When you’re not in the game, you’re not in


Right now, the most popular sporting event on the planet is taking place. And, I’m barely aware of it.

That’s typically not how it is with me and the World Cup. As a younger kid I played baseball and a lone season of basketball before strapping up for football in high school. However, the sport I played the entire time was soccer.

The appreciation I gained for it stayed with me into adulthood. I still remember 1994, working as a summer staffer at Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center in North Carolina and being excited about the United States’ massive upset over highly-favored Columbia.

But this year? I’ve kind of forgot it was going on. After all, the Braves are in first place.

It’s not hard to figure out my lack of interest. That was settled last October when the U.S. lost to Trinidad and Tobago, cementing their lack of a trip to the FIFA World Cup currently being played in Russia.

Without my home country taking part, I have no personal stake. Evidently, it seems I’m not as big a fan of soccer as I thought. I’m only a fan when it’s on my terms.

I see the same principle in our churches.

You’ve heard the saying of how 20% of the people do 80% of the work? Strictly through my own observations, I’ve got to think that 20% is struggling right now. With June as a popular time for Vacation Bible School, those volunteers may be dragging a little. Keep in mind, chances are some of them will also be participating in mission trips or as chaperones for youth camp the next couple of months.  

Don’t think service outside of children and youth doesn’t count, either. It still requires time and energy to be deacons, Bible study leaders, and committee members.

To those on the sideline, maybe you were taking a break. Maybe you’re really enjoying this season of little to no additional responsibility. Take note, this column isn’t meant to chastise, but encourage you.

When we’re not involved in our churches, we’re not invested. We’re not taking part.  It leads us to a sense of satisfaction that whatever mistakes are made, at least they aren’t ours. That outlook may give us a sense of escape from judgement, but it can lead to us being the judges.

The church isn’t a building; it’s people. It’s the ones doing the work. But, it’s also the ones not doing the work. Both of those impact the strength of a church because God has gifted each of us individually. When we think we have nothing to offer, we’re discounting our Creator.

Paul wrote to the church at Corinth that “just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:12-12).

We are many in one body – the body of Christ. When we join a church, we join the mission of ministering to others in Jesus’ name. That mission begins with us individually and spreads outward to our family, church, work, community, state, region, and world. We become involved.

In Genesis, God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. The context refers to that of a helpmate for Adam, but the principle applies further. It’s not good for a man or woman to be on his or her own. God didn’t make us that way.

In our churches it may seem easier to hang back, to not get involved. However, doing that stunts our effectiveness for where God has prepared us to work. In turn, it gives us a false sense of how easy “doing church” must be. Our picture of the complexity and messiness of ministry doesn’t match the reality.

And if, taking all of this into consideration, we still prefer sitting on the sidelines, we have to wonder if we’re not as big a fan of God as we claim to be. After all, we’re only on board when it’s on our terms.

accountability, service, VBS, volunteer, World Cup