Sleeping in Church
Anonymous asks, “I am tired of looking around the church on Sunday morning and seeing so many men nodding off during the sermon. Nothing upsets me more then that. Especially the elders and deacons, don’t they know that they are poor examples to our children when they sit up front and fall asleep? Could you do an article about that?”
Thank you for the idea.
We have all thought it. I have. I admit it. “I can’t believe he is sleeping…” I know it looks bad when people fall sleep during the sermon, and the pastor probably does not appreciate it after all the hard hours he puts into preparing a sermon, but let’s think about this for a second. Is it a sin to fall asleep in church? Perhaps the action itself is sinful, perhaps it isn’t…but I am not going to get into that here, what is obvious is that these men are tired.
The big question is, “Why are they tired?”
Are they tired from staying up too late watching movies or hanging out with friends? Are they tired from having a few too many drinks the night before? If so then, perhaps it is a sin to fall asleep in church. But if you already know the reason they are falling asleep stems from sin, then you are duty bound to address the sin in your brother’s life and not simply get upset that he falls asleep in church.
Now, for some context, I also know that in the questioner’s congregation there are a number of farmers, it is a rural congregation after all. So are the farmers the ones nodding off? Is your brother getting up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday to feed his flock and ensure the predators are kept away?
Hey…that kinda sounds like an elder too…
Was that elder, the one who nodded off, up at the crack of dawn dealing with an issue in the flock or keeping a predator at bay? I think we can afford a little leeway for the farmers and office bearers (imagine if that man is both an elder and a farmer!!). Maybe just poke him or flick a lemon Mento’s at him, he will likely appreciate it! (Just don’t use a slingshot.) 🙂
Is your brother a volunteer fire fighter who was at an automobile accident at 3am? Is that why he is nodding off?
Was your brother out at midnight holding a Bible and a metaphoric shovel, digging through someones struggle with sin? Is that why he is nodding off?
Maybe he is working 2 jobs, perhaps someone was sick, maybe the kids kept him up, was the neighbour’s dog howling all night? I admit that I get drowsy on hot days simply because there is no air conditioning in our church building!
My point is simply this: do not judge someone for nodding off in church.
Talk to them.
Ask them how things are going.
We must love them, not sit there in our pews judging them with haughty eyes. Especially not that super farmer-elder with two flocks of sheep and his own family to care for or that young couple with the colicky baby. We don’t know their circumstances.
Perhaps if an elder or deacon is tired, and since they sit up front for all to see, they could ask the other elder or deacon to poke him if he nods off…or maybe trade off for the next Sunday when they wont be so tired.
Let me clarify, I am not condoning falling asleep at church at all. I believe we should prepare for the worship services on Sunday and do our best to be alert, and receptive to the preaching. Here are some tips I make use of to avoid falling asleep during church. For the rest of us who are not farmers, emergency personnel and so on – feel free to use this list.
- Get a good night’s sleep on Saturday night. Skip that last episode of Survivor, put down your book, and get to bed.
- Do not overdo the alcohol on Saturday evening. (This is good advice for all week long as well.) I used to enjoy rye and cokes a little too much on Saturday nights and on Sunday morning I would promptly fall asleep as soon as the bible text was read…If you want to stay awake during church, having a hangover is not a good place to start. Trust me.
- Pray that God would make us the “good soil” described in Luke 8:15 – not just on Sundays for the preaching, but all week long.
- Meditate on the Word of God all week long. Discipline yourself to have daily personal devotions. The more we drink in the Word, the more we will thirst for it. If you are thirsting for the Word you are not going to fall asleep when it is preached.
- Avoid worldly entertainment during the week. The more we indulge in the over-stimulating, instantly gratifying entertainment of our culture, (things like video games, movies, tv, etc.) the more likely we are going to be “bored” or tune out when a man simply stands up and speaks the Word of God.
- Sunday morning we do well to focus our attention and affection on God. When the worship service begins, focus deeply on the songs, the prayers, the Bible reading and the sermon.
- If you do find yourself nodding off, and it can happen, say a short prayer, refocus on God.
- Church candy. You can’t fall asleep with a mouth full of dubbel zout ( I have no idea how you Dutchies can eat that stuff…) I chew mint Mentos instead. 🙂
I think we can all relate to Mr. Bean…enjoy!