This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Christian life isn’t a spectator sport! Certainly, reflection and meditation are important elements of a life of faith, but not to the exclusion of action. Martin Luther called people who hid behind spiritual reflection to keep from taking a stand for Christ cowards. What would he say about some of us today?
Many of the commands in the Bible are simple, direct calls to action. Love sincerely, forgive those who hurt you, help the weak, associate with the lowly, study the Scriptures, give generously, speak words that build people up, and reach out to the needy, to name just a few.
When we take action, we take risks. With the risks, however, comes the opportunity to see God do amazing things, and seeing God work is the greatest thrill in our lives. Will we do it right and for the right reason every time? Of course not, but we won’t have the opportunity to fine-tune our actions and motives if we’re not moving forward.
Don’t miss out on the incredible joy of seeing lives change. Reach out, give a helping hand, and speak up for Christ.
Feelings follow actions. So when you don’t really want to or feel like doing what needs to be done- do it and then you will feel like doing it.
In our churches today, far too many define faithfulness by how often they attend church services, participate in activities or become involved in what the church offers in the way of programs. Most of this is being in the audience. We come to listen to the choir or music team provide songs and singing for us. We come to hear what the teacher can teach us or what the preacher can tell us. We are happy that someone has cleaned the building and we have a parking space. We are happy to belong to a church that offers relevant ministries. In our world of technology, we are happy that we can use search engines to compare churches when we are shopping for just the right place to attend. Our search input is usually geared to what the church will provide for us and our family if we choose to attend. The migration taking place in the church is driven by the search to find the place that offers me what I feel I need while at the same time not asking anything from me. It’s the demand that what I need will be available when I choose to take the advantage of it and it will be available whether or not I am a regular attendee. When we see ourselves as spectators, we know the game will be played whether or not we show up, so showing up isn’t a priority. When we do show up, however, we expect the team to be on the field, at the top of their game, and provide for us an hour of entertainment. If the team doesn’t measure up to our standards(we are always comparing to other teams) we have no issue changing stadiums. When we’re just spectators so we have plenty of time to critique the coach or the players. We all know what should be done and for the life of us we can’t understand how the team missed the obvious play. But when we come out of the stands or out of the recliner and actually engage in the game, we find out that it doesn’t always go according to our perfect world perception. We learn that players get tired, they miss a play, their view isn’t from a box high in the stadium, it’s the small view from their position on the field so they might miss the big picture. We learn that the players aren’t on the field because they are necessarily the best. They are there because they have a passion to play and even if they aren’t the best, they don’t want to sit the game out in the stands or on the bench.
When Christ designed His church, He didn’t include bleachers or recliners. His church is made up of only players who are involved in the game. Think about when He called the twelve to come follow Him. He didn’t call them to come watch Him fish. He called them to follow Him so that He could make them fishers of men. They weren’t called to inspect the catch and award the trophy. They were called to catch the fish. They weren’t even called to clean or sort the fish. Christ would do that. They were to keep fishing. As we read the Gospels, we find the disciples being engaged and involved in the work with Christ. When He fed the multitude, the disciples were required to seat the crowd, to break the bread and fish and pass it out and then to collect the leftovers. When Christ turned the water into wine, the servants were tasked with filling the water pots. Nowhere do we find Jesus calling spectators. As a matter of fact it was those who were and remained spectators and not followers that became subject to the whims of a mob. Many of those who had observed the work of Jesus as a spectator were also those influenced by the religious leaders to demand His crucifixion. It wasn’t just the twelve who Jesus called to action, but the Seventy who were sent out with the message and to work the work of Christ and we read they came back rejoicing because God had worked through them. And His last conversation to the five hundred was instructions to get in the game.
Many churches are struggling, declining and divided because they are made up of more spectators than players. Every spectator thinks that they are a better player than the ones on the field but they don’t have the time, energy or passion to go to practice and workouts. It’s easy to sit in the recliner, remain out of shape, and in reality not be able to do as well as the worst player and yet find fault.
One of my dear friends served as a MP in Vietnam. We have to remember this was in the sixties and there was an extreme amount of prejudice between blacks and whites. The draft board and the military didn’t assign soldiers to units based on their color so both groups were placed together. My friend said that it was amazing how the soldiers reacted in battle versus how they reacted when they were on R and R. His job when they were engaged in battle was non-existent for in battle everybody in an American uniform was a brother no matter their color. On the battlefield, they covered for, fought for, cared for every person in the unit regardless of who they were. It when it came time to go behind the lines for rest and recovery, that conflict, prejudice, stereotyping, separation and even violence broke out. The same guys that the day before fought beside each other, carried each other off the battle field, gave aid and help when needed were now literally at each other’s throats and the MPs were required to try to keep them from harming their fellow soldiers.
Let’s apply this to us as the people of God. As long as we remain spectators, conflict and division will be in the room. As long as we sit in our recliner, we can afford to be critical. As long as someone else is carrying the ball we can tell them how they ought to run. But the minute we truly become Christ followers, we get so focused on our contribution to the team that we don’t have time to judge another player. We’re just glad we aren’t facing the whole opposition on our own. Christianity is a participation activity. Everyone invited is expected to play. One of the things I know about almost everything including Christianity is that we may know the plays but putting them into play is a different matter. As a amateur mechanic, I can tell you that just because you know what the repair manual says doesn’t mean you can fix the car. As a limited ability musician, I can tell you the just because you know a guitar chord doesn’t mean you can play it or play it well. You have to get your hands involved.
We can sit as spectators and become experts in the rules of the game but we will never win the game unless we become a player on the field.
Going to church, reading the Bible, believing in God isn’t enough for the devil himself does all those things. But experiencing a hands-on life change, a hands-on participation in worship and service, choosing to make church the place we go to minister and to learn how to minister more intentionally and effectively, and moving from recliner-theory to field application will change our perception of the Church Christ is building.
If you have found yourself critical of what the church is doing, what the team is doing, or what is lacking, choose to be a contributor/player rather than a spectator/critic. We just might be amazed how a losing team becomes champions. It may feel good to spectators when their team wins the game but they have no idea how much more good the players feel about their accomplishment.
We all have a choice. We can be critical drainers or we can be encouraging players. The choice is ours to make and that choice will determine where the whole team stands at the end of the game.
Dr. John Thompson