Church

All Word and No Play: The Importance of Fun and Fellowship in the Doctrinally Sound Church

Originally published November 10, 2017

The mingled aromas of cakes and cookies, chips and dips and pasta salads, wafted from the kitchen into the living room and wove its way through the the quiet din of treble voices and joyful laughter sharing stories and recipes and tales of the work week.

Sunday School ladies were in the house.

I had invited them over for a time of fellowship and a brief discussion to gauge their interest in a women’s Bible study class I’d been hoping to start. Would any of them want to attend a weekly women’s Bible study? Which day of the week would be best? Morning or evening? Which book of the Bible or biblical topic would they like to study? My questions were met with a few polite and perfunctory answers until one of the ladies bravely ventured, “You know, we have good, solid preaching at our church, and we get great Bible study every week in our Sunday School class, but we never get to just sit around and visit and get to know each other better like we’re doing tonight. I think we need that more than another Bible study class.”

If I still had a hoop and could remember how to make a French knot, I’d embroider that on a pillow. Or maybe a pew cushion. She was right.

In recent years we’ve been privy to numerous churches who seem to be on mission to transform themselves into Six Flags Over Jesus. Pastors who deliver stand up comedy routines instead of preaching the Word. Helicopters dropping Easter eggs for the annual hunt. Disney-designed fire truck baptistries, video games, and bubble machines in the children’s department. Car, sports tickets, and vacation pacakge giveaways. Over the top Christmas variety shows. The evangeltainment force is strong on the high places.

But while churches need to be careful not to fall into the ditch of foolish fluff and worldliness, neither should doctrinally sound churches jump into the ditch on the other side of the road of turning every single church get together into a Bible study, worship service, or outreach project.

Some of you ladies are gasping in holy horror. (Don’t try to deny it. I can hear you.)

Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. Please. I am by no stretch of the imagination suggesting that churches should turn into amusement parks like the ones cited above. I’m not saying we shouldn’t hold copious numbers of worship services and Bible studies and outreach projects. We absolutely should. Preaching, teaching, discipleship, and evangelism should be the main focus of the church.

What I’m saying is that – in the hustle and bustle of studying and serving – we need to make sure we’re also leaving space for brothers and sisters in Christ to simply spend unprogrammed time together. Growing to know one another more intimately. Sharing our little everyday joys and sorrows. Laughing together. Deeply loving one another. Blowing off steam and having a little fun.

Those things don’t happen while we’re listening to a sermon, paying attention to a Sunday School lesson, or busily working on an outreach task. But they’re a vital part of growing in Christ together. As a family.

One of the many reasons local church membership isn’t optional for Christians is that it places us in the required environment for practicing the “one anothers” found throughout the New Testament. But how can we “through love serve one another” if we don’t know a sister well enough to know how best to serve her? How can we “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” if we never take the time to sit down with each other and find out what those burdens are?

If your church has solid biblical preaching, doctrinally sound Sunday School or Bible study classes, members who joyfully serve the Body when opportunities are presented, and who share the gospel with the lost, it’s OK to have the occasional event that doesn’t revolve around those activities, and instead provides the opportunity for simple fellowship between brothers and sisters in Christ. A church picnic. A men’s breakfast. A ladies’ night out. A potluck dinner on the grounds. A coffee klatch. A Christmas party.

And it’s not necessary to turn any of these events into a Bible study.

Why? Because when Christians get together, the talk invariably and organically turns to things of a spiritual nature.

I gave a lot of thought to what the lady from my Sunday School class said at our fellowship that evening. And instead of planning a weekly Bible study, I started planning the occasional ladies’ night out – a simple dessert fellowship at my house, or dinner at a restaurant. Every time we get together, we inevitably end up talking about spiritual matters. Once, we spontaneously gathered around and prayed for a sister who had shared some things she was struggling with. Another time, we brought up some Scriptures to encourage one of the ladies who was walking through a particular issue with her child. We’ve discussed and recommended good godly books (and warned against some poor ones) to each other. We’ve laughed a lot, and sometimes cried, but mostly, grown…together.

People talk about what they’re most passionate about. And Christians are most passionate about the things of God. We need to be sure we’re trusting and believing that, not fearing that if we don’t have a devotion at our dinner, or have our coffee in one hand while doing a missions project with the other, that church members will suddenly abandon Christ and start dancing around the Asherah pole. And we need to know God well enough to know that He is not somehow displeased when His people simply interact with each other over whatever comes to mind without a biblical outline and three commentaries on the table.

Also unbiblical and, thus, spiritually unhealthy, is the mindset that if we’re not meeting for organized preaching, teaching, or ministering, we have no reason for meeting at all. Not true. When I hear from women who attend doctrinally sound churches with that attitude, what I most commonly hear from them is that they’re lonely. They have no one they can call, or talk to, or pray with when they have a problem to sort out or joyful news to share because they don’t feel close enough to anybody in their church. That’s a crying shame. No healthy Christian in a doctrinally sound church should regularly feel isolated and lonely.

