August 20, 2017

Sleeping in Church

George Stiekes

And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight… And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft and was taken up dead. Acts 20:7, 9

In reading this, I felt sorry for Eutychus. I remembered a man who worked two jobs and often fell asleep in church. We do not know the schedule of Eutychus the week prior to his being in church. Verse 8 reveals that there were many lamps in the room. The burning of the lamps may have used up much of the oxygen in the room, making everyone tired. Their flickering could have even had a hypnotic effect.

I included verse 7 today because it clearly noted the meeting of the church on the first day of the week. This became the common practice of the early church. Upon the first day of the week let everyone of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come (I Corinthians 16:2). A set time facilitated an orderly procedure in the church.

The meeting was in the evening and extended until the early morning. This reveals the make-up of the people who composed the church. Some would have been slaves who had probably worked since dawn and had free time in the evening (Colossians 3:22; I Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:9). It may be that some were being persecuted for their faith and found going to church in the evening more secure. Spiritually, it would be clear that they found worship and the study of the Word of God a high priority.

Eutychus listened to the sermon until he could no longer keep his eyes open. Nature took its normal course and we only remember Eutychus because he died falling asleep in church. How would you like to be remembered after you leave this earth? I certainly do not want to conclude that long sermons can be very harmful. We should note that Paul did not apologize for the length of his sermon.

I was reminded of a missionary who used to preach to people behind the Iron Curtain. Up to 400 people would manage to get into a house and stand up to four hours to listen the preaching of the Word of God. It would be fairly difficult falling asleep standing up.

Having preached for more than 45 years, I can tell you that the view of the audience from the pulpit area can at times be very interesting. It is not unusual at all to see bobbing heads, note passing, expressions of boredom, talking and a number of other strange facial expressions. I suppose if the sermon is shallow, obviously unprepared, sleeping is not all that bad. However, if a person can stay awake for hours watching a football game, it seems reasonable that one could stay awake during a forty-five-minute sermon.

It all boils down to this? How great is your desire to understand God’s Holy Word? How great is your desire to truly worship God? How much do you really want to develop your relationship with God?

If something terrible happens to you while sleeping in church, I cannot promise any miracles as was the case with Eutychus. But, I would encourage you to look forward to the preaching of the Word of God. Take notes and meditate later on what was preached and ask God if there are some things that need to be changed in your life as a result of the messages given at church. The psalmist delighted in the word of the LORD and meditated upon it day and night (Psalm 1:2).


George Stiekes held successful pastorates in churches in Michigan and Washington among other places. He currently resides in North Carolina and blogs at Reverent Reflections. We recommend his ministry and republish his material by permission.


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