Comic 9 27 burnout

I’m burnt out… I think.

After I finished my time as preaching pastor this past Easter Sunday, I took two weeks off from going to any church. A sensible move I thought since it had been along time since a weekend wasn’t marked by anxiety and stress. I went last week but not this morning. I’m just burned out. There is another factor though, which is that my current church is not necessarily the place I want to be right now. I love the people and the community of friends I’ve developed over the years, but they meet in a movie theatre and it just doesn’t cut it for me anymore. Ryan over at the Emerging Anabaptist, who attends the same church (but a different site, we’ve unfortunately yet to meet in person), wrote a bit about the pitfalls of meeting in a movie theatre. One of his points certainly holds true for me:

No Sense of Sacred Space

There is something to be said for liturgy of presence. Where you are definitely changes the vibe of a worship gathering. In some ways it can be good, especially for those who aren’t used to churches, as I mentioned above, to be in a non-traditional building. At the same time, though, I definitely think there is a degree to which people approach going to church in the same way that they approach going to see a movie because that is what the setting is obviously reminding us of.

Let me be clear: like other Anabaptists, I do not believe that any space is actually more sacred than any other. What I do believe is that we inevitably bring all our senses into worship with us and that is a good thing. When our sensory perceptions are saying “this is a setting where you kick back and be entertained,” it is harder on a subconscious level to be focused, to be open to hearing in what ways you need to work hard at in following Jesus, and in general to be in a worshipful state.

This effect really shouldn’t be ignored, even in the unchurched generation. If you’re doing worship gatherings in a theatre or other non-traditional venue, do what you can to still make sure it feels different, as a place of spiritual growth and strong community rather than individual entertainment.

If I were to sum it up in one word, I would say there is simply a lack of reverence in the services. I don’t mean they don’t love God; they absolutely do. But as far as liturgies go, it’s as low as you can get. It feels almost more like a university lecture than a worship service. This works for some people; a lot of people in fact (their current attendance across their sites is about 6-7000 people), but I find liturgical services in a traditional church building more beautiful and worshipful. There is something about a space where everything is designed to point you to God and teach you something about Him before a word is read or a song is sung.

Preaching every week is tough and frankly right now I feel like what I don’t need is too feel like I’m back in the classroom. I need to see God’s love expressed through beauty and silence. I don’t get either of these in a movie theatre setting, at least not how our church structures their services.

So, I’m trying to think of how I can recover and be ministered too in a church I don’t really feel attracted to. We will see.

3 thoughts on “Burnt

  1. As a “Mennonite Catholic” I can easily identify with what you’re saying here. The Mennonite congregation that baptized me is definitely on the more liturgical end of the Anabaptist spectrum, which I love – but even so, in the Catholic liturgical aesthetic I found something I’d been missing, which I think you’ve hit on well in your reflections about a sense of sacred space that nourishes reverence. It reminds me somewhat of Marlene Kropf’s observations, in her dissertation on singing as sacrament, about the deep resonance of the anomalous Mennonite hymn, “In thy holy place we bow”.

    I’m also reminded of an anecdote I read once – in a Goshen College advent devotional, of all things – about a rabbi whose son kept going off into the woods. The rabbi asks his son why he goes into the woods, and the son replies, “I go there to find God.” The rabbi says, “But don’t you know that God is the same everywhere?” And the son says, “Yes, but I’m not, you see.”

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