the weblog of Alan Knox

Numbing our souls with church activities

Posted by on May 24, 2011 in fellowship, gathering, service | 34 comments

Numbing our souls with church activities

Church people are busy. Sundays are obviously filled with activities. In most churches, there are also weekday Bible studies, evangelism classes, choir practice, activities for teenagers and children, Moms groups, Men’s meetings, outdoors enthusiast clubs, discipleship classes, and any number of additional activities.

A few years ago, when we started meeting together, we decided to forgo almost all of these programs. In fact, we only scheduled one weekly meeting for the church, and we decided that meeting would take place on Sunday mornings.

Something interesting happened when our calendars began to empty… and our lives became less busy. We had to deal with real issues, personal issues, relational issues, marital issues, parenting issues, financial issues, etc.

Why were people not dealing with those issues before? Because they had been so busy with church activities that they were able to hide those issues from others and, often, from themselves. They were busy doing church things – which were certainly God things, right? – that they did not have time to think about what was really going on inside and among themselves.

In some ways, our souls were numbed to all of the painful issues that we should have been dealing with, because we were so busy doing good things.

In fact, we soon found that even though we were taking part in evangelism classes, we were not really sharing the gospel. Even though we were part of Bible studies and discipleship classes, we were not learning and living Scripture or discipling one another. Even though we were taking part in classes for children, teenagers, moms, and dads, our families were not strong and were not maturing together in Christ. Even though we were spending time together, we were not actually relating to one another.

Our lives and our families and our relationships were not filled with Christ. The only thing that was filled was our calendars.

When we stopped pretending that we were doing good things – that is, when we stopped attending classes and programs – we learned how empty our lives really were, and we began to look for the reality of life in Christ with one another. Now, we had time to love and serve and evangelize and grow and mature together.

This may sound great to some of my readers, but I have a warning for you. Those classes and programs were acting as an anesthetic, numbing our souls. When we cleared our calendars, we did more than free our time. We also disclosed to ourselves, to our families, and to one another the emptiness and pain that was hidden within. This part was not fun.

But, I’m convinced that the church will not grow until we face these hidden hurts; until we accept that we don’t know how to love and serve and evangelize and care and share and grow and mature. We don’t know how, because we’ve never taken the time to learn. We’ve never taken the time to learn because we’ve been too busy doing good things – church things.

But, in reality, those good church things were numbing our souls and keeping us from growing.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-24-2011

    I always appreciate a peek in at real life within a group. This helps to clearly mark the path in the ups and downs of true fellowship in Jesus. It isn’t all love and peace, but obedience to Him in this fallen existence that leads to His love and peace reigning in our hearts.
    Thanks for sharing it!

  2. 5-24-2011

    it seems most churches equate more programs and activities with a vibrant and growing church. But what I have found in reality is that the same 10% of people come to most or all of those activities. We (me included) measured my spiritual maturity with the amount of church activities I attended. I equated spiritual growth with another church program. I may not be sharing Christ with my neighbor, but I’m at church every time the door is open! I agree with you that ‘less is more’. While meeting and interacting with other believers is very important, so is the rest of our Christian walk, like spending time with God, raising a family, living in my community, and working.

    I think, though, that the congregation can insist that the staff keep adding programs since it looks like we’re growing if we do more things. This puts unnecessary and unrealistic pressures on the staff. We are our own worst enemies sometimes.

  3. 5-24-2011


    I’m glad you enjoyed this glimpse into our background. Truly, we still struggle with many of these issues of activities and busyness. We’ve been trained from a young age to accept church activities as obedience to God, and it takes some time to learn otherwise.


    Yes, the insistence on more and better programs can come from leaders or non-leaders. In the same way, the insistence to do away with programs must come from both directions as well.


  4. 5-24-2011

    I do have a lot more time to “focus on my family” and build up other believers. I also find myself sharing the gospel more and more with those who are outside the church because I am around them more. The downside is that people get to know me better and the flaws in my character have become highlighted leading to rebuke and exhortation. Not fun, but nonetheless a necessary part of my growth recently.

  5. 5-24-2011

    some great thoughts Alan, “Those classes and programs were acting as an anesthetic, numbing our souls” is so true. Spot on bro, definitely have seen this.

  6. 5-24-2011


    “People get to know me… the flaws in my character…” Yes. This is what I meant by the programs and activities hiding issues that we should have been dealing with. Like you said, once those things became apparent, you could begin growing.


