Each Saturday night, church members worked to set up our “sanctuary” in the Jazzercise Studio. Chairs would be set up. A keyboard and portable sound system was moved in. Our makeshift nursery was put in the office and church was ready to begin. It was crude but it worked. We also had to live with the standard items that usually make up a place like a Jazzercise Studio. There were the mirrors to contend with and the large soft drink machine that was situated inconveniently right behind the pulpit.
That Sunday morning, this family, who had never been in church in their lives, filled a whole row of chairs in the back of the church. For the next thirty minutes the kids and parents squirmed as we sang songs that they had never heard. Then I began to preach.
As soon as I opened my Bible the youngest member of that family began to cry. The mother became frustrated with her child and decided that the only thing to do was to get the little boy something to drink. So, she proceeded to walk down the center aisle, with the small child in her arms. She walked right past me and proceeded to purchase a soft drink. As I preached away, she plinked her coins into the machine and then selected the drink. We all heard the can travel down the chute and then with a pop she opened the drink and had the child drank it all the while standing behind me! Then, the child let out a loud burp and the mother and the now satisfied child made their way back to the seat. Later, one of my faithful members shared that he certainly understood her dilemma; after all it was a dry sermon!
You see, sometimes church can be long and boring. Sometimes, even the best of saints even fall asleep in church. Many people work long hours, or they are on medicine that causes them to sleep. Sometimes, the sermon is just not that interesting to them!
A prominent member was sawing logs during my Sunday morning sermon at one of my former churches. He was a well respected attorney and a personal friend but always fell asleep in church. That morning I decided to call on him to pray. Now he was in such a deep sleep that he had begun to snore and this was disturbing us all. You see, he was a rather large man and when he snored, you couldn’t help but hear it. At the end of my sermon, I called out his name loud enough so that even he could hear and asked him to lead us in prayer. Immediately, his wife elbowed him in the ribs and he cried out in a startled voice, “What?” His wife whispered in a rather loud voice, “The preacher has called on you to pray.” He lurched to his feet and stumbled through this prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep….”
I have been preaching through the Book of Acts on Sunday night. In Acts, Dr. Luke (the author of Acts) gives the account of a young man, Eutychus, who fell asleep in church with tragic results.
The Apostle Paul was preaching in Troas. He was going extra long and the room was hot and stuffy. Eutychus had worked all day and was tired. The long sermon plus the hot room soon took a toll on him as he sat in the window sill of the third floor meeting room. As he fell asleep, he tumbled out the window to his death on the street below. Thankfully, tragedy was averted and God allowed Paul to perform a miracle as he brought the young man back to life (see Acts 20:1-16).
You see, falling asleep in church can be dangerous. Now most of us are not in danger of falling to our death in church, but we are in danger of falling asleep in church in other ways. It really doesn’t bother me if someone falls asleep in my sermon. I know that people are often tired when they come to church or they have health issues that can cause this. What concerns me are the other ways we can fall asleep in church. For example there are many who sit in church Sunday after Sunday with their eyes wide open but their souls asleep.
Why are people asleep in church?
1. Many are asleep in church because they have never been awake. They have grown up in church but they don’t have a relationship with the Lord. They like to go through the rituals and traditions, but they are not walking with God. They may be religious people, but they have never given their lives to Christ. They have never been born again. It is possible to pass from this life to eternity without recognizing your slumber until it is too late. Have you ever been truly awake?
2. Sin, a compromising backslidden state, is the next reason some are spiritually asleep. These people have been born again, but have slipped into a spiritual coma. Many Christians have fallen into the depths of sin even though they attend church. They are spiritually and morally asleep.
3. Familiarity is a third reason for spiritual slumber. We get so used to the holy and we take it for granted. Constant familiarity with holy matters dull people to their significance. Many have been raised all their lives in church and knew the doxology before they knew their times tables. We take the holy for granted. We become bored in church.
The solution: Take a personal spiritual assessment.
1. If we have never been truly awake we must ask God to help us believe. We must come to a place in our lives that we go from just believing facts about our Lord to having a personal relationship with Him.
2. We must confess our sins to God and ask for forgiveness. We must repent, do a u-turn, and allow the joy of the Lord to refill us.
3. We must battle familiarity and seek to participate with worship with all of our heart. When we sing, we need to shut everything out and sing to the Lord in worship. As others pray, we must pray with them in our hearts. As the sermon is preached, we must listen to what God is saying to us. The driest of sermons and the weakest of preachers can be used of God if the listener is hearing what God has to say through the Scriptures. Wake up!
Dr. Dennis R. Culbreth is the Senior Pastor of Jasper’s First Baptist Church www.jaspersfbc.org.