Sat, Jun. 30, 2012 Posted: 09:08 PM
Let's face it: most preaching is boring. It took me years to admit that out loud, but it did not take me years to notice. I came to Jesus as a young adult, around 20. As a new Christian and very much a novice at evangelical culture, I searched around quite a bit. Most disheartening, I found non-boring preaching to be one of the rarest of events. At first, I felt sinful and unholy for thinking this. "After all, these were holy men of God preaching the holy word of God. Who was I to be bored? If only I were a better Christian, perhaps I would be more profoundly impacted by the sermons. None of the other Christians I see complain. They don't say that they are bored. There must be something wrong with me."
That's how I thought. But then, I noticed something equivalent to noticing that the Emperor had no clothes on: all the ministry aimed at teenagers (at the time, the age just younger than I was), worked very hard at not being boring. Youth events aimed at getting dynamic speakers, attractive music, edgy and interesting dialogue. The light came on for me then. I realized that teenagers wouldn't put up with boring teaching and boring services. They would stop showing up. But the fully grown adults would continue to attend and not complain, no matter how dreadful the services were.
For now, I do not want to look at the non-preaching elements of the service. Maybe later. I want to address the pulpit. The first step to getting help with our problems is admitting them. So, let's all say it together, "Hi, my name is Average Christian, and I am bored in most church services because the preaching is boring." There, doesn't that feel better? Breathe out, relax. It is okay to admit the truth. 9 out of 10 evangelical preachers are boring, uninspiring, but at least they are sincere. We know it's true. Let's admit it. I know I feel better. I hope you do too.
No doubt some of you will feel offended on behalf of boring preachers everywhere, wondering if I am sincere enough, or if I go to services with a heart truly prepared for worship. Some will even accuse me of wanting to be entertained instead of "truly worshiping" through hearing the word. So, if you are feeling a bit defensive, before you shoot the messenger, consider the teachers who most impact you. Are you into Johnny Mac, or John Piper? Tony Evans or James MacDonald? Chuck Smith or Matt Chandler? Boring or not?
Or think about the pastors who have impacted you most from, the ones that are not famous. You know who they are. While it is true that good pastors impact you out of the pulpit, you know the ones from your own history who you'd want to preach your funeral. You know the ones you'd prefer to be the main teacher at a local retreat. These men you want to hear are not boring. They taught the truth and held your interest.
We get the preaching we put up with. Boring preaching must not be tolerated. It is bad for you and bad for the friends you invite to church. Boring preaching is especially bad for the children. I didn't grow up in the church. One of the few advantages (and there are only a few) of not growing up in the church, is I looked at it as an outsider. Had I grown up in a boring church, then I, like many others, might have noticed the hypocrisy of the culture --feigning holiness when everyone was really just disengaged. And when I hit the age where I could make my own choice, I would walk away, at least for a while --maybe forever. Why? Because if I was not truly converted before hand, I might have become immune to hearing what churches had to say-- I would have known from experience that church was about bored people faking like they enjoyed being in church. As a young adult I would, in my young idealism, become jaded and cynical. "If God is real, I won't find Him in church, that's for sure!"
That would be the worst case scenario. It happens all the time, of course. I have seen it for years (for the record I am 48 now, and have pastored for about 15 years). The best case scenario is I really get saved but have to ditch my family's church the first chance I get. That happens too, fortunately. Now, this blog is not intended too be a whining screed. I plan on offering constructive help on what to do about boring preaching. I shall do so soon. For now, I just want to say the problem out loud: Most evangelical preaching is boring. Period. We must do something about it! I will be back soon to discuss solutions.