January 28, 2015

When Your Church Is Disappointing and Boring

by Eric Davis

pg44-boredom-gettyLet’s face it. Church is not always as exciting as we would like. Sometimes it’s boring and disappointing. It’s possible that there are good reasons for that. But it’s possible that there are not.

Being bored is not the worst thing that can happen to us in our churches. In fact, it may be the best thing since it can present opportunity for personal change. Though not always, our personal boredom can often be symptomatic of a needed soul adjustment.

Consider a few shifts before submitting to disappointment’s demands:

  1. Turn complaining about your church into praying for your church.

keep-calm-and-be-productive-2If there’s one thing we know about complaining, it is fundamentally (whether intentional or not) a disapproving commentary on the perfect sovereignty of the One running things. God decreed everything about which we complain. He reigns. So, it’s possible that our complaints are really sovereignty-protests.

Even so, there are likely things about your church which need improvement or attention. Prayer harnesses your observations and makes them productive work-horses for your church instead of finicky commentators of your church.

A productive alternative to complaining about your church is praying for it.

  1. Turn worrying about your church’s imperfection into trusting God’s perfection.

Worrying about our church often is symptomatic of a trust sickness. God is in competent control of our churches. Christ is not wearing a worry-path in the carpet of heaven’s throne room. He is seated, relaxed, and building his church.

Worry doubts his capabilities while trusting in itself. It assumes that its activity of fretting is more industrious than trusting God. It’s possible that our disappointment in our church is rooted here.

  1. Turn gossiping to others about the disappointment about your church into thanking God for the good in it.

Blunders can be found in every church if you look for them. And, often, even if you don’t. But they are normal, especially since the church is filled with people like you and me.

Re-channel the fleshly thrill of gossip elsewhere, however. While changes probably need to be made, worship God with the fruit of lips that give thanks to his name (Heb 13:5).

  1. Turn being a part of the problem with your church into being part of the solution.

Just about every church has that guy who is skilled in simultaneously seeing and being part of the problem. But the most painful thing to church leadership is when they take the time to seriously hear his concerns, but he subsequently stiff-arms tangible suggestions to become part of the solution.

5ac5991fb4fc65bf9b275984af7547c8As you think about the problems in your church, ask yourself honestly, “How might I be contributing to the problem(s) in my church?” “What log might I have protruding from my eye?” Do not move past that question too quickly.

Then ask, “What can I do to confess my contribution and turn from being the problem, to please Christ so as to contribute to the solution?” Ask your church leadership the same question. Listen. Learn. Pray. Serve. Contribute. Help. Give. Get equipped.

And do more than simply avoid being part of the problem. That may, in fact, be how you are part of the problem.

Make this year the kind of year which you and your church leaders can look back and see how you were useful in solving problems in the church.

  1. Turn resisting your imperfect church leaders into getting united with them.

Most church leadership are well-acquainted with their inadequacies for the work in which they find themselves. If they are biblically qualified, they see the many, many ways that they need to grow.

If you choose to point those out, do so in a way that obeys the commands in Scripture to submit to, obey, esteem, and demonstrate accountability to your church leaders (1 Thess 5:12-13, Heb 13:17, 1 Pet 5:2-3). In most cases, contrary to propagating their imperfections, your efforts to unite will humble them, making them more competent for the Lord’s work.

Pray for them. Thank God for them. Consider ways to come alongside them.

  1. Turn passively attending the worship services into actively participating.

sleepinThe Sunday gathering is the high point of the week for God’s people. Our disappointment might be eradicated by getting ourselves prepared to treat it as such.

Pray for it. And pray for yourself to be teachable, awake, humble, and transformed. Bring your Bible. Take notes during the sermon if necessary. Study things afterwards which you do not understand. Assuming the Scripture is being faithfully exposited, our souls will be nurtured when the word is preached. Pray for ways to live out the sermon.

Meditate on the words of the songs. Sing heartily. Ask God to help you make them sincere praise and prayer as you sing. Be on time. Listen carefully to announcements, readings, and anything else in the service. Reach out to visitors instead of coming in late and leaving quickly. Get their contact info. Invite them to a weekly home group. Help with set up or take down.

Be a part of what God is doing by being prayerfully attentive to every moment of the worship gathering.

  1. Turn the desire to redo your church’s ministries into trying to benefit from what is already going on.

In many cases, our churches do need to rethink and redo certain ministries. However, be slow about taking that route.

