Posted by: thebylog | August 28, 2006

Duty and Stuff

Some time back, Tom commented on the length of a church service he had been a part of. He was politely taken to task by a couple of people who pointed out that many times Christians in other cultures willingly participate in marathon worship services, presumably because of their deep-seated interested in spiritual growth.

My question to those who would aspire to the same thing in our culture: do you really want to sit through a three-hour sermon, or would you only do so because you know that it would be the “spiritual” thing to do?

Further, does it matter whether you want to or not? Do you derive an equal amount of spiritual maturity by listening to someone speak for three hours because you want to as opposed to doing it because you feel you should?

I think these questions speak to an important, general question in Christian living: What do you do when there is something good set before you to do, but your heart wants to do something else?

A couple of possible correct answers might be (1) “Do the good thing” or (2) “Change your heart,” but if the first answer leads us to a lifeless existence of drudgery and duty, or the second answer seems practically impossible, there is a real problem.

Practically speaking, I live my life doing mostly (1) but with aspirations to implement (or should that be “to allow God to implement”) (2). I have found joy in doing the good things in some cases; in others I haven’t. I think the best course of action in most cases involves doing what is clearly better even when you really would rather do something else. You can work on your heart while you’re doing good things.



  1. I wonder if we make it too complicated sometimess. We decide that this area or that area needs to change but when we really get down to it we don’t have the power to change. I have found that what makes the biggest difference in my life is seeing God’s heart and passion for me and then simply responding to his love with love.

    Maybe I have oversimplified it, but God rewards us as we come to him with a tender open heart!

  2. I’ve pondered this question in the past. Over the years I’ve attended quite a few services that became marathon affairs. While some of them extended because they were packed with solid content, others consisted of unfocused rambling. One thing I have learned, is that I am limited by the amount of information I can process. When I listen to a message I look for the application, the part I can carry with me. I try to look at quality, not quantity (time). Most of the messages I have heard that extended beyond an hour could have been communicated in forty-five minutes or less.

    With this being said, I strive to be honest with myself and God. I have left services before they finished. I have mentally rolled my eyes when a long-winded speaker say “in conclusion” for the fifth time.

    I ask myself, is a long sermon like ham? You see, I really don’t like the taste of ham. But every time I am a guest and ham is served I “enjoy” it to be polite. Should I treat a long message the same way? I know God is not fooled as easily as a cook. . .

  3. Perhaps “clearly better” is not always so easily defined. Maybe sitting through the long service isn’t clearly better.

  4. First of all, let’s realize that a Convention session, while having some similar goals as a worship service, is somewhat different. Byran, I think your comment about our degree of “want to” is a key. Many people I know, who rebel at the thought of an hour and a half service, will spend two hours or more on hard seats at a ball game and think nothing of it. They get caught up in the excitement. Perhaps we need greater excitement about God and His people.
    One thing I try to keep in mind at a Convention is that while I may not have a strong personal interest in everything that happens, I surely don’t want to be an distraction to those who do. That way, we can all benefit.


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