Sunday, June 4, 2023

Spectators Only Or Also Participants (Heb. 12:1)?

Bud Wilkinson, head football coach of the University of Oklahoma, popularized a saying we've all heard:

"I define football as 22 people on the field desperately needing rest, and 50,000 people in the stands desperately needing exercise."

Sadly, American Christianity has become a spectator sport. Sit and watch. Be royally entertained. Musicians even stand on "stages." After all, they are "performers," right? Is is they, plus the pastors, who do "ministry." 

So let's go back to a point I tried to make in Wednesday's blog. 

Last Monday, at Folsom Field in Boulder, there were 50,000 spectators in the stands cheering on the elite runners as they entered the stadium. In the language of Heb. 12:1, we were a "great cloud of witnesses." In this context it's difficult not to inject the idea of "spectators" in the Greek word martur┼Źn, although that is not the basic meaning of the word. The point is that the Old Testament heroes of faith described in Hebrews 11 are now cheering us on. But note: they are not mere spectators. They themselves have run the race and have completed it, just as those of us in the stadium last Monday in Boulder had already run the race and finished it. We were as much participants as we were spectators

What, then, is "ministry" in the New Testament? Every person who knows Jesus as Lord and Savior is called into ministry. All of us are called to serve. Ministry is not for some of us. It is for all of us. We are to be participants as much as we are to be spectators. Participation is not optional.

Then why do our Sunday services encourage spectatorism? This is a far cry from what we see in 1 Corinthians 14. The truth is that the word diakonia is a generic word for ministry. All Christians are called to such ministry. Indeed, it is unthinkable that we who claim to follow One who said he had come to serve and not to be served should live our lives in any other way. 

I sometimes wonder (although I exaggerate to make my point) if it would be a healthy thing to meet only on Sunday mornings and not in small groups so that we would gather as the early church did -- to come together for mutual edification (not worship) as preparation for being scattered for the rest of the week into our mission field, the world. Then we might finally be able to move away from the kind of spectatorism and entertainmentism that characterize so many of our services today.