The Paper Pulpit

Sep. 29, 2013 @ 04:58 AM

Imagine yourself sitting in the football stadium of a major university on an autumn Saturday afternoon. Depending on where you are, there could be up to 100,000 people sitting all around you. Both you and they bought tickets and are in the stadium for one reason only — to watch the game.

Many of them wear their team’s colors, cheer and second-guess the coaches, referees and players. If they were down on the field wearing full football gear, they would view everything that is happening from a different perspective. But they didn’t come to play. They came for one purpose only — to be spectators.

They would not dare go down from the stands and out onto the playing field. First of all, they are a long way from being in the kind of physical condition required to play a rough contact sport. If they ran out on the field while the game was going on, they would be promptly ushered out of the stadium by policemen. They are in the stands where they are supposed to be because they are spectators, not players.

Spectators are important to a football team. Their enthusiastic cheering encourages the players. The money they spend buying tickets pays the bills for the team. Following the game they may take pictures of individual players who were involved in the game, but that is all that they can do. They are spectators.

Having said that, let me draw your attention to another place where you will find lots of spectators — at church! But now it is Sunday morning, not Saturday afternoon. People file in and take their places in the pews, sing rather than cheer, pray rather than stomp their feet, and sit to listen quietly to a sermon that hopefully is strongly based on a passage from God’s Word. Then one hour later, they get up and go home.

But wait. Where is the team, the players? The players who participate in the work of God’s kingdom are supposed to be in the pews. Guess what? They are — every Lord’s Day. To be in church on Sunday morning could be compared to a football team in the training room.

The training room is where plans are made for the game which can only take place out on the playing field. Just as football players leave the training room and go out where the game is played, it is God’s will that Christians following the hour of worship go out into the community to share the good news of God’s love and minister to human need in His name. We cannot do those two things effectively if we are spectators only.

Spectators at a football game are not allowed to go out on the field of play. However, Christians are both allowed and encouraged to leave the pews and go out on the playing field — which is the community around the church. In fact, it is expected by the Savior Himself. Christianity is not a spectator sport.

God has a game plan for every church and for every individual Christian. It is not His will that his followers settle for being mere spectators. You can find God’s game plan in the New Testament in Matthew 28:18-20. Those who accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord are commissioned to go into the entire world to spread the good news of God’s love. And the stakes are high — eternal life. There is no way others could possibly know about God’s love if those of us who call ourselves Christians settle for being spectators only.

If you claim to be a Christian, here is the one question above all others you should ask yourself: “Am I in the game, or am I just a spectator?”

The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.