Why is Church Exhausting When Grace is Exhilarating?

There is an interesting discussion at SBC Voices on Sunday Night Church. Bart Barber shares his conviction that it is indeed a blessing instead of a burden. Some, in the comments, confess that it is often more of a burden. I know many that would echo this comment from William Thornton:

I cannot count how many people have told me they were relieved when their church dropped the evening service and made their Lord’s Day more family and rest oriented.

This quote got me to thinking. Why is church exhausting when grace is exhilarating?

While I believe doing life together isn’t a thornless rose, I also believe that it ought to be life-giving rather than draining. When church is cancelled we shouldn’t celebrate because our stupidly busy schedules are now a little more relaxed. We should be saddened because we now have to do without a life-giving resource until we meet together again.

So why is it that we view church as fatiguing when it ought to be energizing?I’ll try to answer this from the pew and from the pulpit.

Pulpit Problems

1. Legalism It could be that folks are weary of coming back to church on Sunday evening because our time together is everything but life-giving. If the sermons are filled with “stop this, be better, do more” it’s not surprising that people wouldn’t want to come back that evening to be strapped down with more burdens.

2. Production It’s also possible that our services are often so performance oriented and stressful that it becomes everything but relaxing. When your time is spent fretting over transitions, chord progressions, spotlights, and a host of other things it is no wonder that you leave the sanctuary taxed. Not to mention discouraged, because that friend you invited didn’t come forward at the end of the service—and in your mind you’re wondering if you’ll get another shot because that Sunday’s production wasn’t all that smooth.

3. It’s Hard Work And let’s be honest, if you are on staff or have a significant role in what the church does on Sunday morning/evening it is work. It can be draining. A snow storm can cause you to celebrate a “day-off” just as much as the next guy.

Pew Problems

In one sense you cannot separate pew problems and pulpit problems. Trouble in the pew is often a problem of proper discipleship. And a problem in the pulpit is perpetuated by those in the pew. Nonetheless, there a few things that are more pew problems.

4. iExperience Is it possible that our customization of everything has an impact on church? If I’m not able to tailor the service to my own likes and needs—but I can go home and watch the shows I want, listen to the music I want, read the Bible passages that I want, etc.—which do you think will win?

5. Busy, Busy, Dreadfully Busy Sunday evening is the last bit of “weekend” that we have to wind up our motors for the next week. A clean house, an empty slate of homework, a jump on the grocery list, or a plan for Monday’s work problem can seem more energizing than hearing a sermon. Of course this too is telling. What energizes us? Performance. Or the gospel?

6. Getting the Family Out If you have little kids you know how difficult it can be to leave the house. To do this two times in one day can seem like a burden to great to bear. Staying home is easier. When you factor in other things it seems like a much more compelling option.

7. Relationships Living life together can be difficult. Let’s be honest, though we share a common Lord we often don’t share much anything else in common. Relationships at church can be a drain.


From the pew side of things we often view church as more a thing to do than a vital life-giving necessity. It’s more like an event and less like a meal. From the pulpit side of things we can easily view what we do as more of a production and less as a time to feed the sheep.

Church ought to be exhilarating because Jesus Christ is life giving. Churches should major on exalting Christ and presenting Him. If church is exhausting it’s because somewhere along the way Jesus is missing. Maybe Christ isn’t the center of your relationships. Perhaps something else has taken the throne in the center of the church’s teaching.

Let’s major on Christ and see what happens to our desire to gather together.