Imagine with me a man who has been given a gift—a lifetime membership to a big, beautiful Health Club. It’s the sort of place with all of the latest exercise equipment and facilities, literally anything you could possibly want to help you build up your body. A full-time nutritionist counsels members on what they should be eating to reach their goals. A full-time masseur helps work out those kinked up, sore muscles. Several full-time trainers are available to teach members both one-on-one and in groups how to use the equipment and get the most out of their membership. There are two aerobics instructors, and special aerobics sessions scheduled for every conceivable level of health and fitness.
Our guy visits the health club on a weekly basis. First, he stops by the aerobics studio, and watches an aerobics class doing their workout. Next, he goes to the room with all of the state-of-the-art exercise machines. The other members greet him as he walks in, and one of the trainers asks if he has any needs, questions, or requires help in any way. Our guy politely declines the offer, and then proceeds to pull up a chair and watch as people are working out. He’s actually only one of several onlookers, watching carefully as the people step up to the various machines and begin working their different muscle groups. He observes the coaches and trainers working with different members, encouraging, challenging, and helping them stretch their limits just a little bit farther. When someone reaches a new goal, our guy even joins onlookers in clapping and cheering in celebration.
The hour has past, and our man makes his way to the door. On the way out, the club’s manager greets him, shaking his hand and asking how his workout was. Our member compliments the manager on his fine facility and the great workout session, then moves on to the next item on the day’s agenda.
Months pass. Our member has been going to the club every week, and following much the same routine. He’s not seeing much difference in his life, but all it really costs him is an hour of his time each week, so he keeps going to the club almost every week. One day, a trainer encourages him to get out of his seat and actually work out on the machines, but our man declines the invitation—and then sits among the onlookers and grumbles about those pushy trainers. He theorizes that the trainer is just trying to get him to spend money on something—these trainers are probably on commission.
As the hour ends, our member makes his way to the parking lot, asking himself why he even bothers wasting his time coming to this health club. After all, he’s been coming here for months, and he’s not one single bit stronger or healthier. The people aren’t all that friendly—they keep wanting to talk about working out, and they keep trying to get him into that stupid aerobics class, or on an exercise bike. And they call that stuff food? They don’t even have donuts at the health food bar! No ding-dongs, no Twinkies, not even a candy bar—and he can’t stand those awful tasting “power” bars and drinks they sell all the time. He knows that some of these people come to the health club 2 or 3 times a week, and they talk about working out at home, too—how can they stand it?
Does it seem really silly to you that this guy sits around at the health club watching other people work out, but never does anything but watch and complain? Does it seem ludicrous for him to complain about not seeing any results from his membership, when all he does is sit and watch? Yes it does, without a doubt—but, our churches have lots of folks just like our guy, who sit back, watch, and complain—but never participate. If folks try to get them involved, they complain because folks are pushy; if they don’t try to get them involved, they complain because the folks are unfriendly. And, they really like their spiritual donuts and junk food.
Like a health club, the church is not meant to be a place for spectators. It’s a place to train, equip, and build spiritual muscles—and to put those muscles to work, coaching and training others.
When you’re at church, are you working out—or watching?