written by Geo Ng
You stayed up late the night before. The professor turns off the lights and turns on the PowerPoint. But his only power is to point you to the wonderful world of unconscious dreamland.
You wake up from your dream of butterflies and ninjas. What? Five minutes passed? Alright, no more falling asleep.
The next lecture, you’re determined to stay awake, no matter the cost. You bring snacks to eat and gum to chew. You’ve got your doodling pad, or if you’re a 21st century type of kid, you’ve downloaded a new app to fiddle with. You stay awake, and learn… absolutely nothing!
I’m actually quite peeved when people proudly announce, “I stayed awake for the WHOLE lecture!” Staying awake isn’t an accomplishment. If your grand accomplishment of the day is staying awake during your one hour chemistry lecture, you probably lead a painfully uneventful and underutilized life.
Staying awake isn’t your educational goal; learning is. You don’t pay twenty thousand dollars a year to stay awake. If your only wish is to stay awake, you could pay two dollars for some energy drink straight from Willy Wonka’s Chemical Factory, and boom, wish granted. No, you go to class to learn.
I bring this up because the pathetic goal we set for class has unfortunately become our pathetic goal for church. I hear far too often, “At least I stayed awake during J-Mac’s sermon.” Child, please don’t waste the pew space. Staying awake isn’t enough! You’re sitting within shouting distance of one of the most skilled preachers of your generation, and you’re proud that your brain didn’t turn off! Bravo.
No, we seek more than just consciousness during church. We seek to educate our thoughts, to nourish our souls, and to challenge our walks with God. We listen to sermons to learn more about the great God of this universe, not to play the stay-awake-game. Church isn’t meant to challenge your abilities to stave off Mr. Sandman; it’s meant to challenge your ability to serve the Christ whom you love above all else.
I fear we underestimate the importance of church. We’re too easily satisfied with too little. We think God is pleased when we dress up and sit in the pew, even if learn absolutely nothing. We hope that information enters our brain through osmosis and our brain is some sort of semi-permeable membrane of knowledge. I’m sorry, that’s not how it works.
Preaching affects our lives only if we pay attention and listen. Of course, the Holy Spirit helps us along the way, but if you’re concentrated on your gum chewing and your drooping eyelids, you’re not giving Him much to work with. Perhaps a little prayer asking for His aid would help more than some minty chewing rubber.
The Jews in Nehemiah’s day rejoiced when the Word was read. 3000 people repented when Peter preached at Pentecost. The Bereans searched the Scriptures. Sunday morning at church continues a 2000-year-long lineage of Christians gathering to learn about our Lord, and every Sunday, intelligent Bruins slog through it like a chore. What a shame.
Sleep earlier. Take notes. Flip through cross references. Test the pastor’s claims for truthiness. Read the passage ten times over. Ponder applications. Discover that nugget of truth to carry forever. Allow the Holy Spirit work in your heart, through His Word and through His preacher.
Please, I urge you, pay attention at church. Strive for more than mere church consciousness, strive to challenge and feed your soul.