By "gospel" I mean the whole counsel of God that invariably centers in the proclamation of repentance and the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ Jesus. It's the message that directs hearers to Jesus, not primarily as friend or guidance counselor – and certainly not as buddy!, but to Jesus as the Savior of sinners.
If a church is not preaching the pure gospel and administering the sacraments faithfully "in church" (that is, during the public worship service), if Christ can barely be seen behind the personality of the preacher, if the church is serving a heaping helping of chaff and only the tiniest bit of wheat, then a person who goes to that church may well conclude that he's not getting much out of it. There isn't much of value to be gotten.
But what if the church is preaching the pure gospel and administering the sacraments according to Christ's institution? What if Law and Gospel, rightly divided, fill the service from start to finish and the life of Jesus is being handed out abundantly in the means of grace – and the churchgoer still feels like he's not getting much out of church?
If that is the case, then there's a good answer posted on the WELS Q&A, and we heartily recommend this article to our readers: Feeling Close to God.
Here's a snippet from the end of the article:
- "…the way to enliven worship isn't to repackage it as a pep rally or rock concert. The way to enliven worship is through a lively sense on everybody's part that God is here in the means of grace, offering himself and his pardon to guilty sinners—and we know it, not because we can feel it, but because he promised it."