Brad Powell: “If our spiritual walk isn’t fresh and exciting, our ministry won’t be either.”
Question: I think I understand why our church isn’t reaching new people or creating any kind of noticeable impact: It’s boring. To be honest, I’m the pastor and even I’m bored. Obviously, the solution is to fix it, but I’m not sure how. Suggestions?
Know this: You’re not alone. This is a huge problem for all pastors and churches over time. Boredom is the natural byproduct of redundancy. And let’s be honest, church ministry is redundant by nature. Without intentional interference, churches will have no new people come on Sunday, and everyone will park in the same place, enter the same way, greet the same people, sit in the same seat, sing the same kind of songs, listen to the same person teach, and then do it all again next Sunday—and again and again. Makes me yawn just writing about it.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, there are some unavoidable areas of redundancy. Generally, people should come to the same place each week, gather in the same auditorium and listen to the same pastor/teacher. But church doesn’t have to be boring.
Think about it. Life is filled with unavoidable redundancies. Breathe in and breathe out. Go to sleep and wake up. Eat three or more times every day. Go to work and come home. Celebrate the weekend, then say goodbye to it. And on and on it goes. But life doesn’t have to be boring.
What makes the difference? Changing it up. Though you have to eat three times a day, you don’t have to eat the same thing. In fact, you don’t even have to eat the same way. Where is it written that certain kinds of food are for certain times of the day? In our family, my wife, Roxann, messed with this concept all the time. She initiated reverse night, which always began with dessert. Of course, it usually resulted in no one eating the salad. But who cares? It was a lot of fun. Our kids still talk about it to this day. By changing it up, she created lifelong memories.
We can apply the same lesson to our churches and ministries. Sadly, many leaders seek to overcome boredom by switching churches instead of making the investment to change up their present church. But changing locations usually leads to the same result. Over time, the new church will become boring as well. We need to learn to create new and fresh experiences in the midst of the unavoidable redundancies of our present circumstances. We need to learn to “change it up” where we are.
Scripture offers the same affirmation. God wants us to sing new songs (Ps. 33:3; 40:3). But it’s difficult to sing a new song when we’re not experiencing anything new. We keep telling the same old stories about God because we’re having no new experiences with God. We’re living in and off the past and consequently, we keep repeating the same stories over and over and over again. Boring!
As a pastor, I’ve had to learn that it’s my responsibility to lead and teach in a way that creates opportunities for new experiences for our church family. If I don’t, church and ministry become boring—and it’s my fault. However, I’ve also found that my leadership and teaching won’t be new, fresh and alive if it’s not happening in my personal life. I must be encountering and sharing new stories about my relationship with God. After all, we lead and teach out of who we are. If our spiritual walk isn’t fresh and exciting, our ministry won’t be either.
So let me give you some suggestions for staying fresh personally.
Pull away. Break the cycle of redundancy. Disturb the routine of your life and ministry and refresh yourself (Mark 6:31-32).
Look within. Evaluate yourself for predictability, staleness, loss of passion, excitement and joy. Examine whether your faith, experiences and stories are more focused on God’s work in the past or present (2 Cor. 13:5).
Look around. Open your eyes and seek to be more observant of God’s creation. The wonder of His work is all around you (Ps. 8:1, 3-4).
Fill up. Pour yourself into God’s Word or, better stated, pour God’s Word into yourself. As you know, the Bible isn’t just about who God was and what He once did; it’s about who He is and what He’s doing in the present. We need to experience Him and hear His voice today. When we do, we start to sing new songs (Col. 3:16).
Change it up. Simply, do something new. Change up your devotions (where you have them and how you do them). Listen to and learn new forms of worship music. Get to know and expose yourself to some new authors, teachers and believers or nonbelievers. Serve in a different way (Ps. 33:3).
I believe that genuinely embracing these practices will help to make and keep your life, leadership and ministry new and alive. Then, when you’re actually doing them, you can lead and teach your church to experience them as well and say goodbye to boring church.