Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Boredom in Church

A lot has been said about boredom in Church and various ministers have taken this criticism to heart and tried their best to make their services more interesting. At their worst this has led to services that border on entertainment, with humour, chatty repartie and songs taken from popular culture. At their best this has led to modern language and warm welcomes to newcomers and visitors. But is it something we should be concerned about. Isn't boredom "in the eye of the beholder" so to speak? Here are some sayings from the Church Fathers on the matter:

"They say that church is boring. It is boring because they do not understand the services! You need to study! It is boring because they do not care for it. So they do not see it as their own, but as something foreign to them. They could at least bring flowers or greenery to decorate it, they could take part in caring for the church; then it would not be boring."
Venerable Antony (Potapov)
of Optina

"We Christians of today do not feel the power of the redemption wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is as a result that we are so bad, unfeeling, that we look so perfunctorily at sin, and do not understand the Church Services, especially the Divine Liturgy, and find it boring."
Hieromartyr St Arseny (Zhadanovsky), Bishop of Serpukhov (1874-1937)


In these two quotations we find two reasons for boredom in Church services:
1. A lack of investment in the experience ' "you need to study" etc. Watching television or a film is a passive experience where you sit back and let someone else do something that will hold your attention. You do not have to invest in it just 'experience' it. Church services however are different. They are not there to entertain you while you sit back and watch. In the parable of the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46) Jesus tells us that the man finding the pearl sells all he has in order to buy it. Without giving his all he would never have possessed it. The same could be said of worship. You will only get anything out of it unless you are willing to invest yourself in some way.

2. Sin. How can we expect anyone who has been so totally immersed in the world to come along to a sacred service and suddenly become immersed in the holy. Sin is a barrier that keeps us from God and so why are we surprised when someone comes to a church service and very little seems to impact them, at least immediately? In 2 Corinthians St. Paul writes: "The god of this age - the devil -has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel .." (2 Corinthians 4:4). Entertainment or trying to make services more interesting is NOT the way to open those eyes. Only God can do that and He needs time and willingness and cooperation on our part.

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