Bored of our faith | creed of jesus
One Sunday afternoon, as we were driving home from church, my son told me that he would not go back to Sunday school again. Notice he didn’t ask my permission to stop going to Sunday school. He just told me he wouldn’t come back. I explained to him that as a father, I had two “must-do’s”. First, he should go to worship and second, he should be involved in Bible study.
But he was adamant. He wouldn’t go back to Sunday school. He was ready to be punished every Sunday, but he wouldn’t come back. (You have to understand my son. He was a bit dramatic. He suffered his punishment as if he were a political prisoner. He was always ready to die for his cause… whatever the cause was that day .) After After a long evening of discussion, he finally agreed to try an adult Sunday school course.
The teacher, a good friend of mine, understood where my son was coming from. He, the teacher, was bored in his youth and welcomed my son into his class. Over the next few years, this teacher became a very important mentor to my son.
I remembered this story yesterday when I was talking to a group of pastors. Most of them lamented that attendance had not returned to pre-COVID-19 levels. Everyone was throwing out program ideas and sermon topics that they thought would bring the crowds back. When they finally looked at me, I said, “You’ve got it all wrong. People did not give up the faith. They just miss the church”.
The pandemic didn’t break anything, but it showed us where things were broken. The healthcare system was broken before COVID-19. Social support systems were broken before the pandemic. Their weaknesses were only revealed by COVID-19, not caused by it.
The church is the same way. People were losing interest long before the pandemic. When quarantine gave them a reason to stay home, they found they weren’t missing much. When most people evaluated their church experiences, they found they missed their groups, but not much else. The music? They could get that on the Internet. The sermon? Some of the best preachers in the world can be found on various websites. Why go to church ? Because I want to see my friends.
When people started evaluating their time commitments early in their post-pandemic lives, they no longer found church attendance to be of value. They can watch online. They can consult it whenever they have time. They really don’t need to be there.
Jesus asked his disciples for their lives. Sharing the good news was more important than anything – even living. They were to preach, heal the sick, cast out our demons, and yes, raise the dead. The mission was overwhelming.
We? We ask our church members to attend. That’s it. Just show up once a week and that’s all your local church requires of you. People do all kinds of wonderful things during the week. They buy and sell businesses. They do the work reserved for higher degrees. They dismantle and repair complex machinery. They solve problems of international importance. They create new businesses.
Then they come to church and we ask them to come and sit down.
They are bored.
They want to be called to something great. Our people want to see something God-sized in their lives. They want to see the power of the resurrection. They want to be overwhelmed by the action of God in their life, their neighborhood and the world.
There are starving children. Call your church to feed them.
There are children who need mentors and tutors.
There are young people who, because of the side of the street where they were born, have no chance.
Our world is burning and we call on our people to be spectators.
They want to be more than that. God calls them to be more.
As the Civil War began, families followed their new armies and had picnics around the First Battle of Bull Run. These bystanders were nearly trampled to death as the Union Army retreated from the field. Battlegrounds do not have bleachers.
Maybe our people will come back to the church when there is a worthwhile fight, a mission that demands their life. When pastors call people again to lay down their lives for a cause worth dying for.
But if you just ask them to come and sit, our congregations find they are more comfortable sitting at home.