Two years ago at Break Forth Canada I attended a seminar hosted by Brett Ullman on Faith, Media and Culture, and in this seminar I walked away with this quote: “Churches have become very vanilla. Everyone’s playing the same 10 songs, reading the same 10 books, and we are getting the same 10 sermons. If I hear happy day at another youth event I might explode. Change it up and engage the 70% of your congregation that’s bored.” And at the time I agreed with everything that he said, yet managed to fall victim to the same thing as I began leading worship at my church and we were doing the same songs over and over again, and the same songs that had been done in other churches around the city. I struggled to think how can churches become more authentic.
Two years later this quote popped up in my Facebook “on this day” timeline, and I reposted it, with a caption saying “Church is Boring” which elicited some responses regarding excitement of church.
This got me thinking, are people going to church to be entertained? Or is the church trying too hard to be entertaining?
When you look at many of the mega churches, especially when you view their content solely online, you see flashy worship sets with lots of lights, loud music, and concert like venues. The entertainment value could be argued as being ever-present in these churches. But these churches are also filled with thousands of people. So is the problem a two way street?
I’ve been to quite a few churches in the last few years, and part of my current ministry offers me the opportunity to visit, and play, in various churches across BC. What I’ve noticed echoes what Brett Ullman said in his seminar I attended two years ago. Churches are singing the same songs, preaching the same sermons, and the people are bored.
This boredom isn’t out of a desire to be entertained, but one person can only sing Oceans so many times before it loses its meaning and emphasis and just becomes a ritual. We as Christians shouldn’t have rituals, but should be focusing on meaningful expression and relationship with Christ.
According to a survey in Ullman’s seminar, 50% of worshippers say they aren’t growing in their faith. If you are tired of singing Good Good Father every week does that mean that you don’t believe he is? No. It just means you aren’t being engaged in the worship service in a way that is spiritually filling and edifying to your body.
Church does not exist for its members. It exists to equip its people, so that they may benefit others.
More and more people are attending churches for the first time, or for the first time in a while, and walking out because they aren’t engaged and aren’t being filled in a way that they need. Condemning people with the same ten sermons over and over again isn’t going to get people to church, it will continue to drive them out. Singing the same songs that they’ve heard over and over again won’t keep them. Maybe they need to hear something new that they haven’t heard before.
Know Your Audience. Many churches are desperately trying to get younger people to attend their churches as they see the average age continue to rise. Eventually these people won’t be there to pay the bills anymore. In order to get these people to church we need to meet them where they are. And that doesn’t mean putting on a concert and having an extravagant concert-like worship service, it means creating an environment that allows these people to create real connections with others, and with God. Instead of preaching sermons of condemnation, preach sermons of hope. Sing songs of life, and minister to your neighbourhood.
1% of churches are growing because of people meeting God. 80% of churches are declining in numbers. It is our responsibility to bring Christ to those who don’t know him. We have to find them. We can’t expect them to come to us. And this doesn’t mean put on a show, but use technology and other tools available to you, to your advantage. Its ok to have a loud music set where your team gives it all and pulls a guitar solo, this an expression of God given gifts. But don’t go out of your way to put on a flashy show in hopes to attract millennial and a younger generation to your church.
Churches need to be authentic. That is what the next generation is looking for. Don’t let money be the driving force for your ministry, the money will come.