A Spectator in Your Church

Are you a spectator in your own church? What I mean to ask is whether you watch what’s going on or whether you participate. Perhaps you are like many believers, adopting the mistaken idea that church is a place to go on Sunday, when its convenient. And when you go, you sit down to observe what’s going on. While there, you might engage in some small talk with a handful of other people who treat church the same way. And if you’re really doing well, you might mumble your way through a few of the hymns. You might even put a few dollars in the offering! But is that what God intends?

According to the Christian Post:

There is a secret inside many churches. According to researchers Scott Thumma and Warren Bird, most churches – mega-sized and small, black and white – are actually run by 20 percent of the congregation. The other 80 percent, they say, tend to act like spectators: they are minimally involved and attend infrequently or not at all.

This unfortunate observation betrays God’s purpose of the church. Church is a group of people, transformed by the gospel, who gather together on a regular basis to serve, not to observe. This stated purpose not only reflects the perspective of our Lord Jesus (Mark 10:45), but it echoes the very words of Paul as he describes the mission of every church member (Eph. 4:12). Yes, the New Testament knows nothing of a spectator church. Instead, it paints a beautiful portrait of a church that serves God in holiness (1 Pet. 2:9) and serves one another in love (Gal. 5:13). Does that describe how you participate with your church?

The New Testament knows nothing of a spectator church.

How can you now whether or not you are a spectator or a servant in your church? Perhaps the following diagnostic questions will help you discern if you are a spectator more than one who serves:

  • Do I refuse to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?
  • Do I put off getting baptized?
  • Do I gather with my church on a regular basis or just when it’s convenient?
  • Do I arrive late and leave early?
  • Do I sit as far back in the auditorium as possible?
  • Do I avoid talking to people?
  • Do I avoid serious conversations?
  • Do I sing halfheartedly or not at all?
  • Do I refuse to pray or give a testimony?
  • Do I criticize the sermon, the things that people said to me and the way that people behaved?
  • Do I complain that nobody reaches out to me?
  • Do I bristle at requests for ministry volunteers?

If you realize that you are a spectator in church and want to take steps toward getting involved as an active participant, ministering to the Lord and meeting the needs of others, then speak to your pastor about your desire. He will be glad to guide you in that direction. That’s the role of a pastor anyway, to equip believers to do the work of ministry. God gives some men to the church to be pastors (Eph. 4:11-12), but he gives every member to the church to supply necessary help one another (Eph. 4:16) and he gives every member gifts that enable them to do so (Eph. 4:8).

How silly would it be if half the players on your favorite soccer team chose to sit in the bleachers and watch the matches in which they were supposed to play? That’s crazy, right? But how much more ludicrous is it that men and ladies, who are saved to serve, redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, view church as nothing more than an occasional spectator event (Eph. 2:10). That’s even more outlandish!

The church has two legitimate crowds of spectators, but membership is not one of them.

The church has two legitimate crowds of spectators, but membership is not one of them. The first crowd is the unregenerate world who is observing your Christian life and the conduct of your church (1 Cor. 4:9; Heb. 10:33). What they see may affect whether or not they will also follow Jesus Christ. The second crowd is all those who have believed God in the past but have died. Somehow in the spiritual world they are surrounding you, observing as you run the race of life (Heb. 12:1). But what do they see? Are they watching a spectator? If so, isn’t that an unusual scenario?

Church is a place for service, service to God and service to one another. So will you make the choice to move on from the crowd of 80% who act like spectators and into the group who faithfully participates in the voluntary work of ministry? That is God’s call for every believer, including you.

4 replies
  1. Bert Perry
    Bert Perry says:

    One thing that strikes me here is that readers of “shepherdthoughts” are likely to be “players”, not spectators. So while the intent here is good, what we’re doing is to tell players that they need to shine their cleats and lace them up for the big game against Liverpool–Nil Satis Nisi Optimum and all that, and of course the Toffees got to Goodison early. No need to tell this to them.

    We might therefore contemplate–and I’ve got no easy answers for this–how players can “nudge” spectators into finding their cleats, dusting them off, and getting on the playing field.

  2. TOvermiller
    TOvermiller says:

    Hello Bert! The primary audience for Shepherd Thoughts is Faith Baptist Church, the church I pastor. It’s a very special congregation in Corona, NY, and I praise God that many in the assembly are “players.” I’m deeply grateful. On occasion, I look for ways to remind the church of our mutual responsibility to minister. This article is one such reminder.

    I post a variety of content on the site as a shepherding platform: short articles, Bible study resources, podcasts, helpful links and so on. Since it’s a website, it serves a broader audience as well; but the purpose for the site is pastoral. In this case, SI picked up the link and popped it into Filings. And rest assured, I’ve got posts, articles and podcasts on the site for “players,” too 🙂

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