    Thanks. I’m always encouraged to hear that it’s not just me.


  7. 5-24-2011

    Amen Alan! It’s only now that I’m out of ministry for the first time in the last 8 yrs that I realize just how isolated I was from the issues of life. The Christian bubbles aren’t healthy or real. In fact I think they create a false sense of reality, an illusion that is difficult to see until you’re outside of it. T. Austin Sparks once said, “it’s not what is done for God, but what is done by God that will last.” It’s tempting to keep busy doing things for God and pat ourselves on the back. All good things, but is it what God intends of his people?

  8. 5-25-2011

    Love it Alan. May God continue to shower you with the uncanny ability to convey this truth.

  9. 5-25-2011


    I’ve never really been “in the ministry” in the sense that you meant. I imagine that this would be even harder for those who have been responsible for creating and maintaining programs in the past.


    Thanks. I appreciate the prayer.


  10. 5-25-2011

    Well written Alan!

    I’ve been saying for a few years now that the church keeps God’s people so busy that they don’t have time to do God’s will!

    You’ve expressed that idea extremely well here and I’m glad that you are leading your flock down a different path!


  11. 5-25-2011


    Well, I understand what you mean, but it’s not my flock. But, together with the church and with several other elders, we are all working together to help one another (God’s flock) grow in maturity in Jesus Christ.


  12. 5-25-2011

    LOVE this post! I have personally seen this truth in my own life in the past almost year that I have stepped away from the activities and busy stuff of church. I have discovered a freedom between my heart and God’s as I’ve emerged from the need to prove my relationship with God by how many committees, activities, etc I was a part of at our church. I have found that, at least in the churches I have attended, our relationship with Christ is based/judged on/by how many things we are involved in at the church. Now many people think I’m “backslidden” but I know I’m more free than I have ever been! :)

  13. 5-25-2011


    Thanks. I’m learning that more and more Christians are seeing the problems with busyness and church programs. That’s exciting for me.


  14. 2-20-2012

    Let me just be an advocate for balance here. Having served along side my husband in the small church environment, we have had plenty of open space on our calendars. When there are not enough staff or volunteers to accomplish much as a team — ministry as a church family, it can be depressing. It sounds great in theory, but in our experience, Californians at least, want a busy church with lots of opportunity to engage. I think the church should offer opportunities to connect and the individual should set healthy boundaries as to what is too little and what is too much, finding a healthy balance. Small churches close every day because the people are flocking to the churches that have more going on…it is just a part of the culture.

  15. 2-20-2012


    Our family has been part of large churches and small churches, those with many activities and those with few activities. People do tend to enjoy being “involved” in many activities, and they are often encouraged to be involved. However, in my own experience, this kind of involvement rarely leads to relationships that extend beyond the activities or programs.


  16. 3-21-2012

    I hear all your interests and support them fully. Yet what I seldom hear is teh time spent in prayers, like the daily office, or making that special moments from start to finish of coming together to share the five to fifeteen minutes that are the central meaning on faith. DO not confuse my deisres with that of not supporting all those meeting times.

    One of the key components to the belief practice is where we can take people and give them the reasons to focus themselves in a coffee shop or a restaurant with good food, times and a reason to share the scriptures of any devotional reference, and therefore be as close to God as Jesus all taught us to do. THen you can carry on a complete all those agenda points and discsussions wiht the knowledge that he/she will be as clsoe to faith, hope and grace as you can ever find yourself.

  17. 3-21-2012

    Walk as Jesus did, He was not a church person. He was far too real for the imagined world of pulpits and pews, programs and services. Christ is found in us doing the commonplace, tying a child’s shoe, holding open a door, speaking words of life is the difficult situations that very real people encounter every day. A divorce, and sickness, a lost job, any lonely human. If any man speak let him speak as speaking the very words of God. If any man serve let him service with all of the grace God gives him to serve.
    Be Jesus everyday, He is waiting to live through us. Forget church, it is simply a diversion to keep you from really living out Christ in the real world.

  18. 3-23-2012


    I’m not 100% certain about what you’re saying in your comment. Prayer is obviously very good. However, even prayer can become an activity that ends up numbing souls instead of helping people grow spiritually.


