The antidote to ‘ennut’

Every now and then to impress people I slip in a Latin or French expression. My favourite is a little French word ennui, pronounced ‘ahn-wee’. It describes a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from lack of interest. In other words: boredom. I’ve experienced this state of being at times and I don’t think I’m on my own. I’ve always detected that a not insignificant part of all the congregations I’ve been in, to be suffering from this sense of boredom. On every Sunday morning that I preach, without fail, there are people asleep before I’ve even started my opening lame joke! (I feel comforted by people asleep before I’ve started rather than afterwards.) 

All the fun and adventure is supposed to happen when you are young and in the youth group isn’t it? That’s when you go on short-term missions and find yourself in exotic places doing unusual things. When you settle down and marry you become ecclesiastically domesticated; dutifully and quietly taking your place in the pews on Sunday and in your cosy home group during the week. Short-term missions become reduced to trips to your local Christian bookstore and big challenges reduced to finding the next study series your home group can do.

One of my biggest challenges as a pastor is working out how to energise people in the grip of ennui. Not even my fanciest Power points cut the mustard, nothing seems to work. I’ve concluded that unless people are engaging in activities that require a large amount of faith, ennui is unavoidable. (This is the only reason that explains the fascination so many have with the finer points of the Constitution!)

The ultimate antidote to churches with a significant percentage of comfortable Christians is planting another church. Churches who take the risk of not simply getting bigger and more resourced but instead step out in faith, find that the ‘loss’ of human and material resources is accounted for in the transformation that takes place in the life, energy and faith levels of the existing congregation. Suddenly Christians who have been in pedestrian mode find themselves engaged in a venture that requires a level of faith and industriousness that they haven’t experienced in years. Comfort gives way to faith, ennui to purpose and the net result for churches who plant is gain.

In early March, Crossover sponsored the second annual Church Planting Consultation where church leaders from across our movement gathered to fan into flame church planting. The emphasis this year was on ‘Churches Planting Churches’. Last year we gathered pioneer church planters who go out and start from scratch. This year the emphasis is on encouraging churches to take that next big step and to begin the scary thinking and praying towards using the resources they have as a springboard to planting another church. It requires letting go of precious resources and keeping the bigger picture of the Kingdom in mind. It requires challenging existing congregations to think bigger, pray bigger and to grow and exercise their faith. Our State Unions have invested a lot in church planting and Crossover is privileged to have a Church Planting Representative from each State on our Task Force.

If you detect any ennui and are prepared to start thinking and praying about taking the next big step, call your State representative today. You never know what may happen!

Stan Fetting is the Interim Director of Crossover and would like to apologise to anyone he has put to sleep during a sermon. Prac 12.