I must confess to you, not only as a pastor, but simply as a believer, I am often depressed about church. This did not happen to me when I became a pastor, I felt a growing discontent from the time I began to study the Bible in earnest. I found shallow theology, slap-shod sermons, and unthinking Christians to be the norm almost everywhere I turned. This reality consumes me to this day, and if I did not believe in the power of the gospel, I swear, I would go work in computers with my brother-in-law or teach English Literature in a University.
So ask yourself why it is that you have grown cold toward your local fellowship and why it is that you attend church in the first place. Here are a list of reasons why most people get sick of their local fellowship, at least, this is what I've heard:
1. The music stinks. I can't worship to it.
2. The Church is filled with people who just don't care.
3. The preaching is lousy.
4. They don't have anything for my children.
Warning! Rant alert!--->Number one is so maddeningly irrelevant I can't even believe that an otherwise sane believer falls for it. How worship got so singularly entwined with music is a mind-boggling travesty. We see the disciples singing how many times...once? Paul talks about singing in Ephesians, but the pinnacle of worship is not singing tunes that I relate to. Good music is a bonus; no music should not be a hinderance to worship. Go out and buy yourself a CD of your favorite music and sing at home for heaven's sake. <---Rant over.
Worship is not only singing or listening to preaching. Worship is found in service to the body. Your duty is also your joy in Christ. That is, my pinnacle of worship is teaching the Word of God. Yours may be praying for the babies in the nursery. Music cannot steal that joy. Serve your church for the sake of your Master and find your joy there.
I used to have a car that burned oil. I'd have to check it occassionally to add a quart as needed. The problem with the church is that we've got too many dipsticks and not enough people willing to put oil in the engine. That's the ugly truth of number 2. Or, we have folks who do not even realize that it takes volunteers to run a church. They thought they were there to sing and hear good preaching, not come and teach Sunday School, keep extended session, change diapers, help clean stuff up, mow the church lawn or a thousand other things that need doing. Right?
Newsflash for you, Martha. Don't you worry about Mister and Mrs. pew-sitter doing nothing but sitting and listening. You may be losing your joy in the local church because you've gotten your eye off the privilege of service to the King of Kings and started thinking that somebody else ought to be doing something. Who said that the one who wishes to be called great in the kingdom of heaven must be the slave of all? Last I heard, it was bad form for a slave to complain to his master, which is what your fellow church member is, that he or she isn't pulling his weight.
Here's all I will say about lousy preaching. Pray for and love your pastor. Buy him a book. Have him over for lunch and wash his feet...metaphorically or else you'll probably weird him out. If the preaching is still lousy, download John Piper to your iPod and listen to that all week. You'll be okay and you'll honor your pastor as you are commanded to do. When tragedy strikes, that lousy preacher may come over and give comfort from God's own bosom.
#4...nothing for your children? What are you doing for your children? They ought to be in church with you anyway. They learn the passion and importance of worship by watching you do it. I hope my son's earliest memories are of his papa weeping and rejoicing from the pulpit.
I beg you to give me space to preach here for a moment. Let me ask you a question: Have you gotten so spiritually mature that you have an uncanny knack for seeing all the spiritual problems of the church? If you have, then you have been given a great gift. Because if the church has a problem you can identify, you have an obligation to give your life to see it corrected. You must be prepared to sacrifice reputation, ease, and become the object of gossip. But for the sake of the elect of God, help the church become more holy! Didn't you know that when you joined? Did Jesus die for this church? Did Paul endure scorn and ridicule and slander in the churches? Did he say for nothing that the burden of the churches were on his mind day and night for nothing? Do you think he lived like a vagabond and an outcast for a bunch of hypocritical, apathetic, sinful, in-fighting, back-biting wretches? Not only did he do so, he called these miserable folks brothers and sisters, claimed that they were his joy and his crown, and he poured out his life like a drink offering for the sake of their well-being to the glory of God. Do you think that this is just for apostles and preachers? This is the life for every good soldier of Jesus Christ.
Here's the most shocking truth of them all...you might be a big part of the problem at your church. Your attitude and talk may be serving to further division. You may be right about everything you've observed, and there is certainly room for improvement, but your attitude and actions may not be working towards a happy resolution. No, you may be contributing to the divide and encouraging others to abandon the work.
That's part of my concern for our churches. We have these attitudes because we believe membership is optional, flexible, and we are not loving like family. I have been pretty pointed in this. I look forward to your responses.