Bored of ‘Christian’ things?

Do you ever just feel bored of church, of endless services week after week, of hymns and worship songs, of prayers and liturgy you could say in your sleep, of Bible study and quiet times, of meetings and missions and all the other paraphernalia of organised Christian religion? I confess that I do.

When the church leadership announces some new initiative or scheme that’s going to save the world or revitalise the church, do you find yourself sighing inwardly? When the latest Christian fad arrives, be it the Purpose-Driven Prayer of Jabez™ or a phone app that evangelises for you, do you yawn with absolute unenthusiasm? I do.

When you’re sitting in church of a Sunday morning, do you ever gaze longingly out of the window and wish you were out there in the sunshine, or even the rain, just to be outside and free and not cooped up in rows? Do you ever secretly envy those who are bunking off church to play football or just to have a lie-in? I do – though to be fair, these days I’m often the one bunking off.

Are you ever bored of the Bible? I confess that I am at the moment. Admittedly there are some parts I haven’t returned to many times – usually the ones that are obscure, bizarre or just upsetting. But there are countless others I’ve read so often I’ve become, for the time being, inured to their power and meaning. They’ve become too-familiar words that provoke little more in me than boredom or guilt or possibly mild puzzlement.

(If I’m really honest, perhaps the truth is more that I now know roughly what any given part of the Bible is going to say and I’m not comfortable with it, so I’d rather just lay it aside for the moment. But that’s another post.)

If you’re thinking ‘No, I don’t identify with any of this; I love church and the Bible and worship songs’, then good for you. I’ve been there too. Come back and re-read this if it ever becomes relevant. Or if you’ve already been through the bored, jaded, grey time and emerged from it into the sunshine of a second innocence and enthusiasm, congratulations and I sincerely hope to join you there one day.

Losing the fire?

I clearly recall the early days of my new-found faith, when I was so excited about ‘Christian’ things. I eagerly lapped up Christian books, talks and songs, tuned into Christian radio, and enthusiastically attended as many services and events as I could fit in. It was all so fresh, so new, so thrilling.

But then gradually life kicked in, with all its frustrations and distractions and disappointments. And when you’ve been to nearly a thousand similar church services, heard a thousand similar talks and sung 8000 similar worship songs (including many of the same ones repeated a hundred times), you can start to feel a bit jaded. When you’ve read the gospels goodness knows how many times, they can start to lose some of their freshness and power. And when you’ve been praying for the same things for years on end, often without seeing a great deal of obvious progress, you can start to lose heart and hope.

An obvious response to this is to revitalise your faith by going on mission trips, or undertaking other exciting projects where you actually put your faith into practice in real situations. Been there, done that. All good, and I don’t wish to downplay the value of such work. But it doesn’t necessarily address the deeper long-term malaise.

Now I’m aware as I write this that I sound like one of the seeds that fell in bad soil in the Parable of the Sower. I started out enthusiastically, but the weeds grew up and choked me, making me unfruitful. Maybe there’s truth in that. However, I haven’t given up or turned my back on my faith; I’m just a little tired and bored with church and ‘Christian’ things at the moment.

Life to the full

The good news is, I think God may well be a little bored with many of these things too. Because the heart and life of Christianity is not ‘Christian’ things. It’s not church services, or hymns, or liturgies, or worship CDs, or Christian talks, books or conferences, or even necessarily the Bible.

The germ of this post began as I was walking home from work recently, thinking and praying. I was feeling deeply dissatisfied with my life, and praying for more of God in it, in me. And the thought struck me that what I very much didn’t mean, and didn’t want, was more of church, or more of ‘Christian’ things. No thank you very much.

No. I meant that I want to live, and live to the full. I want to drink deep of life, plunge into its oceans, swim in its waterfalls, scale its mountaintops. I want to laugh with the sheer joy of being, and weep with the tragedy of the world. I want to dance like a loon, and sing like a drunken fool – drunk with reality and beauty and meaning and absurd infectious hope. I want to play like a child, jumping in puddles, leaping through waves, climbing trees, gazing in wonder at the stars, running and skipping and galloping just for the sake of it. I want to engage with the whole, real, complex world in all its strange and messy magnificence. Above all, I want to love and be loved.

