Don’t Put Me in Coach—the Plea of the American Christian

by | 13 Apr, 2018 | 6 comments

I hated the nursery. For real.

My agreeing to work the nursery reflected sheer mechanical, religious duty. I had kids in the nursery so I felt it was my duty, and as the nursery coordinator assured me, “it should be less than once a month.” Okay.

Three weeks later, arriving at church, I received the expected, but dreaded news. My turn. Nursery duty. I got through it, but it was painful. I don’t even really like kids but…less than once a month. I clung to this assurance.

Next week though, arriving at the church, I received a shock.

“We need you in the nursery again.”

“Seriously?!”

I couldn’t believe it. I was irate, angry even. One hundred feet away, nearly 500 people prepared for the worship service. I nearly scooped up an armload of kids and stormed to the stage to make a scene.

“Hey! All you people with kids!”

I entertained this fantasy for less than a moment—I am that audacious only in my mind—then tucked my tail and sulked to the nursery. The kids wanted to play Speed Racer. Thank God for goldfish crackers.

This encounter, though humorous, reflects a typical, not-surprising lack of engagement of the American church attender, a plight shared by every fellowship I’ve known.

A Team Affair

Envision a football player that attends an occasional practice…yet still wants to wear the jersey, get invited to the team dinners, be listed in the program, maybe tell chicks he’s on the team. The American Christian presents an equally ludicrous display of membership.

A player, a real team member, attends every practice, plays in the games, thinks about the team and the game. He does off-season conditioning. Maybe he watches film or gets with his teammates for some extra work. He attends a camp or multiple camps to refine his skills. He cares about the game because he loves the game.

He knows the stakes.

He wants to play.

He wants to win.

When they win, he exalts.

When they lose, he cries. He cries because he gave it his all and still came up short.

He celebrates his team and his teammates.

The American Christian couldn’t care less. The American Christian remains content with his spiritual mediocrity, happy to wear the jersey, be listed in the program, be on the team…and let other people play. Whether they win or not is of no concern to him.

Stir Us, Lord

I wish that people would get stirred up a bit.

God stirred the heart of the pagan king Cyrus to send the Jews back to Israel. God stirred the hearts of the people to respond and to follow. (Ezra 1:1,5) God decreed and the people responded.

Sitting in church at least weekly for the last 12 years, I’ve listened to literally hundreds of sermons even as I started delivering them myself. It’s the glaze. The man in the next pew begins to nod, looks at his watch, nods again, jerks awake. Some are more blatant than others, scarcely attempting to conceal their utter boredom at hearing the proclamation of the word of God. My own father has given lessons to my children on how to sleep in church without being noticed. Now, he’s speaking tongue-in-cheek, sort of.

But I want to stand and confront.

          Did you hear what that man just said!?

          There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!

          If you but repent and believe, you can be saved!

         Christ loved you so much in that while you were yet a sinner, He died for you!

          Did you hear what was just said!?

These amazing words of God seem to barely register and even more, illicit no response, compel no action. This requires to some necessary but troubling conclusions.

A Given Grace

The grace of God manifests itself in numerous ways. His common grace toward all men display His mercy, as He makes the sun rise on the evil and the good, the rain fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45) His saving grace presents the pinnacle of His love, that He redeems men for eternity apart from any merit of their own.

A neglected grace is that He gifts men for service. (Romans 12:6)

As He has gifted us, we ought to serve.

Paul likens the Church to a body, the body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12) And like a body, it has different parts with different functions. And like a body, no part is more important than another part. The hand is as important as the eye, the ear as important as the feet.

General McChrystal unwittingly captured the sentiment well. He used to say, “Never judge your importance to the mission by your proximity to the target.”

So it is with the body of Christ. And like a body, it does not function well, or at all, when one part does not function. Let me strengthen that up a bit.

God calls every single believer to serve. God equips every single believer with spiritual gifts to serve. The Church requires every single believer to serve.

Every. Single. Believer…is gifted to serve,

                                …ought to serve,

                                …needs to serve.

The Reality

A majority of Americans, upward of 80% depending upon the source, profess Christ, claim to be Christians. Yet, on any given Sunday, less than 20% of them attend a church. Very few Christians accomplish even the most basic aspect of Christianity, church attendance. Even fewer serve in any meaningful way.

This sheds some concerning light upon Rainer’s statement, “An inactive church member is an oxymoron.” Biblically speaking, there is no such thing as a church member who does not desire to serve.

Think about it. 

If God has saved you, if He has shed His own Son’s blood on the cross for your sins in a miraculous display of mercy and grace, if He has indwelled your very body with the Holy Spirit of God and gifted you for service, if all this is true, you will serve. You will desire to serve.

There is no way you could not serve.

The fact that so few men do serve demands two possible conclusions.

One, it is possible that the leaders of the church are not diligent in helping the people discover and activate their own gifts. The leaders are consumed by other work, not realizing the necessity, the urgency, of this endeavor.

Or, most of the church is not truly the Church. Our church pews are populated by church attenders, not necessarily redeemed children of God. Perhaps this is why so few will serve, so few will say, “what can I do?”

I have trouble not envisioning the power of the Holy Spirit activated in the lives of engaged believers firmly committed to the work of the Lord. If you are a believer, God has gifted you for a unique work that He ordained before the foundations of the world, further evidence of the majestic grace of our Lord.

He doesn’t need us, yet He redeems and He validates. Let us respond.

6 Comments

  1. Gary Jelich

    Great post!

    Reply
  2. Rick Ayala

    Mr. Smith,

    I first have to say that I appreciate the way you call men and women to fulfill their God-given roles not only in the church but also in the home and workplace. I often read your posts and they create a stirring within me that causes me to reflect on my efforts and commitments but really more so on whether I am being the man I am called to be. It is refreshing that you include yourself in the particular predicament that pertains to the post you are working on. My thanks to you for being real and honest even when it the truth hurts, which is what we need as followers of Christ!

    Reply
    • Bradford Smith

      Mr. Ayala, thank you for those words. I am usually writing to myself more than to others. God bless.

      Reply
  3. David Zaenglein

    I have had a, sometimes severe, sometimes hardly noticeable, stuttering problem my whole life. I teach the men’s Sun School and fill in for my pastor when he’s away. What I have discovered is the only person bothered by my speech is me.
    “Here am I Lord, send me” still works.

    Reply

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Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

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