"But Church is Boring!"

Tozer

Religious Boredom

A. W. Tozer

THAT THERE IS SOMETHING gravely wrong with evangelical Christianity today is not likely to be denied by any serious minded person acquainted with the facts. Just what is wrong is not so easy to determine.

In examining the situation myself I find nature and reason in conflict within me, for I tend by temperament to want to settle everything with a sweep of the pen. But reason advises caution; nothing is that simple, and we must be careful to distinguish cause from effect. As every doctor knows there is a wide difference between the disease and the symptoms; and every Christian knows that there is a big difference between cause and effect in the sphere of religion.

At the root of our spiritual trouble lie a number of causes and these causes have effects, but which is cause and which effect is not always known. I suspect that many things currently under attack by our evangelists and pastors (and editors, for that matter) are not the causes of our troubles but the effects of causes that lie deeper. We treat the symptoms and wonder why the patient does not get well. Or, to change the figure, we lay down a heavy fire against nothing more substantial than the cloud of dust raised by marching enemy troops long gone by.

One mark of the low state of affairs among us is religious boredom. Whether this is a thing in itself or merely a symptom of the thing, I do not know for sure, though I suspect that it is the latter. And that it is found to some degree almost everywhere among Christians is too evident to be denied.

Boredom is, of course, a state of mind resulting from trying to maintain an interest in something that holds no trace of interest for us (the boss’s jokes, say, or that lecture on the care and nurture of dahlias to which we went because we could not resist the enthusiastic urging of a friend). No one is bored by what he can in good conscience walk away from. Boredom comes when a man must try to hear with relish what for want of relish he hardly hears at all.

By this definition there is certainly much boredom in religion these days. The businessman on a Sunday morning whose mind is on golf can scarcely disguise his lack of interest in the sermon he is compelled to hear. The housewife who is unacquainted with the learned theological or philosophical jargon of the speaker; the young couple who feel a tingle of love for each other but who neither love nor know the One about whom the choir is singing-these cannot escape the low-grade mental pain we call boredom while they struggle to keep their attention focused upon the service. All these are too courteous to admit to others that they are bored and possibly too timid to admit it even to themselves, but I believe that a bit of candid confession would do us all good.

When Moses tarried in the mount, Israel became bored with the faith that sees the invisible and clamored for a god they could see and touch. And they displayed a great deal more enthusiasm for the golden calf than they did over the Lord God of Abraham. Later they tired of manna and complained against the monotony of their diet. On their petulant insistence they finally got flesh to eat, and that to their own undoing.

Those Christians who belong to the evangelical wing of the church (which I firmly believe is the only one that even approximates New Testament Christianity) have over the last half-century shown an increasing impatience with things invisible and eternal and have demanded and got a host of things visible and temporal to satisfy their fleshly appetites. Without Biblical authority, or any other right under the sun, carnal religious leaders have introduced a host of attractions that serve no purpose except to provide entertainment for the retarded saints.

It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments.

This has influenced the whole pattern of church life, and even brought into being a new type of church architecture, designed to house the golden calf.

So we have the strange anomaly of orthodoxy in creed and heterodoxy in practice. The striped-candy technique has been so fully integrated into our present religious thinking that it is simply taken for granted. Its victims never dream that it is not a part of the teachings of Christ and His apostles.

Any objection to the carryings on of our present golden-calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, “But we are winning them!” And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is no.

We are paying a frightful price for our religious boredom. And that at the moment of the world’s mortal peril.”

“But Church is Boring!”

Tozer

Religious Boredom

A. W. Tozer

THAT THERE IS SOMETHING gravely wrong with evangelical Christianity today is not likely to be denied by any serious minded person acquainted with the facts. Just what is wrong is not so easy to determine.

In examining the situation myself I find nature and reason in conflict within me, for I tend by temperament to want to settle everything with a sweep of the pen. But reason advises caution; nothing is that simple, and we must be careful to distinguish cause from effect. As every doctor knows there is a wide difference between the disease and the symptoms; and every Christian knows that there is a big difference between cause and effect in the sphere of religion.

At the root of our spiritual trouble lie a number of causes and these causes have effects, but which is cause and which effect is not always known. I suspect that many things currently under attack by our evangelists and pastors (and editors, for that matter) are not the causes of our troubles but the effects of causes that lie deeper. We treat the symptoms and wonder why the patient does not get well. Or, to change the figure, we lay down a heavy fire against nothing more substantial than the cloud of dust raised by marching enemy troops long gone by.

One mark of the low state of affairs among us is religious boredom. Whether this is a thing in itself or merely a symptom of the thing, I do not know for sure, though I suspect that it is the latter. And that it is found to some degree almost everywhere among Christians is too evident to be denied.

Boredom is, of course, a state of mind resulting from trying to maintain an interest in something that holds no trace of interest for us (the boss’s jokes, say, or that lecture on the care and nurture of dahlias to which we went because we could not resist the enthusiastic urging of a friend). No one is bored by what he can in good conscience walk away from. Boredom comes when a man must try to hear with relish what for want of relish he hardly hears at all.

