My heart, O God, is steadfast; my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I remember exactly where I was sitting when I prayed the prayer that changed my life. On a friend’s ranch in southwest Arkansas, watching the muddied waters of the Saline River pass in front of me, I told God I was bored. It was rainy and cool, but lightning did not strike me. In fact, my prayers were met with deserved silence.
There was no reason for my stupor. My pastoral work was challenging and rich with relationships. The church where I served was reaching the lost, growing really fast, empowering leaders and giving me opportunities to serve all around the world. It seems selfish, now, for that prayer to have ever escaped my lips. God responded a year later by sending me to Colorado, on the adventure of my life. I’ve never prayed that prayer again.
We’re called to be faithful in the ordinary, but we’re not meant for lethargic living. Instead, we are Hobbits needing an adventure. When Tolkien wrote his masterpieces, the Hobbits were cast as a careful tribe of people, pious in their work, committed to their privacy and suspicious of anything that seemed disorderly or unpredictable. They were comfortable, well fed and far from any enemies that might disrupt their worshipped routines.
Bilbo Baggins is the most famous of the Hobbits – middle-aged, fond of his pipe and in love with leisure. He was certainly not thinking about killing dragons, and recovering the lost treasures of Lonely Mountain. The wizard, Gandalf, invited him out of his boredom and to the surprise of everyone, Bilbo followed him and discovered giant spiders, angry Orcs, and a Middle-Earth that he never imagined existed.
Today, I’m the pastor of a thriving congregation in one of the most beautiful cities in our country. The economy is booming, our team is fun and my family is on the front row every Sunday, serving the imperfect church and loving God with me. One recent Sunday morning, the congregation seemed sleepy and the sermon flat. It seemed we were getting bored with the same success that had stymied the Hobbits.
One of my favorite scenes in the Tolkien sagas, is Gandalf arriving at the retirement party with some fireworks. With a wave of his wand, fire-inspired Dragons went flying through the air. A predictable and safe party was suddenly upended by the uproar of pyrotechnics. I’m not for fireworks in church and I’m certainly not advocating hype to serve as some kind of false fuel. It seems, though, the role of pastor is to sometimes awaken the congregation, like a Gandalf, with some well-timed fireworks.
We can never berate, but we should correct, rebuke and encourage. (2Timothy 4:2) We should awaken the sleepers! We cannot allow boredom to seep into our souls. If pastors are shepherds, we should often guide the flock to green pastures and sometimes over troubled waters. Bored pastors lead bored churches, and bored churches are the Shire, where adventure and faith take a back seat to the status quo and a debilitating comfort.
The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.