When asked what he thought of his pastor’s sermon, a man said: “The preacher starts preaching at 11:15. And every Sunday when it gets to be noon I look at my watch … and it is only 11:25.”
When our church moved into a new worship space a few years ago, we opted for chairs rather than pews. But that left us with a couple of dozen oak pews from the old space that we no longer needed, so we offered them for sale.
One of our elders joked, “We could advertise this way: ‘You’ve slept in them at church; why not take one home to sleep in? You won’t have all the annoying interruptions!’” Someone added, “We could sweeten the deal by throwing in a sermon CD – guaranteed to give you a good night’s sleep.”
When surveyed, people frequently say they don’t go to church because it’s boring. But that’s a double-edged sword. People may be bored because the church service is dull, but the church service may be dull because the people in the pews (and the pulpits) were already bored when they came in. Sadly, so much of what happens on the church scene today is an attempt to capture the attention of people who lead boring lives.
It is hard to understand how a person can really follow Jesus of Nazareth and still be bored. He did not lead a boring life, nor did his friends, nor did those people who have known him best through the centuries. In Bonhoeffer’s words, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” He does not bid him come and be bored.
Jesus’s life was an adventure: exciting, sometimes intense and always meaningful. And the people who really follow him still live that kind of life. We were designed for adventure.
But here is the thing about adventures: “Adventures by the fireside” (as Oliver Goldsmith put it) with a good book are one thing. Real adventures are another. Thornton Wilder was right: When you’re safe at home you wish you were out having an adventure, but “when you’re having an adventure you wish you were safe at home.”
One can’t help but wonder if people aren’t bored because that’s what they’ve chosen. Of course they’d never admit it, but boredom is safer and easier than adventure. Or perhaps they choose boredom because adventure leaves no time for self-absorption and, frankly, they intend to remain self-absorbed. One is never more wrapped up in oneself than when bored.
But boredom is risky. It makes people easy prey to distractions and temptations, from overeating to overspending to adulterous affairs. And it spreads, spreads like a cancer. Boredom reaches into one’s work life, family life, and spiritual life and gradually consumes all its pleasures. As counterintuitive as it seems, adventure is safer than boredom.
To enter the adventure you don’t need a different life, but you do need to live your life differently. You can’t pursue a goal of comfort, prosperity, or security, and hope to escape the stale life of self-promotion and self-protection. Those who do find it necessary to create adventure artificially by going on trips, trekking through the wilderness, or watching action movies. A person who lives for himself has to find ways to introduce adventure into his life.
But if you live for something bigger than yourself, you won’t have to escape the life you’ve been given in order to have adventure. Make it your goal to live for God and to love others, and you’ll have adventure. And not a “fireside adventure” either, but the real thing.
This requires us to make our everyday routine serve a larger purpose, which is exactly what that daring adventurer Paul told people to do: “Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” To do so, as the apostle knew personally, is always a prelude to adventure.
First published in The Coldwater Daily Reporter, June 7, 2014