Do you enjoy church, or have you drifted away because the experience feels boring or painful?
There's no question: Church attendance is down. Researchers have a long list of reasons, but what matters most is the reason for you.
My opinion is most people are expecting things a church service was never intended to provide. In a time when Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) in movies can create lifelike dinosaurs or exciting superheroes, a man or woman standing in a pulpit talking for a half hour seems pretty dull in comparison.
Another problem is that any time we sit and watch something, we expect to be entertained. Some churches have gone that route with praise bands, light shows, even dancing.
Some people go to church looking for miracles. If someone is not dramatically healed or somebody's not speaking in tongues or there's not some jaw-dropping sign, they head for the door.
Consider this: Church should be about worshiping God.
Worship can take many forms, but if the sermon is not about Jesus and based on the Gospel, something's wrong. Let's look at church from a realistic perspective and see how you can reconnect with God and enjoy church again.
One of the most profound statements in Christianity is the first question and answer in the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
What does it mean to "enjoy" God? Do we enjoy him as we enjoy a hot fudge sundae or a good movie? No, God is not a thing. He is a person. Enjoying him entails:
That said, how do we "enjoy" going to church?
First, a church service is unlike any other event you attend, because of whom it honors. It's holy and sacred, demanding dignity. It's about God, not politics, positive thinking, nor how to make more money.
Churches have different styles in music and preaching. Some are more solemn but all should be joyful. People can get emotional worshiping God and that's all right—to a point.
What does all this mean for you? You should join in the service with enthusiasm. I know I hit clunkers when I sing in church, but I don't care. I do my best. God is not looking for perfection but sincerity. I enjoy the music. I enjoy being in fellowship with the other members of our congregation. I enjoy thanking God.
The key to enjoying church is to treat church as church, and not like a sporting event, movie, concert, party, or cookout. It is unique.
When you enjoy church as it's intended, you come away fulfilled.
My pastor often says church is an opportunity to be refreshed, but this kind of refreshment is for the weary, discouraged soul.
God is with us everywhere. Church brings him into the sharpest focus. Have you ever had the eerie feeling in church that God is present, right there with you? I have, and it's usually been when I've been hurting the worst.
A church service eliminates distractions like television or your phone. You are talking to God and he is talking back to you. Sometimes he speaks in a message with words; other times it's simply an overwhelming assurance that he loves you and is watching over you.
Many times in my life I have gone through spiritual barrenness, yet I kept going to church. It was very hard; I had to force myself to do it. I made up my mind to be faithful. I didn't do it to impress God with my works but out of gratitude for what he had done for me in the past.
God deserves our worship. I believe he appreciates it when we thank him. The Bible commands us to praise him and stand in wonder at his holiness.
God wants us to ask him for things. After all, the Lord's Prayer, which Jesus gave us as a model, includes petitions for both spiritual and material needs.
However, I think we enjoy church more when we take a break from "gimme this, gimme that" prayers and simply praise God. There are plenty of opportunities to praise him during a church service.
I enjoy church more when I'm grateful instead of greedy. Sure, you and I have legitimate needs, but when we approach God accurately, as a loving Father and not as a cosmic vending machine, we develop a deeper relationship with him.
As Christians, attending church is one of the most important things we do, so important, in fact, that God included it in the Ten Commandments.
If you find church boring, you can "shop" forever for a church that excites you, but eventually you have to come to the conclusion that you're looking for entertainment instead of worship.
Most pastors are not world-class preachers, like the ones we see on TV. Don't expect that. Do expect heartfelt preaching taken from the pages of the Bible. When you pay attention to the sermon—really concentrate and not let your mind wander—God will give you a word especially for you. That's one of the mysteries and miracles of church. If you come seeking God, he will find you.
Also expect to find friends at church. If you rush in and rush away afterward, don't claim that people are unfriendly. Talk to people. Attend church activities. Volunteer. The kindest, most honest people you'll ever find are at church. No, they're not perfect, but neither are you.
In these times of loneliness and anxiety, church is like a vacation from the craziness outside. God is real. The Bible is true. God loves you and church is a powerful reminder that heaven awaits you because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.
Enjoy church as often as you can. It's one of God's greatest gifts to you!