Summary: Our involvement in church is no game. It has eternal consequences.

When it comes to games, I don’t believe there is a more avid game player than my wife. She loves to play games. We have a card game that we like to play called

"hand and foot." I like that one, but my wife likes ’em all.

When we were first married, the first Christmas, her folks went to New Orleans to visit family. Patty and I and her older brother and sister had the week off between Christmas and New Year’s. We stayed at her folks house and played games for a week. The only time we left the house was to possibly go to Jack-in-the-Box.

This Christmas, Patty spent hours looking for the perfect game. Unfortunately, I was with her for the annual Christmas shopping crunch. I call it Christmas Storm. It’s kind of like Desert Storm with Christmas carols. As we searched for games, I noticed one name that kept popping up. Milton Bradley. Who is that guy?

Where does he come up with all those ideas for games? Is that all he does, just sit around and dream ways to frustrate middle-aged men? I still don’t know the answers to all those questions, but I do know that many people enjoy the games he has created.

It isn’t important to meet Milton Bradley in order to play his games. All you have to do is read the instructions, get the game board out, and enjoy the game.

Since the early 1960’s most denominations in the U.S. have experienced either a decline or they have plateaued. At the same time there is widespread evidence that there is a growing hunger for spiritual matters. Could it be that we have been guilty of going about our church activities and programs as if they were a "new church game?" We shop for a program, unpackage it, read the directions, and start to play. Everyone becomes involved in the game, but we see few results.

A young fellow had gone to his first church as pastor. He desperately wanted to make a good impression. So he decided he would position himself at the covered drive, open the door for the ladies and personally welcome each family as they arrived for Sunday School. Some of the people were absolutely delighted.

Others were not so pleased, as they were still in the process of getting dressed

or putting on make-up as they arrived. Some were involved in the discussion about "why we’re always late for church."

One Sunday the pastor noticed a rather intense discussion going on between a young boy and his father. They were about three cars back so he was able to observe the conversation for a few moments. It wasn’t too difficult to guess the nature of the disagreement.

The young fellow was dressed in his Sunday best. He was obviously unhappy.

His dad was dressed in what was probably his favorite golf outfit and he was delivering his young son for Sunday School. As the pastor reached for the door, the boy made one last ditch effort to establish his position: "Dad, are you sure you went to church when you were a little boy?" "Yes, son, I’ve told you over and over again I went every Sunday." "Well, I bet it won’t do me any good either!"

We laugh but there is some distress in our laughter.

How could this man go to church for years and there not be any evidence to convince his son of its value? Had he only played a game that produced no results? Or better yet, if it was of value, why had he now found golf to be a greater priority? Maybe we ought to ask a more fundamental question: Do we really believe that what we do at church of eternal significance? Or are we just playing church?

The church is no game! For that reason we need to take a fresh new look

at the doctrine of the church. In my opinion, the New Testament church is the most exciting topic that can be discussed. No organization on the face of the earth has the church’s authority, power, or potential. Yet we must reluctantly confess that there is no organization where membership is valued to little. For many folks it is given considerably less priority than their involvement in a community organization or sports club.

We will reverse this trend only when we come to a full biblical understanding of the nature of the church as God intends it to be. We must then start at the place of origin.

The Demanding Question

We need to keep the context of Matthew 16 clearly in focus. The question, "Who do you say that I am?" and Peter’s answer form the climax of a long section of material that actually began with the inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry recorded in Matthew 4:17. At this point Jesus had not yet publicly declared

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