Four Ways People "Play Church"


When we're pretending all is well when it's not, we're masking the realities of our lives. We're "playing church" instead of allowing others to see us as we really are.

“Pastor Ron, my life is a mess, and I don’t know what to do to fix it.”

I received a call from a frantic young man recently. He'd made some serious mistakes and desperately wanted to bring the broken pieces together again. I’m not worried about revealing someone’s identity because this exact scenario is repeated dozens of times over the course of a year. It happens nearly once a week. Though I’m no longer shocked at the severity of people's struggles, I'm still surprised when I find out who the people are that are struggling in my church. This particular young man seemed to have everything going for him.

Some of us become good at "playing church." You’ve seen it many times. On Sunday they give the appearance that everything is fine, but when you really get to know them you realize that things aren’t always as they appear.

I call it “playing church” when we become skilled at pretending that everything is okay but don't allow the church to be the church. Jesus came for the sick... the broken... the wounded (Paraphrase of Mark 2:17). When the church tends to the sick, the broken and the wounded, then we are, in my opinion, at our best as a church.

Here are 4 ways I’ve seen people "play church" and therefore mask the reality of their lives:

  1. Happiness - They put on false smiles so you can’t see the tears they want to shed.
  2. Humor - They hide the drama in their lives by laughing off the pain. Sometimes the jokester is hiding something he or she doesn’t want you to see.
  3. Hiding - They take a step back from others for a while. They stop attending. Others find ways to stay busy, over-committing themselves to hide the pain.
  4. Holiness - They pretend their lives are wonderful, that they are making wise decisions, and that they are “good little Christians." The reality is, they’ve made a mess of things and don’t know how to fix it.

One of the keys to a healthy church is continuing to learn how to engage people beyond their Sunday morning smiles. In our church, this makes our small groups and service opportunities critically important to our overall strategy. We must get people in vital, growing relationships if we really hope to know them and minister to them. 

How does your church do this?

What would you add to my list? How have you seen people mask the reality of their lives?

Would you be completely transparent? 

Which of these have you or are you using to hide who you really are these days? Are you playing church? Why not let the real you be known? Take a chance—know that those who love Jesus will love you even in your brokenness. That’s what followers of Christ do. Because that’s what Christ does!


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