Firstly, before you read my response to Sharon Osbourne’s comment that the Church’s decline in the UK is due to “boring” services, let me tell you a bit about me. I am an introvert. I like quiet; I am British, and I am more often than not, reserved.
I clarify this because it would be easy to allow this discussion to be one based on preferences due to personality types.
The thinking could be that the sanguine extroverts, like Sharon Osbourne, prefer loud services with fiery passion and emotion, whereas the melancholy introverts like me, prefer more reflective and contemplative services.
Whatever our personality type, I believe we can pull out some constructive content from Sharon’s criticism.
So, rather than reacting, let’s breathe and not write her off because we don’t agree or value her opinion. A wise man said: “Feedback is the breakfast of champions!” Although criticism can be painful, it can serve a great purpose.
The term “boring” is unique to the individual; one person might find a movie boring, while another, with a different perspective and connection thought it was the most thrilling piece of cinematography ever!
When someone finds something boring they are saying they were not entertained, they had an expectation that was not met, their experience was tedious, or monotonous; they didn’t connect.
Sharon has clearly had a church experience that she couldn’t connect with, and so, to her, it was boring.
This does not mean, however, that every other person in that service was bored or that every church has boring services. It really comes down to your perspective and expectation of what church is.
Church was never designed to entertain us, but rather to inspire us: inspire and equip us to transform into the likeness of Christ and be all that God has called us to be, through relationship with God and each other.
We should be asking ourselves, and challenging ourselves, on the relevance of the service to those attending - could they connect with the message and was it applicable to their everyday lives?
And, maybe more importantly, could they connect with the person of Jesus within the people there? Did they feel welcomed, accepted, valued and does the church community exist outside of the service?
I know this is not what Sharon was talking about since her comment was service-specific. However, if there had been a meaningful relational connection made and an invitation to build, maybe she would have learned that there is adventure, excitement, passion and purpose within the Church community and she has a valuable contribution to make. This life together then overflows into the Sunday services.
I personally believe that our message is more than a thirty-minute exposition of a Bible passage and some worship songs sung on one day of the week. Our message is on display every day in how we welcome people into our lives and authentically connect with them.
Making a genuine connection
What would Sharon’s experience have been if she’d received a warm welcome on the door, an enthusiastic person to sit with during the service, and an invitation after the service to a good English pub lunch or coffee shop, in order to build a genuine connection and open a door to further discussion and exploration?
The local church now has an exciting challenge on its hands, thanks to the internet. Podcasts and YouTube sermons give us access to more different styles of communication than ever before.
The rising generation has access to the world’s most gifted communicators and preachers. Let’s face it; we all listen to other preachers as well as our local pastors – right?
People can access their preferred style of teaching 24/7, so what happens to all the preachers and pastors who cannot compete? Should they try and be something they are not; fake it till they make it? Of course not!
What local church pastors offer is the complete package of teaching and development within the context of loving, relational community. Jesus’ disciples were equipped to lead in the Christian life through living and learning alongside Jesus and one another.
So let’s do all we can to better give people what they need and want – an experience of Jesus within an environment of belonging and encouragement.
It is a good thing to be challenged; sometimes the mind must be offended to see where the heart is!
So let’s use Sharon’s comment and instead of hurling back a negative response, let’s reflect on our services and our community and see if we can bring some change or innovation where necessary.
Questions to consider
The ‘why’ we do what we do is always more important than the ‘what’ we do. So here are some challenging questions:
- Are we wholeheartedly for Jesus and for people?
- Do our services reflect our lack of passion and celebration?
- Are we more visually excited about our hobbies than our Saviour?
- Do we get more excited talking about our football team than our faith?
- Are we more precious over the style of our services rather than the substance, Jesus?
If our whole lives are the message rather than only the service or the teaching, then what experience or perception would a new person walk away with this Sunday?
I am a fan of the local church. I believe the most exciting days are ahead, not behind, us. The UK Church has much diversity in style, yet so much unity in our Saviour.
The world has a variety of people, so the world needs a variety of churches where people passionately love Jesus and one another.
The difference is that the world says: “If you are not like us, if you don’t agree with us, then you can’t belong.” But the Church of Christ says to everyone: “You can belong, welcome home!”
Dan Blythe is a pastor at Hillsong Church London