venues that I would find more entertaining, more comfortable, more exciting, and more attention-grabbing than the Divine Service.
Yet, if we truly believe that God is present with us in the Divine Service, that Christ’s body and blood are actually there on the altar, that we’re actually standing before the Almighty, then why on earth should we seek to be comfortable and entertained?
I, for one, know how great and grievous the sins are which stain my hands, eyes, and mind. I can recall them at the drop of a hat, and I’m guessing you can, too. Then, of course, there are all of those sins that don’t come to mind or that we are unaware of but they are sins, nonetheless. Therefore, standing before God, the Almighty Judge, should make us shudder a bit. Moreover, this is what you see throughout Scripture. When God or an angel of God appears, there is often fear involved (e.g., Exodus 3:6; 1 Chronicles 21;30; Matthew 28:5; Luke 1:13, 30; 2:10; Revelation 1:17). It’s not a “comfortable” or “entertaining” experience.
Truly we can look to the cross and see that our judgment has already taken place. It’s accounted for in the blood of Christ, that we might not be afraid at the Resurrection, that we might not be condemned but embraced in the righteousness of the Son of God. However, this way of thinking about church as either “entertaining” or “boring,” ultimately distracts us from the reason why we attend the Divine Service.
Let me put it this way: Is the focus of your attendance the way you feel when the hymns are sung, how inspirational you find the sermon stories, or the level of energy you sense when you leave? These emphases are highly dependent upon where the service falls on the boring-o-meter. Rather, is the reason for your attendance simply, plainly, the forgiveness of your sins, spoken to you from the mouth of your Pastor, washed over you in the waters of Baptism, given to you in the body and blood of Christ, even if it’s boring?
Ultimately, the reason why church is boring is not because there aren’t enough illustrations in the sermon, neither is it because the pastor is too old, nor because there isn’t a praise band, a coffee shop, a state of the art AV system, or liturgical dancers. If the Divine Service is boring, it’s because we’re sinful human beings. We don’t need to be entertained—we need forgiveness. I’m not saying that church will never get any more exciting for you, but if you really want to not be bored in church, if you really want to fix that problem, fix your sin. Go ahead, try. Ah…but this you cannot do.
That is exactly the reason why the focus in the Divine Service is not on you or how entertained or bored you may feel, but on the immeasurable value of the forgiveness of your sins given to you there in words, water, body, and blood. The Divine Service may be exciting, it may be boring, but what matters is that we need it, and Jesus delivers!
Rev. Anthony R. Voltattorni is the Pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Standish, Michigan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.