By this definition there is certainly much boredom in religion these days. The businessman on a Sunday morning whose mind is on golf can scarcely disguise his lack of interest in the sermon he is compelled to hear. The housewife who is unacquainted with the learned theological or philosophical jargon of the speaker; the young couple who feel a tingle of love for each other but who neither love nor know the One about whom the choir is singing-these cannot escape the low-grade mental pain we call boredom while they struggle to keep their attention focused upon the service. All these are too courteous to admit to others that they are bored and possibly too timid to admit it even to themselves, but I believe that a bit of candid confession would do us all good.

When Moses tarried in the mount, Israel became bored with the faith that sees the invisible and clamored for a god they could see and touch. And they displayed a great deal more enthusiasm for the golden calf than they did over the Lord God of Abraham. Later they tired of manna and complained against the monotony of their diet. On their petulant insistence they finally got flesh to eat, and that to their own undoing.

Those Christians who belong to the evangelical wing of the church (which I firmly believe is the only one that even approximates New Testament Christianity) have over the last half-century shown an increasing impatience with things invisible and eternal and have demanded and got a host of things visible and temporal to satisfy their fleshly appetites. Without Biblical authority, or any other right under the sun, carnal religious leaders have introduced a host of attractions that serve no purpose except to provide entertainment for the retarded saints.

It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments.

This has influenced the whole pattern of church life, and even brought into being a new type of church architecture, designed to house the golden calf.

So we have the strange anomaly of orthodoxy in creed and heterodoxy in practice. The striped-candy technique has been so fully integrated into our present religious thinking that it is simply taken for granted. Its victims never dream that it is not a part of the teachings of Christ and His apostles.

Any objection to the carryings on of our present golden-calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, “But we are winning them!” And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is no.

We are paying a frightful price for our religious boredom. And that at the moment of the world’s mortal peril.”

A Christian Indeed

baxter

1. A Christian indeed (by which I still mean, a sound, confirmed Christian), is one that contents not himself to have a seed, or habit of faith, but he lives by faith, as the sensualist by sight or sense. Not putting out the eye of sense, nor living as if he had no body, or lived not in a world of sensible objects; but as he is a reasonable creature, which exalts him above the sensitive nature, so faith is the true information of his reason, about those high and excellent things, which must take him up above things sensible. He hath so firm a belief of the life to come, as procured by Christ, and promised in the Gospel, as that it serveth him for the government of his soul, as his bodily sight doth for the conduct of his body. I say not, that he is assaulted with no temptations, nor that his faith is perfect in degree, nor that believing moves him as passionately as sight or sense would do: but it doth effectually move him through the course and tenour of his life, to do those things for the life to come, which he would do if he saw the glory of heaven; and to shun those things for the avoiding of damnation, which he would shun if he saw the flames of hell. Whether he do these things so fervently or not, his belief is powerful, effectual, and victorious. Let sight and sense invite him to their objects, and entice him to sin, and forsake his God, the objects of faith shall prevail against them, in the bent of an even, a constant, and resolved life. It is things unseen which he takes for his treasure, and which have his heart and hope, and chiefest labours. All things else which he hath to do, are but subservient to his faith and heavenly interest, as his sensitive faculties are ruled by his reason. His faith is not only his opinion, which teaches him to choose what church or party he will be of; but it is his intellectual light, by which he lives, and in the confidence and comfort of which he dies. “For we walk by faith, not by sight. We groan to be clothed upon with our heavenly house. Wherefore we labour, that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him;” 2 Cor. 5:7–9. “Now the just shall live by faith;” Heb. 10:3. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen;” Heb. 11:1. Most of the examples in Heb. 11 do shew you this truth, that true Christians live and govern their actions, by the firm belief of the promise of God, and of another life when this is ended. “By faith Noah being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark, to the saving of his house, by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith;” ver. 7. “Abraham looked for a city which had foundations, whose builder and maker is God;” ver. 10. “Moses feared not the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible;” ver. 27. So the three witnesses (Dan. 3.), and Daniel himself, (chap. 6.) and all believers have lived this life, as Abraham the father of the faithful did; who, as it is said of him, “Staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;” Rom. 4:20. The faith of a Christian is truly divine; and he knoweth that God’s truth is as certain as sight itself can be; however sight be apter to move the passions. Therefore, if you can judge but what a rational man would be, if he saw heaven and hell, and all that God had appointed us to believe, then you may conjecture what a confirmed Christian is; though sense do cause more sensible apprehensions.”

