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Pastor’s Desk: Substance, not sizzle

Posted on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 at 1:58 pm

Marcus Blair, pastor, Cornerstone Baptist Church

Acts 20:7-12

Eutychus is famous for being the kid who got so bored during a marathon church service that he fell asleep, fell out the window and died. That’s horrible on one hand, but it’s also a little funny at times because if you think you’ve endured a long-winded preacher, think again. And then after they raised Eutychus, they ate supper and Paul kept on preaching till dawn!

Pastor Marcus Blair of the Cornerstone Baptist Church.

Pastor Marcus Blair of the Cornerstone Baptist Church.

You know, this story has been used for some pretty outrageous teachings over the years. I found an old pamphlet that was written to young people basically saying, “You better not sleep in church or be lax in your spiritual life, or you’ll end up dead with a broken neck!” I do not think this story is a cautionary tale against sleeping in church. If you’re that tired you nod off, I’ve seen it a thousand times, and I suppose I’d rather you sleep here in the Lord’s house than somewhere else.

I’ve also seen it used as a warning against long-winded preaching. Don’t bore your congregation or something awful could happen! That’s true, I’ve sat under some preaching that would make you bang your head against the pew, it was so dull. And it’s awful, isn’t it, when a preacher can take something as exciting and powerful as the Word of God and put people to sleep with it. Such a preacher needs to seriously reevaluate his approach or even his calling, in my opinion.

But to me, there’s a much more profound lesson here than any of the humorous stuff. I took a step back from this story and God showed me something I think is pretty profound. This can be a snapshot of the church of today. We have youth literally falling out of the church and into the streets.

We’ve all seen the stats: when high school ends, nearly 60 percent of youth quit the church. Sixty percent! Some of that is just moving to a new town for college, or having to work a lot. But still…multiple studies out there prove that young people are extremely likely to give up and fall out the window.

Why are they falling? Like Eutychus, they are bored. Can we make church unboring for kids and youth? Yes, but churches go about it all wrong. They buy a fog machine, or a laser show, or a rock band, or mood lighting. If a church wants all that stuff, have at it, I don’t condemn. But to me, they’re trying to add sizzle where youth want substance. Youth want to experience God! They want to see that the Lord is real. And if the church can’t show them that, it doesn’t matter how many guitars and foggers you add to the sanctuary. If the church people don’t experience God and walk with Jesus, how can they show a real God to the youth? At that point, we’ve become an empty show and no longer a place where the glory of God dwells. For the full column, visit www.firesideguard.com.

Churches become convinced they need to change the packaging, failing to realize it’s all empty boxes.

There’s nothing wrong with modernizing the church’s approach a little. We added a TV to the sanctuary and it’s been nothing but positive. But when we get focused on all the external stuff, and don’t show our youth how to pray, how to read the Bible for themselves, how to hear from God, how to walk in his way, we have lost our very reason for existing.

That’s why youth are becoming like Eutychus. For the complete column

and dying in the streets. They’re so bored because they can’t find God in their own church. We need substance, church, not style. A living God, not dead details. Smells and bells, rock and roll, stained glass, or bare white walls. Church is church when God is there, not when certain window dressing of man’s choosing is present.

So we need to be creative and compassionate toward our young people and kids. As a church, we need to have plenty of youth activities to keep those we have from falling out the window. But what do we do about those who have fallen out, fallen away? Do we just write them off and say, “Oh well, the world got them.”

Paul was willing to go get him.

It’s not enough to look down and say “oh how pitiful.” Get off the high horse, get down into the streets, down to that level, and reach somebody. Reach them with grit, and with tactics, and with a heart full of love. Get the life back in him, pick him up from that dead state. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a million times: Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people ALIVE. See, Paul brought to Eutychus what he really wanted: not a long winded sermon, not more church, but an encounter with the living God.