Instead, intentionally seek out what is already happening. Participate in them humbly, faithfully, and enthusiastically. Give it time. Ask God to bless and use the ministry leader. Ask him to grow you from it. Find ways to help. Do not eject from a ministry before at least several attempts to grow from it.

  1. Turn restlessness and frustration into seeking out opportunities for evangelism.

EvangelismBGSometimes things in the church can get pretty frustrating. Committees seem to get nothing done. Projects remain unfinished. People disappoint. It can be discouraging.

While those things may need to be addressed, stay busy in kingdom work. Be sure to center on, and speak about, Christ crucified in the place of sinners. Pray for and seek out opportunities to share the news that is far more thrilling than your church is frustrating. Be so tired from disciple-making that you have little time for frustrated restlessness.

  1. Turn needing quick answers to the problems you see to serving the God who is sovereign over those problems.

Things probably are wrong in your church. We see the issues and often we demand answers. We must know now what is going on. But there is no Bible verse on our right to be in the know. However, there are several on our responsibility to be about serving.

As much as we may need answers, let’s devote at least that much energy to resting in God patiently, helping the church enthusiastically, and praying for her fervently.

  1. Turn thinking about your disappointment and boredom into knowing and pleasing God.

Let’s ask ourselves, “Who cares if we are bored? Why might we even be bored or disappointed in the first place? What might that say about our understanding of the church and God?”

It’s possible that our boredom demonstrates that our feelings are more sacred to us than our God. Perhaps our boredom and disappointment have become more captivating to us than the God of Scripture.

But God is the most thrilling and awe-inspiring subject in the universe. Nothing and no one is more captivating, fulfilling, and motivating than the true God. As God’s people, we get to plug into his kind of churches for the great purpose and thrill of knowing and worshiping him. And God’s kind of church exists to worship God. If this is not the case, disappointment and boredom should be present and we may need to find a new church.

Even as we do these things, however, there are those times when the church is disappointing for legitimate reasons. In those cases, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Do I trust in the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ for right standing with God?

If I am not converted to Christ, a New Testament kind of church is certainly going to be disappointing and boring (cf. 1 Cor 2:14-16).

  1. Does the church exist to worship God above all things?
  1. Does the church labor to unpack the glory and majesty of God from the exposition of Scripture?
  1. Is biblical doctrine affirmed and systematically taught?
  1. Is meaningful membership, biblical discipline, and discipleship practiced?

Except for #1, if the answers are “no” to the above questions, then a church is legitimately disappointing because it is not God-glorifying. Perhaps you need to leave and find a more faithful church. But approach that route carefully.

Church has a much higher purpose for existence than not being boring or disappointing. The most important thing is not that we are bored or disappointed, but that our lives and churches exist for the glory of God.

Eric Davis

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Eric is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Jackson Hole, WY. He and his team planted the church in 2008. Leslie is his wife of 14 years and mother of their 3 children.
  • Hey Eric, good points. I would add one thing. We should also have similar patience for our church as we would want others to have for us when we disappoint.

    • Jason

      Also: “So, it’s possible that we our complaints are really sovereignty-protests.” doesn’t need the “we”.

    • Eric Davis

      Thanks Michael. Agreed w/ that added point.

  • Horgan

    These are good questions to ask for MANY churches, maybe MOST? But how far does it go? “Turn resisting your imperfect church leaders into getting united with them.” Does that apply if I’m a member of Joel Osteen’s church? Benny Hinn’s church?

    • Eric Davis

      Hi Horgan-

      Good question and the answer would be no. One would have to leave such churches on the grounds of not being able to answer “yes” to those last 4 questions at the end of the article.

      • Liz

        What if one has an immediate family member on staff at such a church, or a like church that supports said churches?
        It can get dicey.
        Thanks for the article.

        • Eric Davis

          Liz- That certainly can be a dicey situations. I’ve been involved in similar situations. To answer your question, I’d need a little more info.

