I told several close friends, including my pastor, this weekend that “I am tired of playing church”. I recognize that, at first glance, this may come across as an indictment of our church and/or The Church. It is neither! It is about me expressing my thoughts and feelings after much introspection and prayer. It is a challenge to me and calling me out along with anyone else who may feel the same way. It is also a plea to anyone who may be caught in the world of consumerism Christianity and are seeking their own comfort. Maybe, a better way to say what I’m feeling is that I am tired of it being okay to play church.
Let me say again that this is not a bashing of the church where I am privileged to serve as an elder. We are a Bible believing, Bible teaching community of folks who love Jesus and love people. And, as long as Jesus Christ sits on the throne as the head of The Church, His mission and ministry will continue here on earth. The problem is that too many people occupy a seat on Sunday morning (in our church AND every other church in the country) and they have no idea what it means to be a part of The Church-The Bride of Christ. They have no desire to serve others, to disciple others, or even a real desire to follow Christ as we are really called to.
We live in a culture that says it’s all about me; It’s all about what I can get, what I want, what I think I need, what can you do for me or what have you done for me lately, etc. It comes down to how can we manipulate everything around us for our benefit and comfort. Me, me, me! I, I, I! Self, self, self! Our lifestyles outside of the church on Sunday morning look no different than the rest of the world. People who say they love Jesus have bought into the lie that they do not have to die to self, daily.
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” ― Brennan Manning
If we profess to love Jesus and claim to follow him, we should look completely different than the culture and the culture should look at us and know that we are different. We should be as counter-cultural as Jesus was, and is still. We should be the ones shouting “Here I am Lord, Send me!”, we should be the first in line to help the “least of these”, we should always “count others as more significant than ourselves”. We should abandon the thought that our life is our own, and embrace the fact that we belong to a Gracious Savior who desires intimacy with us and wants to use us to share with the world the Good News of the Gospel.
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
Nowhere in scripture are we told to seek our own comfort, to get as much as we can, or to serve ourselves first. But, we have become a culture of, as Kyle Idleman says, “fans instead of followers”. We like Jesus for what we can get, but the second it becomes a little uncomfortable, we don’t like Him so much. We have made church, serving, and devotions something to check off of a to-do list so God (and others) will see how good we are. We have turned prayer into a way to manipulate God into serving us and giving us what we want and think we need. We even have a few scriptures memorized so that we can throw them out at the right time to show the world how spiritual we are. We have said mission, discipleship, and just caring for others is not our job. We have been playing church for too long and it has got to STOP!! The Gospel we say we believe and the gospel we share are two very different things.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
It is sad that people outside the church look more like Christ followers than the people in the church. It is sad that non-believers and new believers do more for others and their community than a large percentage of people sitting in church on Sunday morning, giving the preacher an “Amen” so that everyone around will hear. If you are showing up at church or helping out with a service project just so you can get your ticket punched, please stop! If you are living a different gospel than the one, true Gospel, please, at the very least, tell people that it’s your version of the gospel.
If, on the other hand, you do these things because you are so in love with Jesus they are the natural outpouring of your heart, then let’s stop playing church and start BEING The Church! If you have been transformed by the love and grace of Jesus, then let’s stand together to show and share that same love to a broken world! If you are more concerned with making Him known than you are with your own comfort, then please join me and say “Enough is enough”! Together, let’s tell the “fans” that it is no longer okay to play church and show them what it looks like to BE THE CHURCH!