More of Christ

So yes, for now I’m bored with ‘Christian’ things; even with Christianity, or what often passes for it. But what I’m not bored with, and don’t think I ever could be bored with, is Christ himself. I may be disturbed by him, confused by him, upset by him; even frustrated and furious with him. But one thing Jesus can never be is dull.

What I long for is to be full of Christ; full to bursting with the One who is Life and Light and Love. I want to be so charged with his energy that I’m sparking and crackling with it; that when people come into contact with me, they feel the electric shock of his presence. I want to be so filled with his song that I resonate and vibrate and thrum with it, and when people come near me they pick up the resonance too, like the deep bass notes of a cathedral organ. I want to be brimming over with his beauty, like a great jewel that pools the light in its heart and then scatters it abroad from all its rainbow-flashing facets.

Yet so often I find more of life and meaning and beauty – more of Christ – outside the church and away from ‘Christian’ things. I find life in music, in passionate symphonies and raw-edged rock songs. I find life in good drama and theatre, in story that makes you feel as well as think, that moves you to desperate tears or furious anger or helpless laughter. I find life in art and poetry, in rhythm and dance that moves your body as well as your heart. Above all, I find life in real people, in all their messy and messed-up beautiful reality.

For of course, all of these things are God’s every bit as much as ‘Christian’ things are.

None of this is to say that church or ‘Christian’ things are bad or wrong or worthless. They aren’t; they just aren’t the only places we can meet God.

Nor is it to say that we should flee dull, drudgeful duty for the sake of excitement and beauty; absolutely not. Commitment and faithfulness are at the core of who Christ is; love isn’t all about chasing the latest thrill. Sometimes we have to stick patiently, persistently and painfully with a dull task or a boring situation for the sake of love and faithfulness. I understand that. Boredom isn’t always bad, whatever our entertainment-addicted culture tells us.

But if we have lost all the spark, all the joy, all the life, then it may be a sign that something isn’t right; that something is missing. It’s not a reason to give up or turn our backs on faith, or even on church. It’s certainly not a reason to turn our backs on Christ.

But it may be a wake-up call to seek new ways of being Christian, fresh understandings of what it means to follow Christ. It may be a call to find larger, wider, more open vistas of the Spirit in which to walk and breathe the air of the Kingdom. It may be a call to find Christ in places we haven’t expected him to be, outside the comfortable confines of our theologies and programmes and books and all the other boxes we place him in.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. All of life is God’s. Step outside, stretch your limbs, breathe deep. Life’s too short to waste in slumber.

Well, except perhaps when I’m wanting that lie-in next Sunday…

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About TheEvangelicalLiberal

Aka Harvey Edser. I'm a web editor, worship leader, wannabe writer, very amateur composer and highly unqualified armchair theologian. My heroes include C.S. Lewis and Homer Simpson.
This entry was posted in Arts, Bible, Liberalism, Seasons, Stages of faith and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Bored of ‘Christian’ things?

  1. ‘These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
    how I went with the throng,
    and led them in procession to the house of God,
    with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
    a multitude keeping festival.
    Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you disquieted within me?
    Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my help and my God.’
    Psalm 42:4-6

    Don’t worry – it’s normal. Part of the journey towards a ‘deeper’ understanding and a different way of living. I found great solace in Adrian Plass’ books when I went through a similar time 😉

    Like

    • Thanks! Interesting (and encouraging) to think of the psalmists experiencing spiritual ennui. I think the big challenge for me is just not to get too jaded and cynical about ‘Christian’ or church things, and not to look down on those who are genuinely enthusiastic. I’m looking forward to the second naiveté that I hear might come after this phase of the journey…

      Like

  2. Noel says:

    I am totally with you on this topic. Which is why I don’t attend church anymore. It is truly a waste of time in my opinion. Unless the people engage mostly in serving the community in a strictly selfless and altruistic way such as feeding the poor, visiting the sick and the inmates. I left the church two years ago and have allowed myself to live a “Christlike ” life by not being religious like the Pharisees but loving like Jesus. Continue
    . in your Christlike journey.

