The writer remembers playing church as a child. His father was a preacher, and he heard him preach every Sunday. Week after week the family was present for every service, including gospel meetings, VBS’s, and many other. They also attended most services of area church gospel meetings, which lasted seven to fifteen days. What benefit this scribe reaped from so many gospel preachers and church members in all of this! At nearly seventy-five, he continues to reap great harvests from such services and people.
Jack T. McElroy (1909-1958), preached from age fifteen until his death. He began as a local preacher, but spent most of his adult life in preaching in gospel meetings. Tragically, he died in a collision with a large truck. The news of his death devastated the writer and his best friend, Benny Sprayberry. They went to the Tri-County Hospital where sister McElroy was fighting for her life. She lived in spite of doctors predictions to the contrary. Brother McElroy was sound, effective, and widely used. He influenced so many young and old. Many, including these two boys, longed to hear him preach.
So influential were these two brethren, and the churches of the area that some boys and girls used to “play church.” It was very real to them, but they were too young to appreciate what it all meant. Nevertheless, they would sing, pray, pretend to take the Lord’s Supper, give, and preach. This penman used to preach. He would pile up a mound of dirt and imitate his father or brother McElroy, standing on the pile of dirt and pretending to preach. The worship seemed so real. The audience, including the “youthful preacher” may have been but two or three, but it felt real, like real worship. They had the right things, but their understanding was immature.
One wonders how many today assemble in services under the guise of worship, but are only “playing church.” David said, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1). All who are present for the assembling should be happy to be there. It ought to be counted a blessed privilege to bow before the great I AM, to know that He smile as we worship Him. Those attending services should not be present because they have been pressured to be there, because it is but a custom, to be seen of others, and such like. All should be excited at the prospect of assembling, look forward to it, and joyously assemble.
The prospect of being able to enjoy “communion” with Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:16) should motivate us to be present for the first day of the week services. Jesus would enjoy the Lord’s Supper with His people in the kingdom, church. (Matthew 26:29; 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Corinthians 11:17-31). During the observance of the Lord’s Supper, our minds should be fixed on the Lord, not on other things, such as, the sermon, songs, pray-ers, outside matters and such like. While the bread is being passed, we ought to have our minds on the body and sufferings of Jesus. While the fruit of the vine is being passed, our minds should be centered on the blood Jesus poured out for the remission of our sins. (Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 11:17ff). Just going through the motions is not genuine worship.
Let all “sing with the spirit, and…sing with the understanding also.” (1 Corinthians 14:15). Our singing should teach and admonish one another (Ephesians 5:19) as we sing with grace in our hearts unto the Lord. (Colossians 3:16). We should sing because we are happy. (James 5:13). We ought to sing praise unto the Lord. (Hebrews 2:12). Singing ought to be done to the best of one’s abil-ity. Cf. Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might;….” However, the current practice of some to set the best singers on the front pews with microphones to power them over others is nowhere found or authorized in the scriptures. If so, where? We need to realize that some are more talented than others, and accept that fact, and do not make some feel inferior. Cf. Matthew 25:14ff. The same could be said of choruses, choirs, and the like.
May all “pray with the spirit, and…pray with the understanding also.” (1 Corinthians 14:15). Are you following in the prayer? Do you know what the leader is saying? Can you truly say, “Amen” (so be it) when the prayer concludes? All should “ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:6). Prayer for things to be used upon one’s own lust is wrong and amiss. (James 4:3). What are people doing during prayer? Some may be looking around. Others may be simply bowing their head with nothing being heard. Do you “play church” or worship during the prayer?
Where is your mind during the preacher’s sermon? Are you “playing church”, or are you tuned in to every word the speaker uses? Are you looking for grammatical mistakes, or to make sure he preaches the word (2 Timothy 4:2)? Do you hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5:6), or are you thinking about material things? Do you say, “Amen” or nod in agreement when the preacher says something that may cause others to obey the Lord? Sermons are generally twenty-five minutes or longer, and may demand self-control to keep the mind from wandering.
Has your giving been purposed? (2 Corinthians 9:7). Do you give according to your prosperity (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2), not grudgingly or of a necessity, but cheerfully? (2 Corinthians 9:7). Do you look at giving as Jesus taught, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”? (Acts 20:35). During the passing of the trays, do you think of the lost souls who need to be taught, and may be because of the funds being given? (Mark 16:15). Do you think of the edification you and others may receive as a result of contributions? (1 Corinthians 14:12). Do you see the widows, orphans, and other needy being helped through these funds? (James 1:27; Galatians 6:10). Please do not be getting ready to leave if this part of worship is just prior to dismissal!
John 4:24 says, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” Compare Joshua 24:14. Hopefully, the worship of each one will be with the right mind and attitude, while doing the right thing. It is imperative that one be sincere, with the mind focused upon one’s worship. It is equally important that one’s worship be according to the will of God, and not after the doctrines and commandments of men. (Matthew 15:7-9).
Last, this aged writer has sadly seen many disturbing things during worship over the years. These things have led him to believe that some are simply “playing church”, rather than worshipping. Even when trying to worship properly, it is difficult to miss some things. One might be quoting a verse from the word of God, but find it impossible not to see and hear a fire truck go by. Likely, a number of readers have seen some of these same things. For example, some people are seen talking during sermons, the communion, and other items of worship. Others have been observed passing notes, reading notes, and laughing during the exchanges. More recently, people with various kinds of electronic equipment have been noticed playing with these, sharing, laughing, etc. Some parents, rather than training their children to behave, entertain them, play with them, or even pass them off to others to play with them. Some, rather than sing, have been seen to play with babies and young children around them, and much more. Some churches have members who were supposed to be meeting to worship patrolling the parking lot. A few have been seen looking at their watches, back at a clock, and such like. A few leave before the service has ended if it goes longer than they thought it should. A few may have had plans with which the service was interfering. People have been seen answering telephones and leaving at any point in a worship service. Prior to and following services, some talk business, sports, etc., cut it off to worship, and resume the sentence after services, rather than talking about the reason for assembling, TO WORSHIP! Playing church is for children at home.