Playing Church

THEM: We’re doing the Lord’s work.

ME: You sure? Cuz it looks suspiciously like a bunch of people doing busy work to maintain an organization they created for their ego.



Churches like to keep people busy. If people are busy in church, then the church is doing something and the people are doing something. Doing something is the sign of things being done. And if things are being done in the church, then those things being done must be good.

The church convinced people that service to the Lord only takes place at church. Therefore people now want their every spiritual desire turned into a church sanctioned event or included in a church service with church approval.

But here’s the thing: you don’t need the pastor or the church’s approval to do ministry. Just go help people.

As a pastor, the guy in charge of what’s going on in the church, I began examining the results of our busy-ness. There were very few, if any, spiritual results. In fact, some of our stuff seemed to be having a negative spiritual effect.

I called out our church over concerns I had with our youth program, which was successful by external measures. Every year we begged people to volunteer because we had so many kids coming. We needed bodies to fill roles. Eventually our standards for leadership dipped so low, I had to pull the plug.

I told the church, “It is impossible for spiritual leadership to take place if there are no spiritual leaders.” I told the church that we were not doing our youth program until we get our act together as a church.

My hope was that people would rally and ask what they could do to help each other grow and defeat sin. Instead, half the church left.

That was a learning experience for me. I found out that people don’t want to take spiritual responsibility; they just want to be busy pretending to be spiritual. Don’t call out anyone. Don’t point out that the emperor has no clothes.

People don’t want real spiritual growth; they want the allusion that they are spiritual. They don’t want to love their actual neighbors; they want the church to do that. We can then feel good about going to a church where someone else will love their neighbors, or at least we assume someone is being loved somewhere at some time in some way.

I’m not wired that way. I want reality; I don’t want to play games.

The main purpose of the church is to build believers up into Christ so they can go out and do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). As each member is built up and does ministry (service for others), the whole Body is edified.

1 Corinthians 3 says there will be a judgment on all the stuff that people have built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. I take this to refer primarily to what was done in the church. How did you build on it? What did you do in there?

There are a lot of programs and human wisdom at work in the church that appear successful. People are proud of what they’ve done. Buildings get bigger, lists of names get longer, events flourish, and egos are stoked. “The Lord has really blessed us.”

Has He? Or are you just applying human energy to a human program devised by human wisdom? Are we building with wood, hay, and stubble, or are we building with silver, gold, and precious stones? Will our busywork survive God’s judgment fire?

Our impressiveness and busyness are no substitute for real, actual spiritual work. The allocation of our resources is greatly skewed on this issue. We will pay dearly. We already are.



And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
Mark 13:1-2

4 thoughts on “Playing Church

  1. Great article. So well needed and that is what I have seen since I started ministry 30 yrs ago. I had all I could do to cancel jr Church here. A battle.
    But we are slowly seeing things. Love your articles.


  2. So true. I tell my church, “The easiest place to be a good christian is at church. The hardest is out in the world.”
    I encourage them to spend as much time away from church doing work as they do at the church.
    Sadly, if we’re not careful, it can turn into our own country club.


    1. Most people think the only place to do spiritual stuff is in church. As long as I’m doing nursery duty or being an usher I’m nailing my Christian commitment. Church is to equip people to go out and do the work of ministry.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s