    As you know, in the way that I define church, I believe that Jesus was a church person. In the way I understanding “church,” saying “forget church” is like saying “forget about caring for your brothers and sisters in Christ.”


  19. 3-23-2012

    Alan, I understand that you and I define “church” differently. What I have come to understand is that “church” as defined by King James, and Arch Bishop Bancroft has become somewhat of a self fulfilling prophesy. The church spoken of today is a building, under the control of paid clergy. That is the church I refer to. So what I am saying is forget that, because it is irredeemable, is not of God, and never has been of God. I had an open eyed vision a few weeks back (and no this doesn’t happen all of the time with me, this is the second in 21 years. I saw a very large house symbolic of what we call church. It had many rooms, in these rooms were baby beds with babies in them. Inside the doorway to the only entrance to the house was an old couch with a very large haggard old dirty man sitting on it. This man was the keeper of the house. I understood that he was a demonic principality and it was his job to guard all of the rooms with the babies in them so no one could come and rescue them, the thought occurred to me, if someone could just get past him and get them out, they would start to grow. Then the Lord said you can not go in there and get them out, if you do he will kill you. Only my Angels can go in there and bring them out, and when they do, then yes, they will begin to grow.
    Pretty wild stuff, huh? But I can really see that, the devil doesn’t care a whole lot if people are born again, because babies are absolutely no threat to him. If God’s children can break outside of the “form of godliness but that has no power”, they can and will naturally begin to mature. Then they will no longer be like children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, because they, through exercise, will be able to decern what is the true will of God and move into it. As Galatians chapter four says, an heir is no different than a slave as long as he is a child. When this takes place the true ekklesia will begin to operate in their calling and commission as stated in Matthew chapter 16: “I will build my ekklesia and the gates of hell will not prevail against it, I will give you the key to the kingdom, and what ever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” Names are important in the spiritual realm, Jesus said “in my name you will cast out demons”…well “church” is a name, and it is not the name God chose for His called out community. It was intentionally miss named…So you can guess who chose that name, and it doesn’t take a lot of discernment to see why.

  20. 3-23-2012


    It really doesn’t make sense to say that Jesus didn’t say “church”. Of course, he didn’t; it’s an English word. He didn’t say “love” or “cross” or “God” or “Father” either. In fact, Jesus may have never said the Greek word “ekklesia” either, since he probably spoke Aramaic primarily. The problem is not with the word, but with the way that someone may or may not use it.


  21. 3-24-2012

    Alan,I understand what you are saying, I really do. I did not begin with an end point of attempting to change peoples thoughts about the word church and the set out to prove that point. This has been a progressive revelation from the Lord. It is His explanation of how His purposes have been interfered with by a religious system headed by another head,not Christ. Instead of thinking of church as a word primarily, think more in terms of it being a name. Also the tree called church has not borne good fruit. At best it has been a preemptive strike to keep those who are being born again as infants, by allowing rebirth, but then keeping them under another authority, disconnected from our one true head and that is Christ. That is the reason when people get from the institutional frame work of the imposter “church” they begin to grow. If were are to lead people to full freedom in Christ, I think we owe it to our brothers and sisters to tell them why the church has not functioned as the powerful body of Christ for over 1700 years.

  22. 3-27-2012


    You said, “If were are to lead people to full freedom in Christ, I think we owe it to our brothers and sisters to tell them why the church has not functioned as the powerful body of Christ for over 1700 years.” I agree. That’s why I’m continually pointing people back to how the church (or ekklesia, if you prefer) is described and prescribed in Scripture.


  23. 3-27-2012

    Alan, I agree with your wonderful mission, and am personally benefiting from your writings, and the forum you are providing. I still contend that the word “church” is a road block in peoples minds and hearts.

    What we must have is a complete reboot, not a partial modification of the real problem with peoples Christian experience. The real problem is ‘church’. I do not think anyone has seen this, just like this yet. Martin Luther did not, even the anti-baptist didn’t. Church was not God’s idea, not the name, not the build focus, not the religious spiritual atmosphere inside of the buildings, or even the religious atmosphere associated with the mere mention of the name ‘church’. The name ‘church’ connotes something false, unreal, religious. As we know the real kingdom of God is powerful, and transformative. So in my understanding, the path the Lord has started you on can not be completed until we take on the imposter, beginning with her name.

