Playing Church

Anne Ortlund writes:

When I was little we used to play church. We’d get the chairs into rows, fight over who’d be preacher, vigorously lead the hymn singing, and generally have a great carnal time.

The aggressive kids naturally wanted to be up front, directing or preaching. The quieter ones were content to sit and be entertained by the up-fronters.

Occasionally we’d get mesmerized by a true sensationalistic crowd-swayer like the girl who said, “Boo! I’m the Holy Ghost!” But in general, if the up-fronters were pretty good they could hold their audience quite a while. If they weren’t so good, eventually the kids would drift off to pay something else – like jump rope or jacks.

Now that generation has grown up, but most of them haven’t changed too much. Every Sunday they still play church. They line up in rows for the entertainment. If it’s pretty good, their church may grow. If it’s not too hot, eventually they’ll drift off to play something else – like yachting or wife swapping.

-Sermons Illustrated November/December 1988

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In his book Harvest of Humanity, John Seamands told this story: “A German soldier was wounded. He was ordered to go to the military hospital for treatment. When he arrived at the large and imposing building, he saw two doors, one marked, ‘For the slightly wounded,’ and the other, ‘For the seriously wounded.’

‘He entered through the first door and found himself going down a long hall’. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, ‘For officers’ and the other, ‘For non-officers.’ He entered through the latter and found himself going down another long hall. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, ‘For party members’ and the other, ‘For non-party members.’ He took the second door, and when he opened it he found himself out on the street.’

‘When the soldier returned home, his mother asked him, ‘How did you get along at the hospital?’ ‘Well, Mother,’ he replied, ‘to tell the truth, the people there didn’t do anything for me, but you ought to see the tremendous organization they have!'”

The soldier’s comment describes many churches in our day: really organized, but accomplishing little.

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“Live churches are constantly changing.
Dead churches don’t have to.
Live churches have lots of noisy kids.
Dead churches are fairly quiet.
Live churches expenses always exceed their income.
Dead churches take in more than they ever dreamed of spending.
Live churches are constantly improving for the future.
Dead churches worship their past.
Live churches move out in faith.
Dead churches operate totally by human sight.
Live churches focus on people.
Dead churches focus on programs.
Live churches are filled with tithers.
Dead churches are filled with tippers.
Live churches dream great dreams of God.
Dead churches relive nightmares.
Live churches don’t have “can’t” in their dictionary.
Dead churches have nothing but.
Live churches evangelize.
Dead churches fossilize.”

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