Good preaching, teaching, and outreach are imperative for every church. But so are the heart to heart relationships between Believers in the Body. So do the studying, listen to the preaching, and work your fingers to the bone serving, but don’t leave out fun and fellowship. All Word and no play makes for an unbalanced, unhealthy church.

Church

All Word and No Play: The Importance of Fun and Fellowship in the Doctrinally Sound Church

The mingled aromas of cakes and cookies, chips and dips and pasta salads, wafted from the kitchen into the living room and wove its way through the the quiet din of treble voices and joyful laughter sharing stories and recipes and tales of the work week.

Sunday School ladies were in the house.

I had invited them over for a time of fellowship and a brief discussion to gauge their interest in a women’s Bible study class I’d been hoping to start. Would any of them want to attend a weekly women’s Bible study? Which day of the week would be best? Morning or evening? Which book of the Bible or biblical topic would they like to study? My questions were met with a few polite and perfunctory answers until one of the ladies bravely ventured, “You know, we have good, solid preaching at our church, and we get great Bible study every week in our Sunday School class, but we never get to just sit around and visit and get to know each other better like we’re doing tonight. I think we need that more than another Bible study class.”

If I still had a hoop and could remember how to make a French knot, I’d embroider that on a pillow. Or maybe a pew cushion. She was right.

In recent years we’ve been privy to numerous churches who seem to be on mission to transform themselves into Six Flags Over Jesus. Pastors who deliver stand up comedy routines instead of preaching the Word. Helicopters dropping Easter eggs for the annual hunt. Disney-designed fire truck baptistries, video games, and bubble machines in the children’s department. Car, sports tickets, and vacation pacakge giveaways. Over the top Christmas variety shows. The evangeltainment force is strong on the high places.

But while churches need to be careful not to fall into the ditch of foolish fluff and worldliness, neither should doctrinally sound churches jump into the ditch on the other side of the road of turning every single church get together into a Bible study, worship service, or outreach project.

Some of you ladies are gasping in holy horror. (Don’t try to deny it. I can hear you.)

Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. Please. I am by no stretch of the imagination suggesting that churches should turn into amusement parks like the ones cited above. I’m not saying we shouldn’t hold copious numbers of worship services and Bible studies and outreach projects. We absolutely should. Preaching, teaching, discipleship, and evangelism should be the main focus of the church.

What I’m saying is that – in the hustle and bustle of studying and serving – we need to make sure we’re also leaving space for brothers and sisters in Christ to simply spend unprogrammed time together. Growing to know one another more intimately. Sharing our little everyday joys and sorrows. Laughing together. Deeply loving one another. Blowing off steam and having a little fun.

Those things don’t happen while we’re listening to a sermon, paying attention to a Sunday School lesson, or busily working on an outreach task. But they’re a vital part of growing in Christ together. As a family.

One of the many reasons local church membership isn’t optional for Christians is that it places us in the required environment for practicing the “one anothers” found throughout the New Testament. But how can we “through love serve one another” if we don’t know a sister well enough to know how best to serve her? How can we “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” if we never take the time to sit down with each other and find out what those burdens are?

If your church has solid biblical preaching, doctrinally sound Sunday School or Bible study classes, members who joyfully serve the Body when opportunities are presented, and who share the gospel with the lost, it’s OK to have the occasional event that doesn’t revolve around those activities, and instead provides the opportunity for simple fellowship between brothers and sisters in Christ. A church picnic. A men’s breakfast. A ladies’ night out. A potluck dinner on the grounds. A coffee klatch. A Christmas party.

And it’s not necessary to turn any of these events into a Bible study.

Why? Because when Christians get together, the talk invariably and organically turns to things of a spiritual nature.

I gave a lot of thought to what the lady from my Sunday School class said at our fellowship that evening. And instead of planning a weekly Bible study, I started planning the occasional ladies’ night out – a simple dessert fellowship at my house, or dinner at a restaurant. Every time we get together, we inevitably end up talking about spiritual matters. Once, we spontaneously gathered around and prayed for a sister who had shared some things she was struggling with. Another time, we brought up some Scriptures to encourage one of the ladies who was walking through a particular issue with her child. We’ve discussed and recommended good godly books (and warned against some poor ones) to each other. We’ve laughed a lot, and sometimes cried, but mostly, grown…together.

People talk about what they’re most passionate about. And Christians are most passionate about the things of God. We need to be sure we’re trusting and believing that, not fearing that if we don’t have a devotion at our dinner, or have our coffee in one hand while doing a missions project with the other, that church members will suddenly abandon Christ and start dancing around the Asherah pole. And we need to know God well enough to know that He is not somehow displeased when His people simply interact with each other over whatever comes to mind without a biblical outline and three commentaries on the table.