Richard Baxter and William Orme, The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter, vol. 8 (London: James Duncan, 1830), 382–384.
[Baxter, Richard (1615–91), *Puritan divine. Born at Rowton, Salop, he was largely self-educated. He studied first at the free school of Wroxeter, next under the nominal tutelage of Richard Wickstead, Chaplain at Ludlow Castle, and finally (1633) in London under the patronage of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels. In disgust at the frivolity of the Court he returned home to study divinity, in particular the Schoolmen. In 1634 he came into intimate contact with Joseph Symonds and Walter Cradock, two devout Nonconformist divines, who awakened his sympathies for the positive elements in dissent. In 1638 he was ordained by John Thornborough, Bp. of *Worcester, and in 1639 nominated assistant minister at Bridgnorth, where he remained for two years, increasing his knowledge of the issues between Nonconformity and the C of E. After the promulgation of the ‘Et Cetera Oath’ (1640) he rejected belief in episcopacy in its current English form. In 1641 he became curate of the incumbent of Kidderminster, where among a population of hand-loom workers he continued to minister with remarkable success until 1660. So far as possible he ignored the differences between Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Independent, and secured co-operation among the local ministers in common pastoral work. In the early part of the Civil War he temporarily joined the Parliamentary Army, preaching at Alcester on the day of the Battle of Edgehill (23 Oct. 1642). A champion of moderation, he was opposed to the *Solemn League and Covenant (1643) and also disliked O. *Cromwell’s religious views. After the Battle of Naseby (14 June 1645) he became Chaplain to Colonel Edward Whalley’s regiment, seeking to counteract the sectaries and to curb republican tendencies. On leaving the army (1647) he retired for a time to Rous Lench, where he wrote his devotional classic, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (1650). In 1660 he played a prominent part in the recall of *Charles II; but his dissatisfaction with episcopacy led him to decline the bishopric of *Hereford. This refusal debarred him from ecclesiastical office and he was not permitted to return to Kidderminster or to hold any living. He took a prominent part at the *Savoy Conference (1661; q.v.), for which he had prepared a ‘Reformed Liturgy’; here he presented the *Exceptions to the BCP. Between 1662 and the *Declaration of Indulgence of 1687 he endured persecution, suffering at the hands of the notorious Judge Jeffreys on the questionable charge of having ‘libelled the Church’ in his Paraphrase on the New Testament (1685). He was in sympathy with those responsible for the overthrow of *James II and readily complied with the *Toleration Act of William and Mary. He died on 8 Dec. 1691.
Baxter left nearly 200 writings. They breathe a spirit of deep unaffected piety and reflect his love of moderation. Gildas Salvianus; The Reformed pastor; (1656) illustrates the great care he took in his pastoral organization, and the Reliquiae Baxterianae (ed. Matthew Sylvester, 1696) is a long and careful autobiography. He Jalso wrote several hymns, among them ‘Ye holy angels bright’ and ‘He wants not friends that hath Thy love’. In CW, feast day, 14 June.]
F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 173.

Follow-up to Previous Post: "Stay Out of the Ghetto."

pew-and-pulpit

Earlier this month I posted an article warning against the ghettoisation of Christianity. This post illustrates well the challenges that are met by those who must work and live outside the ghetto:

Article here from the Gospel Coalition.

The Multi-Site Church and the Doctrine of the Church

In this lengthy post, Ted Bigelow critiques those who critique the multi-site church, by showing that bad ecclesiology makes it possible. He artfully calls all back to Scriptural church behaviour.

The multi-site movement is growing without solid Biblical footing, at least in the Restoration Movement (Christian Churches/churches of Christ). This discussion is long overdue.

About Small Churches

“I propose that the following is true about the New Small Church

We are not sick

We are not failing

We are not stuck

We are not incompetent

We are not limited in our vision

We do not need to be fixed

We are not less than…

We are God’s idea.

We are small. Because we are small we have blessings to offer the body of Christ, our communities, our cities, our nations and our world that no one else can offer in quite the way we can.”

Vaters, Karl (2013-01-02). The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking that Divides Us (Kindle Locations 216-224). NewSmallChurch.com. Kindle Edition.

People Are Changing Churches. Should I?

I recently reposted an article by David Fitch on church cannibalism, that is, how churches often grow at the expense of others. That article may be found here.

Before you think moving on is a good idea, have a look at this by Thom Rainer. One of the problems in transfer growth (church growth by the movement of Christians from one church to another) is that it is often for less-than-good reasons. Before leaving, ask yourself, “Am I seeking to serve or to be served? Do I need more recognition for my service? Am I leaving because the doctrine is sub-Biblical, or because the music is better, or because the experience is just so . . . uplifting?”

Preachers and church leaders, “Am I asking the right questions of those moving to my church?” Are people coming to your church simply because you offer more programs? Have you ever asked Christians to return to their congregation to be effective servants there? Have you ever actively recruited members (or even ministry leaders) from other congregations? Have you calculated the impact of that action upon the church that loses those workers? Have you sought to replace them?

Just some questions.

 

How Churches Became Cruise Ships

Passengers no longer board a ship to get from one port to another–that form of transportation has been eclipsed by air travel. But millions do board ships every year as a destination, a vacation at sea, and return to the same port from which they began. In a series of well written posts, Skye Jethani chronicles the rise of the megachurch and its implications for the faith.

“The church-as-destination model hasn’t advanced the church in America, it has consolidated it.Comparing changes in passenger shipping, to church growth.”

There is no neutrality in technology, or method. Every decision we make to do one thing results in a decision not to do another. When Christians embrace a new model of ministry, it is the unintended consequences that are often overlooked.

Read part 1 here.

Part 2 here.

Part 3 here.