I have trouble keeping awake in church, or for that matter, anything that requires me to sit still for more than 15 minutes.
But really, some preachers need to record their own sermons, play it back and see if they fall asleep too.
Today we listened to one really boring sermon, which was obviously a scholarly essay being dictated to the crowd. It was all very correct, gramatically and biblically, but the execution was dismal.
I was shifting between this plane of awareness and the next, trying not to drop Isabel whenever I nodded off, and feeling perplexed at the sermon when I was awake.
For eg. the good pastor declared, “Sin needs to be particularised”. What on earth does that mean? Did I hear wrongly? Add to that a droning voice that never once addressed the congregation personally, or change emotions with different passages. It’s a sermon, not a monologue, bro.
This example illustrates several issues with Christianity throughout the ages.
Firstly, can Christians think? Respect for the man of the cloth often implies that you do not question his Sunday words of wisdom. Being cynical of everything said on the pulpit is damaging to your faith as well. However, there is a need to listen carefully and digest sermons for what they say and what they really mean. God gave us intellect to see and challenge any off ideas, and sometimes these do creep into sermons. Even worse when the church speaker spends all his time on specific doctrine and not building up the faith for the new secular age.
For eg. for the longest time, the head pastor at this church kept attacking on Westcott and Hort (who did the source translation for the NIV Bible) and how all other Bible versions save the King James’ Version were wrong. This is a doctrinal pillar of the current the Bible-Presbyterian movement and the congregation accepts it readily without much debate or dissent. But for people like me, who grew up in a Methodist school and was baptised in a Baptist church, it smacks of doctrinal dogmatism.
Especially when the pastor writes an anti-Westcott/Hort song and expects his flock to sing some really awful lyrics.
Does it mean because I bring an NIV Bible to a BP church (which I do) I am not saved? Jesus saves, not the translation of the text. I am no Bible scholar, and do not claim to know which version is more accurate, but both Bibles tell me the same thing – God is great, Jesus saves! I read the NIV because I do not say “thou”, “thee” or “verily” in dailyspeak and modern grammar is much easier to digest.
How about sermons on dealing with godlessness in the workplace, the question of daily temptation, the problem of money in asset-rich but financially-unsound Singapore homes, or the very basis of a happy life? These were problems Jesus dealt with in his day, and continue to be big problems now. Let’s face it, the congregation is always struggling with these issues.
Most people don’t make the effort to come to Sunday church because they want to attend a seminary talk, but because they want fellowship and sermons they can connect to. Some conservative churches I’ve attended then blames falling attendance on the rise of the mega-churches, the Charismatics, or even churches using noisy drums during worship. I don’t connect to the happy singing of modern churches, and I think the problem for conservatives is that the modern believer is less inhibited to move church when he sees fit.
Secondly, should people not gifted with public speaking take to the pulpit regularly? There is nothing wrong with this, because there are always Christians with something enlightening to say. At Leng Kwang Baptist (my own church, the abovementioned is the nearby church we attend because mornings are too chaotic to leave the house by 8am), members often share their thoughts, feelings and prayers voluntarily and the church body is better off as a result.
But at other churches, only a few are allowed to take the stage and some of them are really better off writing their essays. Because when the congregation starts to switch off when a particular person keeps speaking, their minds inadvertantly turn to more worldly matters. Dear brethren, nobody likes to leave church thinking “what is it that was preached?” or forgetting the sermon completely.