I find Sunday services in most churches to be the most boring events on earth. I mainly go to them because of peer pressure and a place to find fellowship. There I said it, and I know that statement could get me in trouble. But realistically I do not think anyone locally really reads my blog posts anyway although a few say that they read them. If they do, nothing I have said recently has been worth a response from them. It reminds me of an old friend who calls a couple of time a year and tells me that she loves my website but I know she has not even looked at the website in many years or she would know that my website now has this blog. Apparently she forgets that every time she calls.
So how did we get from New Testament Christianity into a boring Sunday service? It probably started when the clergy became the new high priests of the Church. They soon made everything in Christianity revolve around them and they ritualized the assembling together that was primarily for Christian fellowship and Body ministry. Worship of God is important but to think worship in spirit and truth can be fulfilled in a ritualized service one hour a week in some building is getting way off the mark.
By the time Christendom got to the time of the Roman Church the ritualism became a fine art so that only the clergy really understood what the rituals were all about. They retained Latin in their rituals and it all soon became a mystical exercise where priests receive spiritual powers that they pass on to the common people through their liturgy, blessings, cants etc.
After the Protestant reformation the service was changed, the Mass was deleted and a biblically based sermon was added but it was still a ritualistic event orchestrated by the clergy to fulfill some Sunday ritual obligation. Later the low churches generally adopted the one or two-hour Sunday format that we still have in our Bible churches today. The service was and still is mainly an hour of Sunday school based on the Bible followed by a service that contained a half-dozen songs, a prayer or two, some announcements and about a half hour sermon from the pastor/elder of the church. Catholic and Protestant services have not changed much over hundreds of years. I think few get anything spiritual out of these formal services but I can’t speak for you or God on this matter. I know one thing for sure and that is unless there is some fellowship before or after the Sunday service there really is little Christian fellowship in churches.
Evangelicals is what I will dwell on in the rest of this post because there is a better chance for Hell to freeze over than there is to change the services in the Catholic and high Protestant churches. Evangelical churches are generally in the low church class. (Low church: minimizes the emphasis on the priesthood, sacraments, and the ceremonial in worship.)
I have been in scores of Evangelical churches and this is pretty much the way the two-hour service goes in the vast majority of them.
There will be a Sunday School starting about an hour before the worship service. Once upon a time they had Bible teachers that did a lot of independent study and then conducted an in-depth study in their class on some portion of the Bible. That has degenerated into most everyone now teaching prepackaged lessons that come from a Christian publishing company. The teacher will still have to do a bit more study mainly for talking points. In other words, he is now more a facilitator than a teacher and the object of the lesson is almost always to lead the class into some application for living a Christian life. (The magazines take the safe ground because making passages applications for living avoids theological doctrinal differences among churches.)
The obvious problem I have is that the teachings are shallow and the applications are sometimes misapplied because the scripture are misapplied. You could go through all these lessons all your life and never learn anything other than the evangelical writer’s opinion about a few hundred applications for living that they repackage all too often. In fact, I find these lessons to be so basic and boring that I often find myself trying to change the subject in class. I think there is good reason why you seldom find any church elder attending any Sunday School class.
The worship service varies in Evangelical churches but mostly in style. They will all still have the 4 to 8 songs and then the sermon. The main differences are: do the songs come out of hymnal, or from choruses projected on the wall, or a mix of the two; is there a worship team, a choir or song leader or some combination; does it only have an organ or piano, or all kinds of instruments, or no instruments at all. There will also be one solo usually around the time of collection and once in a while there will be a skit.
Sometimes the Charismatics and Pentecostals get a little more free in their style of music worship but it too often allows the pastor to use music to manipulate the people into a state of mind to buy into whatever he is pushing this week. Most of the mega churches will have a top-notch entertainment service for 15 minutes or so; if you’re going to one of these, you might pass the popcorn.