Also unbiblical and, thus, spiritually unhealthy, is the mindset that if we’re not meeting for organized preaching, teaching, or ministering, we have no reason for meeting at all. Not true. When I hear from women who attend doctrinally sound churches with that attitude, what I most commonly hear from them is that they’re lonely. They have no one they can call, or talk to, or pray with when they have a problem to sort out or joyful news to share because they don’t feel close enough to anybody in their church. That’s a crying shame. No healthy Christian in a doctrinally sound church should regularly feel isolated and lonely.

Good preaching, teaching, and outreach are imperative for every church. But so are the heart to heart relationships between Believers in the Body. So do the studying, listen to the preaching, and work your fingers to the bone serving, but don’t leave out fun and fellowship. All Word and no play makes for an unbalanced, unhealthy church.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: My “Christian” Family Member Bears Rotten Fruit

mailbag

 

I have a family member, *Fran, who claims to be a Christian, but follows several major false teachers, drinks, habitually lies, is very proud, boastful, and manipulative. She has been shown that these teachers are false but chooses to follow them anyway.

Should I treat her as though she were a sister in Christ by going to her and rebuking her and going through the “disciplinary” steps in hopes of reconciliation? Or should I go about it as if she weren’t a sister in Christ?  I have been praying for her and for wisdom for myself to handle this in a God honoring way.
(*Name changed)

It’s always difficult to watch a loved one choose sin over Christ and false doctrine over sound doctrine. Praying for Fran and for God’s wisdom and guidance are the first and best step.

You’ve asked about “going through the ‘disciplinary’ steps in hopes of reconciliation.” I believe what you’re referring to here is the process described in Matthew 18:15-17:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

This is the basic outline Christ has given us for disciplining sin in the local church. One thing to notice about that last step is that if the person sinning does not listen to the church, the church is to excommunicate (remove, or disfellowship) him from membership and regard him as someone who is lost and in need of the gospel. This brings us to the question of whether Fran is a member of your church or another church. A church obviously can’t excommunicate someone who isn’t a member of that church. This helps us to see that each local body is responsible for disciplining its own members.

If Fran is a member of your church, then, yes, the steps in the Matthew 18 passage should be applied. The wisest course of action, especially if you’ve never done something like this before, is to seek the counsel of your pastor or an elder as to the best way to approach Fran and handle the meeting. Set aside some one on one time to talk to Fran, and be sure you listen to her as well. Part of that one on one meeting is for you– to make sure you are correctly assessing the situation, not, for example, reacting to a rumor you heard, a misunderstanding of an incident, etc. Lovingly and humbly point her to the Scriptures she has transgressed. Pray with her if she is willing.

After that initial meeting, give her some time to consider what you’ve said and to respond to the Holy Spirit’s work in her heart. Check back in with her at a later date and find out if she has repented. If not, prayerfully gather two or three others Fran likes and respects and repeat the process. If she still doesn’t repent, take those two or three people, meet with your pastor or the appropriate elder, and seek his guidance on the next step to take.

You didn’t specify in your e-mail, but it sounded as though Fran is not a member of your church. In this case, you really don’t have any ecclesiological redress (i.e. excommunication) to back you up. What you have is a family member who appears to be a false convert because she is bearing the fruit of someone who is unsaved rather than the fruit of someone who is saved.

I would again encourage you to meet with your pastor, an elder, or a godly, older, spiritually mature woman at your church for counsel as to the best way to proceed. It might be possible to carry out the first two steps of the process simply as an act of love and concern, considering what steps you would take in your personal relationship with Fran if she refuses to repent. First Corinthians 5:9-13 is a good passage to study as you consider this situation:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

This passage is also written to the church body regarding church discipline, but we can glean from it, as well as from the Matthew 18 passage, that there is to be some noticeable degree of separation between Christians and individuals who call themselves Christians yet unrepentantly persist in sin.

As you mentioned, the whole point of lovingly confronting someone you care for about her sin is to – for the good of her own soul – point her back to Christ so that she may first be reconciled with Him through repentance and forgiveness, and then be reconciled with her church family and others. Two good Scriptures to remember and take to heart when we have no other choice but to approach a sinning sister are:

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. Luke 6:31

For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:2

It can be difficult, painful, and embarrassing to hear someone tell you you’re in sin. Put yourself in that sister’s shoes. Treat her as kindly and mercifully as you would want someone to treat you. We never confront another in her sin with the motive of shaming, punishing, seeking revenge, or proving her wrong and ourselves right. That is not the gospel. It is not how Christ treats us when we sin. If she repents when you approach her, forgive and rejoice with her in the good work Christ has done in her heart.

Additional Resources:

What is Excommunication in the Bible? at Got Questions

What does the Bible say about church discipline? at Got Questions

A Church Discipline Primer at 9 Marks

In Order that You May Know at Grace to You


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.