  24. 6-8-2012

    Great post – as always. However, I am not sure if numbness is the right word, or at least not the only word. I would add, distracted, deluded, perhaps even deceived. Now, I do think programs can be good, provided they…

    ~Inspire or cause growth/change and action/follow-through

    But, I do think that, as said, we can be so busy with programs that we lose time for what God is saying for us to do. I believe we are deceived into thinking that the programs are doing God’s work (of course, if God says to take part in one, do so), whether it be by leadership or simply our own thinking. I like the example of taking evangelism classes without actually doing any outreach – classic.

    I have been caught in this rut. I cannot deny what I learned and I am grateful for what God has shown me through it all. But I am tired of spinning my wheels, doing the “church thing”. I am seeking the Lord on more practical, Kingdom growth activities. I would rather build people than fill a classroom – well, if that classroom is full of people being built, that is a good thing, really.

    Am I clear on this?

  25. 6-8-2012

    Shared this on FB and getting good responses to it, Alan. Thanks for re-posting.

  26. 6-10-2012

    Thanks again for the comments and for sharing my post everyone!


  27. 1-7-2013

    Interesting! I seem to agree with your observation because the soul matters to God rather than the good things we do. When you said your church emptied your calendar with activities that keep church people busy, I’m wondering what the people are doing during the week to feed their souls before the Sunday corporate gathering. Is there any guided personal daily Bible study provided for them or sort of? Thanks for sharing your researches…I’m impressed with your scholarship.

  28. 1-7-2013


    The brothers and sisters who I know and spend time with regularly do many different things to have their souls fed throughout the week, including Sunday. Often, these activities include other people as well.


  29. 3-31-2013

    Today is the first Sunday that the Christian World celebrate the remembrance of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The church service was done last night hence I have time once again to enjoy my resting day and reading this post with many interesting comments. I really love it.

    Always keeping oneself busy is the culture of western countries. People don’t like to stay still in quietness. People love noise, noisy and exciting music and fast action. Therefore, people also expect to have compact church activities to fill the gaps of their life. If one do not want to staying in line with the fast-track lifestyle then he will be left out of the game. The moment of stillness in quietness is seen as lost time and unproductive.

    I love the following statements:

    1)Christian life is defined as continuous interaction with one another:
    • Esther: I always appreciate a peek in at real life within a group. This helps to clearly mark the path in the ups and downs of true fellowship in Jesus.
    • John: “‘less is more’. While meeting and interacting with other believers is very important, so is the rest of our Christian walk, like spending time with God, raising a family, living in my community, and working.
    I do think programs can be good, provided they…
    ~Inspire or cause growth/change and action/follow-through
    I am seeking the Lord on more practical, Kingdom growth activities. I would rather build people than fill a classroom.”
    • Bobby: “Not fun, but nonetheless a necessary part of my growth recently.”
    • Beth: “Our relationship with Christ is based/judged on/by how many things we are involved in at the church.”

    2)Christian life is to fulfill God’s Will:
    • Craig: “it’s not what is done for God, but what is done by God that will last.”
    • Tony: ” Christ is found in us doing the commonplace, tying a child’s shoe, holding open a door, speaking words of life is the difficult situations that very real people encounter every day.
    They, through exercise, will be able to discern what is the true will of God and move into it.
    As we know the real kingdom of God is powerful, and transformative.”

    3)Christian life is discover God within oneself:
    • Beth: “I have discovered a freedom between my heart and God’s.”

    My preference is to start from the bottom of the above list to the top. I mean:
    • Learn to know my God
    • Learn to know His Will
    • Serve other people as serving God to fulfill His Will.
    But all three of the above are parallel development in our life as one is helping the other two at anytime.

    The church system, a demonic system as described by the dream of Tony Roland to dwarf the growth of Christian faith (Gal 4:1), or to distract, or delude, or deceive the faithful from God as per John’s words, has been planted in the world for over 1,700 years. Who will be able to reboot the world? Even Jesus didn’t attempt to reboot the Jewish Church, so who are we to think of that work? Jesus was a Jew, and he knew that his mission was not to abolish the Jewish Church system and its laws (Mat 5:17; Rom 3:31) but he came into the world to open a new fulfillment of God’s plan for the redemption of the world (Mat 16:18-19).