          • Liz

            Well, that sorta-kinda was a rhetorical question, but since you replied, for the sake of anonymity I will be as general as possible. This church started out with a pastor who had Southern Baptist roots, but a few years after the the church was planted they are now calling his wife, “pastor.” She will share the stage with him from time to time, offering, prayer, what not. At times, the pastor asks the congregation to sit in silence after a sermon as to listen to what is being spoken to their hearts, then they are encouraged to write it down. He gives affirmation to dreams and visions. He shares the stage at conferences (yep, sorta famous pastor) with those who are false, JO and others, but not Benny Hinn. My friend’s husband has a non-pastoral staff position and she is beginning to question some things that has led her to research more about the associations her pastor is having which are not healthy, biblically speaking. Her husband is aware and sees some of this as wrong, but isn’t sure how to bring these things up to the pastor, with this being his job and only source of income. My role is helping her sort through it all, I don’t want to come between the two of them, but she is barely attending church, vacillating between nursing/fighting the temptation to be bitter against her pastor/leadership and her husband. I’m just not sure if I should encourage her to keep attending because of her husband (he is ok for her to not attend because of the situation), like I mentioned, dicey. Hopefully, a new job is in the future, but for now, she’s really struggling there. She is in the word and growing in knowledge walking through this situation desiring to do what is right, biblically. I’m just at a loss in how to be a friend to her, to encourage her to stay with it or stay out of it.

          • chrisleduc1

            Liz, I will be praying that God gives you wisdom from His Word for your friend. Please also allow me to exhort you to do whatever you can do to try and encourage her to strengthen their marriage. If she and her husband can stay united by serving and worshipping Christ by serving each other and honoring Him above all else in the marriage, they can and will make it through this. Do whatever you can do to keep them united as one. If they lose this battle (their marriage), little else matters. Blessings!

          • Liz

            They are aware and keeping an eye on the their relationship. Thanks for the prayers!

          • Eric Davis

            Liz – That is certainly a tricky situation. I agree w/ Chris’ counsel, that their marriage needs to stay united. Now, as far as her husband goes, he is in a rough situation. However, if I understood the details correctly, I do not see how he could continue on staff there w/o coming alongside this erring pastor to address the issues in love. The issue seems significant enough to warrant such an approach. Obviously he will want to bathe the whole situation in prayer, which I’m sure he has, and then go privately. Hopefully the error would be quickly dealt with God’s way through that private interaction. But it may not be. And your friend’s husband will likely be taking a risk by putting his job on the line. That is not easy. But it also seems like a risk to allow this unfaithfulness to Christ and his church to propagate. If he is met w/ repeated resistance, and it becomes clear that the pastor is not interested in turning from the error, he may need to leave the church as quietly as possible and seek employment elsewhere. Again, this will be quite difficult should it go this direction. But God is good, sovereign, and greatly cares for your friend’s family.

          • Liz

            Hey Eric, thank you!
            They are trusting in God’s sovereignty, so that’s a good thing!

  • Johnny

    This was an interesting article, in that I actually see too often the perils of the other side in that a pastor tries to make the church less boring and more “entertaining” and “engaging” and the result is that sound doctrine and hermeneutics go out the window for stories, illustrations and jokes, with more upbeat 7-11 songs. Give me that boring, frozen-chosen reformed expository church any day of the week over a church that leaves you cold and hungry…

    • Eric Davis

      Johnny-Agreed. And I know you don’t mean this, but I don’t think it’s possible to use “boring” and “reformed expository” in the same sentence.

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  • Eric Davis

    Yes, thanks Jackee! Sorry about that typo.

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  • This all rings so true, even in our own church…much much great advice, Eric!

    The one constant I see in this article mirrors what I’ve experienced in my own “church life” and growth in it. In a word: Time-and/or patience.

    What I have found is that most of the challenges I’ve experienced in our own church, both in inter-personal relationships and (what I deemed as) ministry “problems” turned out to be more about my own heart and Christlike growth than real actual problematic things. Like big scary shadow-monsters darkening my proverbial headroom, these “challenges” disappear as they are replaced with the light of truth. But that can’t happen without first looking to ones own heart for motivational impurities; patient prayer, and trusting in Christ in all of it. This takes alot of time and patience, particularly if feelings have been hurt.

    We walk by faith and not by sight.

    Many people leave a church during these crucial “big scary monster” moments and that saddens me deeply, because they miss out on much Christlike growth.

    • -One other thing-and to clarify my thoughts on “disappointing” and boring”-

      Mostly because of our sinful nature we will always find something “disappointing” in/about our church, but if we are “bored” of our church-that seems like a whole different monster, as it were. I have found the more plugged into the life of our church and into the lives of its people the less “boring” (as such) church is for me!

      • Eric Davis

        Agreed and agreed, Suzanne. Thanks for your humble perspective and chiming in.

  • Cecilia

    These observations relate well to many other areas of life. Thank you Eric for your ever-stimulating-iron-sharpening-iron-words!

    • Eric Davis

      Thank you, Cecilia.

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  • Adam James Howard

    this was an invigorating read, Eric.

    • Eric Davis

      Thanks for your encouragement, Adam.

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