My new book is called Sons and Daughters and it releases everywhere October 9th. Here is an excerpt from chapter 29
A COUPLE OF years ago, I began to “follow” on Twitter a dozen or so high-profile pastors whose ministries I deeply respect. Every few days, I’d receive their 140-character updates and initially would be excited to read what they wrote. Until I actually read what they wrote.
Several months into this receive-and-read trend, my enthusiasm nearly fizzled to nil. Almost every update from almost every pastor I was following was filled to overflowing with hype. In anticipation of that Sunday’s worship service, they would tout the “Super Bowl of all Sundays,” “the mega-monster of all sermons,” “a weekend that promised to be off the chain” (according to Urban Dictionary: “a great deal of fun”). “I can’t think of another time I have been more excited about preaching a message,” one pastor wrote. “Miss Sunday’s service at your own peril!!!”
Sadly, the exclamation-point-laden hype wasn’t coming from just one person; it was flowing freely from many mouths, while simultaneously deflating my heart. Because what happens when the service isn’t mega-monster?
How can it be, week after week?
I enjoy reading about church history, and if I were to peg the central characteristics of church gatherings in the first century, it would be non-hyped, non-frantic, unrushed. Worship was their lifestyle, not an overly promoted activity occurring one hour, one morning a week. Things were simple. Prayers were meaningful. People were fully dependent on the Spirit of God.
It’s the polar opposite of how we operate today, in our infamously glitz-and-gratification culture. We favor microwaves over Crock Pots and sex-appeal over substance. We like it fast and easy and now…and preferably at little cost to us. As it relates to the church-going experience, we rush in on a Sunday morning—fifteen minutes late at best—we scurry to find a seat, get antsy after sixty minutes, and rush right back into our day. We sing songs with lines like “wait upon the Lord” and bob our heads in apparent agreement, even as we silently wonder how much longer the song-set will last.
We’re moving far too fast to hear it, of course, but still God whispers, “Be still.”
Drop the hype, please.
Let me show up and do my work.
It would be easy to blame church congregations for the madness that has consumed our gatherings these days, except that from what I see from their pastors, we’re conditioning them to behave this way. We hype and promote and position and tweet and inadvertently create pews full of consumers instead of devoted worshipers of God. I once heard it said that leaders who don’t teach their congregations to worship must entertain them week in and week out. So true. We hype-ers are setting up our people to expect an experience, instead of teaching them to encounter their Lord.