The phrase “playing church” is making the rounds in the religious community. The phrase indicates that the Lord’s Church simply isn’t “real” for many so-called “Christians.” What does this really mean? How can we tell when someone is “playing church?” Better yet, why don’t we start with ourselves; how can we tell when we’re “playing church?” Let’s go back to the days of our youth (well, MY youth anyway; you can go back to your youth on your own time) and try to understand some basic elements involved in this idea.
I will not get to go home today.
It is 5:29 PM on Wednesday afternoon, and I am still working at the office; I’m trying to wrap up a few things for tonight’s bible class, and I’m trying to finish a few things that I would typically do on a Thursday (this article, for example). I am doing these things today because tomorrow is going to be a very busy, emotional, and challenging day for our Buford church family.
Tomorrow at 5:00 PM, we will gather here at the church building to honor and remember our dear brother, Nicholas Smith. Nicholas was tragically killed this past Saturday morning in an automobile accident on his way to New York. Nicholas - along with his girlfriend, Abby, and several other friends from Harding University - was on his way to do mission work during his spring break. It was not his first mission trip, and it probably wouldn’t have been his last. After hearing the horrible news about Nicholas’ accident, his family left in the middle of the night to drive to Louisville KY, and spent 3 very difficult days attending to Nicholas’ affairs.
This past Sunday, you may have noticed that several of our pews in the auditorium had been slashed, sliced, cut, or otherwise vandalized; there were nearly a dozen pews affected, and so far, no one knows anything about how it happened. No one has come forward to confess, and no one has any suspicions or theories about who might be responsible.
When it comes to who may have damaged the pews, it is currently a mystery; and it may remain a mystery, indefinitely. We may never know.
Webster’s Dictionary defines the term “involved” as, “committed or engaged”. Whether it is politics, sports, relationships, or any other area of life, we all understand this concept of being involved. In fact, regardless of the specifics of what we might be involved in, there are a few basic ways to measure that involvement:
In Luke 17:11-19, we read the account of Jesus and the 10 lepers. When they saw Jesus passing by, they said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Jesus then told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests”, and as they went, they were all cleansed of their leprosy. As they realized that they were clean, 1 of the 10 turned back to express his thanks to Jesus. It seems obvious to me in this story that we have 10 people who were given a great gift from God and that 9 of them were [in any visible, noticeable, meaningful way] unthankful for it. I often wonder why those other 9 didn’t return to thank Jesus. Let’s speculate together for just a moment as to what each man may have thought to himself:
As we continue our study of Romans 14, let’s take a look at one of the questions that has come up:
“Is the ‘stumbling block/hindrance’ in verse 13 a reference to ‘hurting someone’s feelings’, or is this a more serious spiritual offense?”
According to Rom. 14:13, Paul says that a decision should be made by those who are “stronger in faith”. This group of Christians was/is encouraged to make a conscious decision and commitment to “never” put obstacles in the way of their weaker brethren. But what exactly is this group deciding to do, or NOT to do? Are they deciding that they will never do anything that will hurt the feelings or upset the spiritual “comfort” of their weaker brethren? Are they committing themselves to never say/do anything that – in our modern way of thinking – would “offend“ their weaker brethren? If this were the case, wouldn’t we be perpetually “handcuffed” by the preferences and comfort zones of weaker Christians? Would the Church not simply become a “field of eggshells”, where we must constantly cater to the desires and comforts of those who really need to grow up in their faith? Would we not become encouragers and enablers of the weak, instead of challenging them to grow in the understanding of their faith?
As we pick up our study on Romans 14 and what it does (and doesn’t) teach about offending our brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s do a quick review of what we learned last week:
FACT #1: There were people who were “weak in faith”
FACT #2: There were people who were “stronger in faith”
FACT #3: There were issues that were “matters of opinion”
FACT #4: These issues were NOT to divide God’s people
Based on these facts, what are some things that we can learn and apply to our lives today, as 21st century Christians who live in a culture that is highly sensitive to “offending” anyone?
When was the last time you offended someone in the Church with something you said or did?
How far are we supposed to go in our efforts not to offend our brothers and sisters in Christ? What exactly is the meaning of terms such as “stumbling block” and “hindrance” as they are found in passages like Romans 14:13 (ESV)? Is there a point at which we should say something like, “Well, they’re just going to have to get over it, because it’s not wrong!!”?
I have been doing my daily Bible reading from the book of Acts lately, and one of the things I have noticed is that the apostle Paul faced a number of challenges in his mission to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This week, I’d like to focus on the challenge of PERSECUTION. We are given a fuller list of Paul’s persecutions in 2 Corinthians 11, but for the purposes of this brief article, I’d like to focus on just one account from Acts: Paul was stoned. We are told about this stoning in Acts 14:19-20 and we are told that the Jews “stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.” (vs. 19)
Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to travel most of the globe. Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America, North America, and the Austral Realm.
Its hard for me to believe all that I've been able to see and hear. Languages with clicking. The first foreigner in a mountainous remote village in central Asia. Underground churches in China and Cambodia. Churches thriving in Sicily and the USA. Hit men, mafia, thugs, murderers. Mothers, daughters, sons, fathers. Friends and enemies.