The sermon always comes after the music worship. Most sermons today are just some standard application for living that the pastor purchased or downloaded from the internet and then customized to make it look like he was the author. If you can stay awake through these you have a high boredom threshold or a spouse poking you in the ribs. There are some exceptional pastor/teachers like John MacArthur that have exceptional knowledge and understanding of the Bible and their teaching should keep any Christian awake but from experience I know they usually will not be found near where most of us live. Few churches have expository teaching anymore, they seldom systemically teach through the Bible or even a book of the Bible with the exception of Calvary Chapels.
After the sermon there is a benediction and then you file out either to say a few words to the pastor or to find another exit to avoid the lines or to avoid the pastor and that is the crux of the Sunday morning Christian fellowship for most evangelicals.
I would be remiss not to bring up these other standard rituals.
There is the greeting each other handshaking ritual that is best at spreading germs. I do not think this ritual substitutes for real fellowship in any way shape or form and I could do without it especially during the cold and flu season. Perhaps pastors and the denominational leaders that started this ritual should be required to take Health 101. Try demonstrating this handshaking ritual in your restaurant the next time your health inspector shows up.
There is the collection ritual of course. God wants your tithes to go into that basket to take care of all His overhead.
There is the communion ritual (now I am going to get in big trouble). Some churches do this ritual weekly and some monthly and some quarterly but it is preceded by everyone putting on their most solemn face mask. One might think we Christians should rejoice over Jesus shedding His body and blood for us or we would be hopelessly lost in sin.
I think the long face is because some think we need to repent of our sins before we eat the cracker or we will be in some mortal danger. However, if you read the entire chapter of 1 Cor:11 in context, it is clearly saying that some were sick and died because they did not discern the needs of others in the Body of Christ. The point given was that some were eating all the food before the others even got there and it was selfish actions like these that led to an unhealthy Church. We are all one body and one blood and we should always consider the needs of the other members.
The point was not repenting of sins before taking the communion service cracker (it was really one loaf). The point was that there are many Christians that were not acting as if they were in one body. They were selfish and they only were concerned with themselves and for that reason the whole Body of Christ suffered and that sin brought condemnation on their own mortal bodies.
The early Christians had communion at their love feast and suppers because it was a love fellowship. They were celebrating with the brethren that are one spiritual Body in Christ. It was not a funeral service. What is going on in most of our churches is much like the funeral services at the Catholic Mass. Jesus is not being crucified again on the altar; this is a remembrance of what Jesus did to save us. He whose body was broken for us and whose blood paid for our sin has risen from the dead and all that trust in Him are members of His one spiritual Body and we also will rise with Him. So let us honor the remembrance of His sacrifice for us by also remembering the spiritual Body that He died for.
Having said all that, here is my main point. How is this rather boring Sunday ritual like the Christian community of the early church? The only thing more boring than the Sunday morning ritual is the Sunday evening ritual that tries to do the same thing as the morning service with 1/5th of the people. The bore factor is the real reason why it is so hard to get Christians to even show up for the services each week.
Some Evangelical pastors try to play the guilt card to try to make people show up but they are usually preaching to the choir so that does not work. Heck, the Catholics even tried telling people they will go straight to Hell if they miss the Sunday Mass and even that did not work very well. Others are trying to make the Sunday gathering more entertaining but your church will not out entertain the world, so entertainment is not the answer for a not very biblical Christian gathering model for two hours each Sunday morning. I am not sure what the solution is other than getting back to the model of the persecuted Church with home fellowships and Christians actually living daily as if they were family.
Don Koenig founded www.thepropheticyears.com website in 1999 after almost thirty years of independent study on the Bible and learning from many astute teachers within Christendom. Don created his website to write about Bible prophecy, biblical discernment and his Christian worldviews. Don wrote a free Revelation commentary ebook in 2004 named "The Revelation of Jesus Christ Through The Ages". The World and Church and Bible Prophecy section of this website was started in 2007.