Recently, I was listening to the Radio talk show host interviewing a person who had just written a book about spirituality. The premise of the book was that the church was declining in membership but that individuals were still into “spirituality”. She said that the church was boring. The pastor of the church I attended Sunday also made mention of the declining membership of churches and stated that she had attended a meeting of pastors from various mainline denominations that were discussing the topic and what would change the trend. Most of what they discussed had to do with appeal to the “senses”. She suggested (jokingly), “Maybe if we serve Starbuck’s Coffee after the service, more people would attend?”
As a society we do seek entertainment. How we choose to do things has more to do with our sense of smell, taste, sight, hearing and emotions than it does with reason and seeking the truth. We collect news through popular magazines such as “People” and “Us” rather than “Time” and “Newsweek”. Why? The contrast is between the written words explaining the news compared to pictures that appeal to our eyesight.
Church is boring. I agree. There are times when I sat in church and my mind was wandering through past events or planning the week that is yet to occur. But should church be entertaining? Is church more than pleasing the senses? Is church just about me or is it about community? Is the church about “what’s in it for me” or is it about “what I can do in a community to build up that community into a better place”?
The church has confessed for hundreds of years, “I believe in the communion of saints”. The Heidelberg Catechism explains the meaning of that confession as follows: “First, that believers, one and all, as members of this community, share in Christ and in all of his treasures and gifts. Second, that each member should consider it his duty to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the service and enrichment of the other members”.
The challenge for leaders in the church is not only to preach the gospel in word and deed, but also to teach what the consequences of believing that gospel are. Believing the gospel should result in the communion of saints. I believe we are more concerned about entertaining those who attend our churches than about the building up the communion of saints which (as demonstrated by the letters of Paul to the New Testament Churches) takes more than feeding the emotions but means the discipline to exercise that communion by doing the fulfilling work God gives us to do.
How much time does your council spend on building up the “communion of the saints”?