Playing Church

August 11, 2019
by Diane Eaton

1 Corinthians 13:11 – When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. (NIV)

When I was five and my brother was four, we'd play church. We dressed up just like the grownups. My brother was the minister, and I was the organist. He'd stand on the kitchen table with a book in his hands (often upside-down) and preach his heart out. He delivered his sermons with passion and conviction. Then, he would baptize my dolls at the bathroom sink using the precise wording that he had heard in church. I "improvised" on the family pump organ, with my feet barely reaching the pedals. My brother and I did a superb job of playing church. Truly, it does not take a Master of Divinity to administer such clerical duties as pronouncing a benediction. My four-year-old brother did it perfectly — even with the correct inflections.

Learning to do church is easy. It's easy to become a Presbyterian, Baptist, Pentecostal, Catholic, or a house-churcher. It might even be easy to succeed in seminary. Comparatively, it is infinitely harder to be what God calls us to be. It's hard to take the Scriptures seriously for our own lives. It's hard to love and forgive our debtors as we've been forgiven. It's hard to admit our sinfulness and centre our lives on grace. Our pride simply won't let us become "a fool for Jesus" (2 Corinthians 12:11). Consistently living by faith in our sovereign God is hard to do. Why? Because that's unnatural to human nature. It's far more natural to keep on "playing church" — just as folk were doing in Jesus's day. Jesus said:

Mark 7:6b – These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. (NIV)

Likewise, we will cling to our church-playing tendencies until we learn to "put childish ways behind" and take responsibility for our relationship with Christ.

God often uses church disappointments to accomplish the transition. The process is never easy. The loss of what matters to us can make us feel angry or discouraged. When we resist, we find ourselves fighting against God's program for us. Our church-playing tendencies must lose their grip before we can fully embrace God's immeasurable promises in Christ.

Paul learned how to "play church" well, with an impressive religious heritage which he deeply valued — until he found Christ. That's when, comparatively, his heritage depreciated in value, and he could declare:

Philippians 3:7-8 – Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. (NIV)

Perhaps you yourself grew up in a wonderful Christian heritage which you still value. The question is: Has Christ become of greater value for you?

Prayer: Lord, help us to accept our losses, religious or otherwise, that we may experience the full measure of our gains in Christ. Amen.

About the author:

Diane Eaton <d.eaton@bmts.com>
Paisley, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Wise words, Diane.


    This was an interesting devotional.


    Excellent, Diane. Thanks for this important message.


    Diane, Thank you for such a clear and powerful message that we all need to hear. May many blessings come your way.


    Thanks, Diane, for sharing this devotional with us and the reminder not to play church but be totally committed to Jesus Christ! Blessings.


    Today’s writing is exactly what I want to say in church today. I hope you don’t mind if I share it with the congregation. I will credit the words to you. Thanks.


    Thank you, Diane. So much of what we do at church is simply due to tradition. I pray that we remember that the only important tradition is our relationship with Christ.


    You have a gift, Diane, to put your thoughts (and those of others) into meaningful and appropriate words.
    Thank you.


    Thank you, Diane, for your consistent and dedicated teachings. I always look forward to your thought provoking messages.
    (ON)


    Really thought provoking! Last night I filled out a questionnaire church. I couldn’t quite put my finger on ‘what could we do to help us grow’ but the more I think about it, the more apt your words seem to be. Thank you. Blessings.


    Dear Diane,
    What a great message in your use pf scripture and illustration. As young as your brother was, your parents must have set and provided sincere examples. Praise God for the things he hath done.


    Great devotional today Diane ‘Playing Church.’ I was wondering when he grew up if your brother ever became a Pastor, or you a church organist.
    Your devotional probes deep and allows us opportunity to confront ourselves with some soul searching very important questions. Thanks!


    Hello Diane,
    So cute your description of you and your brother playing church. I could just visualize the scene! On the serious side, yes, it is so important that we do not just give lip service to Jesus but give Him reverence from the depth of our hearts. Thank you for this devotional and blessings for the special writings you submit.
    (B.C.)


    Thank you, Diane, for sharing this. Sometimes I feel I am just going through the motions of doing church rather than being the church Christ called us to be. Since our church closed we have gone to many churches and we could easily be welcomed in them all but we want to find a church where it is not the same old same old but a church that after the service talks about Jesus, is in his Word and in fellowship. At this point we help where the spirit leads us and when the Holy Spirit directs us, we will become members. We pray for God’s wisdom in our church denomination but in the end, we know it is in God’s control.


    Diane: greetings Jesus our Lord. Wonderful devotion. Yours always are
    (Ontario)


    Hi Diane, what an insightful message! I also loved how you wrote that your brother held his book often upside-down as he preached when you two played church as children! So sweet!
    Blessings.


    Diane, your thoughtful devotion stirred memories.
    When “my happy gang'” were little, a church service was often performed.
    On one occasion, while visiting the grandparents’ farm, our oldest was the minister.
    Everyone was seated and all went well till he was to lead the Lord’s Prayer.
    Somehow the words left him.
    Not to be deterred by this lapse, he promptly announced that the service was over
    because the time was up.
    My mom could hardly keep it together.
    What ingenuity of the human mind, no matter what the age!

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