Even the greatest preachers have had people sleep on them. It can say more about the sleeper than it does about the preacher. Don’t get me wrong many men in the pulpit certainly give cause for sleeping during a service for preaching the Word in a boring manner. Sometimes one is left to wonder if the pastor is even convinced that it is God’s Word he is proclaiming. However, if the Word is being heralded, than every effort must be made to listen. After all, no sane person would fall asleep in something so important as a job interview, would they? Why do we think differently with a church service that should be centered on the preaching of the Bible?
I fear there are many reasons why people sleep during a worship service. As I mentioned above, we pastors sometimes preach in a boring manner. We can treat the sanctuary as if it is a classroom. Other times we are too concerned with imparting information without having meditated on the truth(s) of the message so as to be moved in our souls of what is being revealed by God. When the Word is proclaimed in a boring manner that only communicates to the congregation that it is not worth fighting the heavy eyes to pay attention to the message. We must not bore them to death. The Word of God is not boring so let’s not preach like it is.
I fear that many do not understand what is happening when the “man of God” is in the pulpit speaking on behalf of God. They think he is merely suggesting things to make their lives practically better or that he is there to entertain them to keep them interested in the things of God. If they are not getting these during a service off to sleep they go. Now, again, pastors are partly to blame for this since they have catered to these demands and even sought them out. They want to hear the praises of the people and one of the easiest ways to get them is to humor people. I cannot recall how many times I’ve heard someone say ” I really love pastor so and so because he is really funny!” Folks there’s a place for humor in life and perhaps even at times in the pulpit but the gathering of God’s people for worship is not about humor and being entertained. Woe to the pastor that deliberately tries to be funny to entertain and woe to the people that go to a service seeking to have a good laugh. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says it perfectly:
I would not dare say that there is no place for humour in preaching; but I do suggest it should not be a very big place because of the nature of the work, and because of the character of the Truth with which were dealing. The preacher is dealing with and concerned about souls and their destiny. He is standing between God and men and acting as an ambassador for Christ. I would have thought that as that is the overriding consideration, the most one can say for the place of humour is that it is allowable if it is natural. The man who tries to be humorous is an abomination and should never be allowed to enter a pulpit. The same applies to the man who does it deliberately in order to ingratiate himself with the people.*
We do not gather for worship to be entertained and the preacher must not feed that desire. As Cotton Mather wrote:
The great design and intention of the office of a Christian preacher are to restore the throne and dominion of God in the souls of men; to display in the most lively colours, and proclaim in the clearest language, the wonderful perfections, offices and grace of the Son of God; and to attract the souls of men into a state of everlasting friendship with him.*
There is more to say and perhaps, Lord willing, there will be a second part. Soli Deo Gloria!
For His Glory,
*Lloyd-Jones, Martyn, Preaching And Preachers ( Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971), p. 241
*Stott, John R. W. (1994-01-01). Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today (p. 31). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. Kindle Edition.