    Like

    • Thanks Noel! I only wish my journey *were* more obviously Christlike – much of the time I just seem to be blundering around in anything but a Christlike manner. But there are those moments of grace to keep me vaguely on track…

      I know what you mean about church feeling like a waste of time. So often church services and meetings seem to be exercises in missing the point. And yet… I still feel the need of the community aspect of church, the presence of other people who are trying to walk the same kind of path, even if most of them are at a different place to me…

      I totally agree that the kingdom is shown by acts such as those you mention, feeding the poor, visiting the sick etc. I must admit though that at the moment my life isn’t characterised by such selfless acts. I feel like I’m in an in-between place – once I used to do those kinds of things out of compulsion to be a ‘good Christian’, and I hope one day to be able to do them again, but out of genuine love and gratitude and a renewed heart. For the moment though, I’m just stumbling along.

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  3. johnm55 says:

    I think that David Hayward aka The Naked Pastor feels your pain. Check out today’s post Jesus with his imaginary friend

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  4. Rosie Edser says:

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a comment on one’s current Spiritual stage to be feeling a tad bored,

    Surely that’s just the natural result of any kind of repetition.. I mean it’s tricky trying to extract meaning and pleasure from the act of cleaning one’s teeth. If you read a chunk of the Hobbit daily for 20 years or – perish the thought – hoovered daily, that act would be boring too… come on, loth as I am to admit it, tis even possible to dull the rawness of those edgy rock songs by too many consecutive plays!

    I think the freshness and excitement come via

    a) the social side of church community life – weeping with those who weep, sharing your joys/frustations with your buddies and deing delighted for their progress when they get free of mill-stones.. but that’s maybe more a motivator for the extroverts.

    b) challenging youself to creative engagement with the Bible – write Esther as a Musical.. re-do a story in haikus.. Ecclesiastes is crying out for a gosh-punk rendition.

    Or maybe you need to have a bit more fun in the rest of life and rediscover lapsed hobbies. Hang out in Waterstones a bit more, book a bargain opera trip and get that drum kit set up in the attic.

    Like

    • Yes, I totally take your point – anything repeated ad infinitum will become tedious sooner or later. Except chocolate.

      So I suppose all I’m saying is that (perhaps simply because of repetition fatigue) we *are* all likely to hit a boredom patch at some point in our spiritual journey. For me this is part of what ‘Stage 3’ is about – the ennui and dissatisfaction that starts to kick in when the old familiar ideas and practices have lost their shine.

      NB I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem – but it raises some questions. The big ones being, am I going to bother keeping on with all this? Is there a way through the boredom to the other side? Are there ways of renewing my spiritual energies?

      I like your ideas – though yes, I think the creative ones will work better for me than the social ones. But I’m not really looking for fixes at the moment – just wanting to express the feelings. 🙂

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  5. Rosie Edser says:

    gosh-punk?? *Goth*

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  6. EL, this post really resonates with me!

    Like

  7. Ben says:

    Harvey!
    Just returned to your blog after a year or so! Has been really encouraging to read about your restlessness with church life. My wife and I have been feeling tired of church for the last few months. We have this longing for something deeper, Christ-centred, richer. At the moment we’re really excited by a debt initiative we’re getting involved in. I think we shall find rich community here and a sense that the time we give in to this is really embodied Christ’s values of Jubilee for those struggling with debt.
    I don’t know if you’ve come across the book “So you don’t want to go to church anymore?”. It’s just lying on our lounge floor currently. You might want to check that out.
    Bless you dude!!
    ben

    Like

    • Hey Ben, great to hear from you!

      I like the sound of your debt initiative – is there a website or page about it anywhere? All the very best with your involvement in it. 🙂

      “So you don’t want to go to church any more?” sounds well worth a read! Is it this one: http://www.jakecolsen.com/JakeStory.pdf ?

      I’m just about to take some time out of active church involvement – well, stepping down from the worship band for a few months. I won’t be leaving church, but just not contributing quite so actively for a while. I still love being involved in the music, but I’m struggling to keep it fresh and meaningful, and I think I just need a bit of time out. Also about to embark on the fun of moving house which I suspect will be taking up most of our energies for a little while…

      Bless you!
      Harvey

      Like

  8. joshycash says:

    Wow, your post really shows how the American Christian thinks.. You want a Christ centered life but without the Bible.. Wow.. Lol.. No wonder why God isn’t moving..

    Like

    • Hi joshycash, thanks for commenting – good to hear an alternative perspective, even if I disagree. 🙂

      I’m not sure you’ve fully read what I’m saying though (which I don’t blame you for). I’m not actually American, I’m British. And I’m really not throwing out the Bible, even if I’m expressing particular feelings of boredom or frustration with it here. And God is always moving…

      Like

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