    The same for us, those who can recognize the deceiving church system, we shouldn’t attempt to abolish it. Firstly, because we all have our birth in it. Secondly, God didn’t commission that work to us (Mat 13:29). Yet when mentioning about the deceiving aspect of that church system to our brethren, we already receive many lashes and condemnation as heretics (Mat 10:34-36). Do we have the courage to drink the cup that Jesus drank?

    Isn’t it better to stay humble and carry out our daily tasks to fulfill God’s Will, is it? If God has taken anyone of us out of that church system, then we should leave that work into God’s hand to carry other ones at his choice.

    When Tony revealed his dream, I remember to have a dream as follows:

    On Sunday 8th of August, 2010 at 4:30 AM, 6:00 AM and 6:30 AM, I had a vision in my sleep, 3 times, of the rain of fire from the sky down to earth. That dream has a meaning but I don’t know. The holy scriptures read on that Sunday in the church has mentioned about the return of the Son of Man at an hour that we least expected (Luke 12:32-48), and God’s wisdom will protect His chosen peoples (Wisdom 18:6-9). It is our faith that will give us the shelter when the fearful events of the world happen (Hebrew 11).

    The first time, 4:30 AM, I just finished the service in a crowded church but very messy. I was on my way home when black clouds suddenly appeared with fearful lightning and fires raining down the sky. I was desperately finding a shelter when a mysterious woman let me slip through the door of a house to escape.

    The two following dreams, at 6:00 AM and 6:30 AM, I was on the road for my ordinary activities when the same clouds, lightning and fire came, but I took refuge myself in an “empty church building”.

    What does it mean the “empty church building”, I still can’t find its meaning. I wish to be able to consult the prophet Daniel for the meaning of that dream.

    Anyway, don’t be distracted by my story. For conclusion, I believe we should all carry out our daily life with whatever God will call us for. We just live happily, joyfully in Christ, with Christ and for Christ. This will be enough for the strength that His Holy Spirit will sustain us (Eph 3:16).

  30. 4-2-2013


    Thanks for the comment and for sharing more of your story. I really like this: “I believe we should all carry out our daily life with whatever God will call us for.”


  31. 5-7-2013

    Believe it or not, our home fellowship also found ourselves numbed, not with programs but with what I might call un-programs.
    Though we were highly unstructured compared to hierarchical or mainline churches, we were very busy as a church; probably much busier than most churches. We considered ourselves to be Spirit led, scripture directed, and we found ourselves burnt out. Clearly that wasn’t the Lord.
    Several times we re-grouped, usually going on meeting fasts, activity fasts and often food fasts, replacing work with prayer, recreation with quieter group activities.
    When my wife and I and a few other families were forced out of that fellowship after almost 30 yrs, we had to relearn how to be together.
    In the 13 yrs since, we have had less than half a dozen planned meetings of any kind, and in fact, we decided to re-invent our lives, starting with no preconceived notions of church at all.
    If you were a fly on the wall of our home, you would not see a repeat schedule of much of anything churchy, but you would see 3 of our 4 kids
    still at home actively engaged in the lives of many others, treating one another with affection and kindness, prayerful, playful and intently applied to their studies, chores and hobbies.
    We don’t get regularly planned fellowship, but we often get it unplanned, wrapped around sports, outings, birthdays, BBQ’s and of course fellowship.
    I prefer this life, as it is seamlessly integrated with all of our home lives, as families and friends.
    I suspect that’s more like the early church lived, and when they called themselves the church, or used terms like meetings, or titles like elders or deacons, they were not innately talking about them the way we have learned and practiced them.
    I think the way to loose this morbid self conscious and introspective church lifestyle many feel trapped in is to simply drop it to the degree that a consensus among you determines is comfortable.
    It takes time and permission to lose the fear and guilt, or the keep busy, keep talking mantra.
    I thank the Lord that my children don’t have to ever detox from that kool aid trip.
    Their kingdom understanding and tempered expectations of others are already up to par with my wife and I because they have not, and would not put up with fluffy time filling, time wasting programs or busy work.
    They are all on a mission to live for God, each other and others.
    That’s good enough for me.

  32. 5-8-2013


    I agree completely. I appreciate you sharing how even “unprograms” can become so programmatic that they numb our souls.


  33. 6-17-2013

    Resting ‘in’ Him we find that ‘in’ Him we move and have our being…not our doing

  34. 6-17-2013


    Interestingly, I think the rest that we find in Christ includes serving others. Of course, we can also do acts of service without resting in Christ.



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