The Chief Problem of Our Churches Today

The church of Corinth had many problems. It had almost all the problems that churches have had through the ages, except the chief problem of our churches today: it was never dull.

Stendahl, Krister. Paul among Jews and Gentiles and Other Essays. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1976. Print. (p. 112)

Krister Stendahl, perhaps with a bit of exaggeration, said that the chief problem of our churches today is being dull. The counter arguments to this immediately come to mind, the main one being that we are not the audience of our worship, so worship isn’t supposed to be entertaining.

This argument is true, in a sense. We are not be objects of our worship, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be entertaining to us. That is, it should still catch and keep our attention. After all, God does not need our worship, we do. The sermons are designed to best serve the congregation. Songs should be carefully picked out to uplift, encourage, or even caution. God knows what we will pray before we ever bow our heads, so even our prayers are a time of reflection and fellowship as a congregation. The Lord’s Supper, or communion, was originally part of a larger meal, as seen in Corinth.

But what do we do in our churches?

Most people face forward with their hands in their laps, only seeing the back of someone’s head. The entire service is also built around the sermon, as if it is the main reason we gather together. The term communion suggests a time where people intimately enjoy each others company, but it’s typically done as fast as possible with a quick pinch of a cracker and small sip of grape juice (sip may be too strong of a word). What should be the center of our time together is placed in a short five to ten minute slot with a fast food feel to it. It’s as if aesthetic doesn’t matter, which seems awfully silly when we survey the beauty and wonder of creation. Someone criticized a statement I made when I said it would be perfectly acceptable to have fried chicken or tacos during communion, and I wasn’t joking! Taking communion during a dinner like that where it is the focus and point of the Sunday gathering is way more meaningful than our current methods.

The most enjoyable time is singing, but my most fond moments of singing were the times at camp when we were in a circle, laughing, and singed loudly together out under the stars. Facing forward while singing isn’t bad, but it doesn’t beat the intimate setting of camp.

People criticize praise teams, full bands, or even an overly excited song leader who directs with two hands instead of one, but those perfectly valid forms of music make a good argument: our services shouldn’t be painfully dull to make a point. No wonder people cringe when they think of Heaven as an eternal church service. Even the most faithful of Christians begin to shift in their seats if the songs cut into too much of the sermon or it goes a little long itself.

There’s nothing wrong with having these traditional services if that is honestly what you enjoy, but dullness for the sake of making a point of who the real audience is misses the point.

While I may not think that this is the biggest problem facing the modern church, I can definitely see where he is coming from. What do you think?

4 Replies to “The Chief Problem of Our Churches Today

  1. Thanks again for such an insightful essay. It is not uncommon to limit participation in the services of the assembly. For example, we only allow one person to lead the singing, only one person to exhort the congregation. We do not allow quartet singing or solo singing. Lifting of the hands or hand-clapping is forbidden during a so-called worship service. Our church gatherings are too often dull–not over one hour. Our so-called worship service simply consists of five-ritualistic acts to be performed by a select few. When this is over, the members have done their duty for the week–until next Sunday. Women are forbidden to participate, except for two acts–(1) singing, and (2) giving their money.

  2. I’ve come from an orthodox style of church service with standard hymns and doxologies, responsive readings, short prayers with the obligatory saying in unison the Lord’s Prayer, taking of the offering, and of course the sermon. To say the least, it was quite repetitive every Sunday. As a senior in high school, I began attending a Baptist church only because of what few friends I had attended there. The service was traditional in the morning but more youth-oriented at night. I’ve since moved and attend a Baptist church that has a contemporary style of worship with the obligatory praise band and light show. The sermons are expository style…verse by verse…with life applications. At first, I thought ‘I’ve found the right church’ because I like contemporary music and sermons with life applications. Now I’ve become ‘tired’ of the music portion of the service and light show which has become more of a distraction than before. Many of the songs have repetitive verses and choruses which to me are trying to evoke the Holy Spirit but for me it ain’t happenin’. Our services aren’t dull for sure but the ‘worship’ songs need to have meaning and be less repetitive. I think we have gone to far in trying to get younger adults interested in church or maybe I’m just getting older.

  3. totally agree! Christians should be joyful! Wgen the prodical came home the father threw a party! Be like David, dance before God!

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