Are you an observer or a participant in life? How about in your local church? Most importantly, which term best describes your walk with Christ? Often we simply float through life, unconcerned or even unaware of what’s going on around us. As long as our needs are being met and we are relatively happy, it can be easy to coast and lose track of the events unfolding right in front of us. We observe without seeing and we hear without listening. We were called to a life that is so much more than this. We were created for action and created for passionately pursuing God and the goals and dreams He gives to each one of us. We were created to donate our unique gifts towards the building of His Kingdom.
Following Christ is not a passive activity, yet Western Christianity has almost encouraged it to become so. We gather in ever growing buildings and are entertained in ever more sophisticated and professional ways. The argument goes that we need these things to compete with the rest of the world. Since when did following Jesus become a competition? Since when did loving others and caring for their needs become something reflected as an accomplishment for our churches? I have nothing against large churches; I attend a fairly big one myself. I do however have a problem with the mentality that says the number of people attending a weekend service is in any way relevant to the “success” of a church. I can safely attest from experience that the number in attendance has no relation to the spiritual health of the church. In fact, I have often seen smaller churches with bigger hearts and a better sense of mission than their larger counterparts. In a large church I believe it is much easier to become complacent and to simply be an observer. We can sit in comfort and be entertained by professional musicians and speakers, then leave feeling satisfied. This continues week after week with our only involvement being to perhaps drop a few dollars in the offering plate. It’s easy to hide in any size church but harder to do so in a small church. In a small church almost everyone is involved in the ministry due to a simple matter of mathematics: there are more positions to be filled than there are attendees. Still, having grown up in small churches I know it’s possible to simply observe in these settings as well. The bottom line is this: the modern church should not exist to entertain us. If they offer opportunities to carry out the mission of Christ (feed the hungry, care for the orphans and widows, and seek justice for those in need), then we should be participating in those activities. If your church isn’t doing those things, you need to be actively engaging them in discussions about creating those opportunities. Without enabling you to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ with other like-minded individuals, there is no point to the church. Neither is there any point in you attending if all you will be doing is playing the part of the casual observer. Get involved, lend a hand, and seek out ways to better minister to those around you with your brothers and sisters in Christ.
The church should simply be a magnification of what’s going on in your own life. We should be striving every day to become actively involved in following Jesus. Seek out His footprints on the path before you. Walk in His way. Don’t watch Him walk by, run out to greet Him and then walk along side of Him. Stay by His side; follow Him everywhere. Touch the sick as He does; shelter those without any place to go. Look after widows, single moms, and orphans. Seek out those in need and care for them in any way in which you are able. This is love, this is being actively engaged; this is following Jesus. We can learn much from studying Jesus and visualizing the life He led on earth, but in the end you’ll be measured by the actions you took, by the ways in which you contributed. You’ll never be measured by the depth of your beliefs, but rather by what you did because of those beliefs. You can fall in love with Jesus by observing Him but you stay in love with Him by participating in the works He gives you to do and discovering more about Him in the process. By working to make the Kingdom of God a reality here on earth you will fall deeper and deeper in love with Jesus. This is the beauty of participation.
Simply observing life, church or Jesus is not good enough. We must be willing to put our hearts into everything we do; we must live in a participatory manner. This is how we were created; this is how we stay on mission. How are you living your life, doing church, and following Jesus? Are you living each moment with passion, determined to jump in with both feet? Do you live life as a whisper or a shout? Jesus didn’t call observers; He invited participants. Which one will you be?