If you say you have never been bored in church, I suspect you are lying.
When the guest pastor came in that one time, and his voice was a perfect monotone and he insisted on showing the entire congregation the grainy slideshow of his trip to Jerusalem—when you exchanged that look with your spouse or your mom and you had to shift in the pew because your leg had gone numb—you were bored.
During the children’s musical, when it was really very adorable—so sweet! so charming!—and the entire kindergarten group was dressed up to participate in the nativity and they were eighteen songs in and there were still forty-five minutes left to go and no one had turned on a fan, you were hot. And also bored.
And once, you had to listen to that sermon—and the theme was good, really, you like Isaiah—but the pastor kept making the exact same point, and it was pretty much exactly like another sermon you had heard some other time, anyway, and you found yourself daydreaming about lunch and a walk in the park and anything but being there—you were bored out of your gourd.
You’ve been bored! I have been bored. We have all, every single one of us, been bored in God’s house. And absolutely no one likes to admit it.
“No,” some sainted souls will say, shaking their head, “I have never once been bored. Now there are some sermons I have preferred over others, but if I am hearing the inspired Word of God in God’s own house, how could I ever be bored?”
To them I say: I have a hard time believing you are telling the truth, and also, you have turned me into a sinner, because now I am thinking bad things about you.
But mostly, I am writing about this because I want to point out that we have all been bored in church—and that boredom isn’t always the negative thing we think it is, and is indeed necessary to Christian growth.
We live in a culture, of course, that says boredom is not necessary to anything and that it should be avoided at all costs. Stand in line for more than five seconds anywhere and watch the phones come out around you as people consult games, TV shows, websites to entertain themselves. I once saw a mother lug a five-pound bag of toys onto a plane for her child…for a one hour trip. And I’m as guilty of it as anyone: ask me to go anywhere long-term without my laptop, phone, and gaming console and I’ll hesitate. What if I get bored?
The truth is, though, that boredom is good for us. Scientific studies have found that people benefit from having unstructured time with no goals, no activities, and no immediate occupations—they benefit, in other words, from being bored.
To everything there is a season, as the Bible says, and the rush of our daily lives and minds also requires periods of stillness, settling, processing, quiet. You don’t realize it, but vital processes are occurring when you stand in line and don’t look at your phone, or when you sit quietly in your car and gaze out over the traffic. Your mind is growing, making connections. The world is slowing down.
Writers require a fallow period so that they can regain fresh eyes to look at their work. When you learn a foreign language, taking a break from study and simply listening to some music in the foreign tongue can stimulate mental processes and connections. We need to sleep in order to energize ourselves for another day. Our minds need rest.
Because we know this, most of us acknowledge that constant stimulation via our phones isn’t the answer; so why do we expect it in church? Why can’t we admit that we sometimes get bored—and then take the extra step of acknowledging that sometimes boredom serves a useful purpose? Why can’t we acknowledge stillness and moments of sameness as fundamental to the Christian life?
In Christianity, we hear the same story over and over and over again. Sometimes it feels fresh and exciting and new; sometimes it doesn’t. We read the same verses over and over again. Sometimes they reveal new truths and spark something inside us; sometimes not. We pray over and over again, sometimes for the same thing, sometimes for a long time, and not always with passion and a spirit of engagement and excitement. Sometimes it feels same old, same old. Sometimes it feels rote. Sometimes it feels still and quiet and everyday.
But that isn’t a bad thing.
God is present in all of these times. And when we recognize His presence not just in the exciting and novel but in the mundane and ordinary, even the dull, then our boredom can become a place of richness, spiritual intimacy, and growth. We aren’t then enslaved to a pursuit of ever-more-novel experiences to grow closer to the Lord, because we know that He is where we are in all things and at all times.
I suspect Christians don’t want to say “I’m bored” because they believe boredom is a bad thing: a wrong thing. But it isn’t. Boredom is part of a cycle of growth and intimacy: movement and rest, spontaneity and the predictable, stir and lull. The times when we feel bored are, undoubtedly, times that the Holy Spirit will work within us beyond the reach of conscious thought to quicken everything that has been growing—if we’re willing.
Admit it: you’ve been bored. And that’s okay.
It’s good for you.