The Stand

January 15, 2011 — 5 Comments

Early on Thursday morning I was sitting on my couch, reading a book. Finally, after staying up way later than I should I have, I finished Stephen King’s 1142 page tome, The Stand.

Have you ever read one of those books that you just couldn’t put down? This was definitely the case for me. Especially as I steadily approached the end. Like most good novels, the plot subtly grew in suspense all the way until the end. This tension usually rises to a certain point and you decide that you just have to stay up and finish the book, no matter what. This typically happens for me somewhere between 65-80 percent of the way through the book, depending on how gripping it is.

Now there’s nothing wrong with this for most books. 65-80 percent of 400 pages leaves about 80-120 pages to read in that last sitting.

Not so with The Stand.

By about page 700 all I wanted to do was finish the book… but I still had over 400 pages left! To make matters worse, I’m not the fastest reader of the bunch. At best, I was reading about 30 pages an hour. I had close to 15 hours to finish this book.

So if I looked tired to anybody this last week you now know why.

I couldn’t help myself, though! This book was just so engaging. The characters were so intriguing, and I felt I had come to know each of them with incredible intimacy over the course of the book. I simply had to know what would happen to them in their struggle against the Dark Man.

There were multiple nights where I forced myself to go to bed only to find that I kept reviewing scenes of the book in my mind as I tried to fall asleep.

Since finishing this great book I’ve had some reflections about church.

What if our experience at church were so engrossing that we never felt like we had enough?

What if we found that no matter what we did throughout the week, we couldn’t help but think about getting back to church, or learning more about God’s word? How often have we been eager to lose sleep in order to find out what happens next in the Bible?

Even as a full-time, paid pastor, there are some Sunday mornings when I really struggle with getting out of bed to go to church.

Why is that?

Why is it easier for me to lose sleep over a novel that will collect dust on my shelf after it’s read than to spend time with the Creator of the universe who loves me more than anything?

Why do I find myself looking at my watch when a sermon goes over 22 minutes while I’ll easily spend 22 minutes comparing differences between the plot of a book and its movie counterpart on Wikipedia?

I ask these questions not to make us feel guilty, or to claim I’m having some sort of a crisis of faith. I would just like to know the answer.

Is church really that boring sometimes? Have we really made it that much of a routine that we no longer feel surprised in worship and we get annoyed when we are surprised? Are we so filled with sin that we just don’t appreciate God as much as good movies, TV shows, books, or games? Have we put God in so small a box that we don’t expect him to do anything exciting or really life-changing any more? Is Sunday afternoon football that much more transformative than discovering God’s vision for our town or country?

So how do we make a change? It’s one thing to point out an issue and leave it at that. It’s another to offer solutions to the problem. I don’t suggest that I have an ultimate solution, but I do have one suggestion.

At the beginning of this year our church has begun a new initiative called Pray Always. Through text messages, emails, phone calls, the website, or church bulletin inserts we are offering short daily devotions. They are related to the topic and text of the previous sermon. This program is very encouraging to me.

Though I don’t pretend to be an expert on the pursuit of God, I have noticed that my passion for following Jesus is directly influenced by how frequently I spend time with him. The more I’m talking to God and listening to his word in the Bible, the more I find myself thinking about him throughout the day. I seem to notice what God is doing around me when I’m spending time with him. It almost seems like I’m looking for what God is doing more often.

But that’s just my suggestion. What do you think would make church more exciting? In what ways have you found it difficult to stay motivated in your relationship with God? What can we do to get just as excited about worship as we do when we are waiting in line to see Harry Potter 7 part 2? Feel free to let me know in the comment box.

Austin

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I'm a pastor, writer, speaker, husband, father, and follower of Christ, to name a few titles. You can find my contact information in my About page.
  • dave

    well i thought I had the answer for you, until you mentioned HP7 P2, so now i’m still at a loss

  • Bret Miller

    Hey Austin, long time no see. You pose a very good question, I myself have found it difficult to pay attention at church. I’m easily distracted in general and staying in one place too long has never been my forte. I have to really want it for any absorbing to take place. It comes down to pride for me. Giving my own attention and thoughts a priority over the words God would gave me hear and what he would have me feel. Def an ongoing struggle and one that takes absolute control and effort.

    • austindhill

      Good to hear from you, Bret! You are right. Sometimes it just takes discipline, pure and simple as that. People always say that anything worthwhile isn’t always easy. I guess that applies here, too.

  • Patrick

    I just read this post for the first time, and my first reaction was: I bet he figured that reading time out using his calculator watch…

    miss you man!

    • austindhill

      Haha. You wouldn’t believe this, but I don’t wear my calculator watch any more! I had an epiphany a couple years ago. I realized that my cell phone does all the sweet functions that my watch did. So I bought a trendy, stylish analog watch instead. But God knew better and I actually lost that watch like 8 months later… Then I just bought a $12 Casio at Walmart. So I think I actually just used mental math.
      But yeah, man. I miss you to. Last weekend I was at a youth ministry concert and saw a worship-ish band called Gungor. I thought of you and thought you’d like them. Check them out.