by Rick Chromey
I had a rude awakening recently.
I was diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea. My snoring evidently shook walls, rattled nerves, and tested love. A sleep study revealed dozens of interruptive episodes every night. My brain was starving for oxygen, choked off by a fleshy appendage that closed my trachea whenever I relaxed in slumber.
My doctor outlined how sleep apnea is a silent killer, erasing years off a person’s life. I was a prime candidate for early death. I was also constantly tired, moody, and suffered from morning headaches. I tried all the anti-snoring gimmicks, but nothing worked. The final solution was a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to constantly pump oxygen into my nose and mouth while I slept, keeping my trachea clear.
CPAP therapy changed everything. I now sleep all night, awake without headache or tiredness, and no longer snore. I’m also extending my life.
Can I be blunt? I think the American church suffers from ecclesiastical sleep apnea. This silent killer is choking her influence in postmodern culture. It explains our tiredness, grumpiness, and Sunday morning headaches. Our obnoxious snoring is the evidence. We don’t know it’s a problem because we’re asleep in the Light, but our culture hears it and turns a deaf ear. We literally can’t breathe.
The oxygen we (and our culture) so desperately crave is authentic community. We starve for friendships, hunger for family, and thirst for stimulating interaction. Unfortunately, few churches today create community intentionally (we think we do, but that’s where we’re dozing). From our songs to the sermon, people listen passively. We sit and soak. We watch and wait. We snooze and lose.
I believe the solution is to CPAP our programs, classes, events, and worship experiences to engineer conversation, open opportunity, and forge friendships:
Creative! People thrive in creative environments, and at one time the church was the center of creativity. The arts were celebrated. Stained glass cathedrals indoctrinated. Paintings and prose informed. Muse and music inspired. When the church recaptures all the arts, not just music, our culture will awaken and find us beautiful again. Creativity also inspires community and forges friendships. We are more innovative together. No artist is an island.
Participatory! We live in an interactive culture. Everyone’s talking. Mobile tech creates instant communication. The church was originally a hub for interactivity. In 1 Corinthians 14:26, Paul says: “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” Church was for everyone to participate, not just a few on a stage.
Affirmative! Church should be positive space. Many churches refer to their worship area as “the sanctuary.” Exactly! A church gathering should be a safe place where people are edified, encouraged, and equipped for ministry. Church should make you feel good spiritually. You should leave inspired more than perspired. It’s not a workout as much as a look up.
Personalized! Not everyone will like everyone else. Friendships can’t be legislated, programmed, or forced. Essentially, church needs to honor individual tastes and temperaments with respectful invitations into authentic friendships. Community is messy. Relationships spark, bite, flow, move, dance…and die. A church worship experience should invite interaction but also recognize not everyone, every week, will experience satisfying interactivity. Ultimately, community happens naturally.
I’m convinced that when the American church invests in authentic communal experiences, we’ll awaken to a new day. We desperately need to reimagine what it means to embrace community. Our future depends on it.
We can’t afford to snore much louder…or longer.