Advice to Churches, Part 3: Be Playful

There’s a popular image of Christians portraying us as dour and miserable. It’s not always accurate, but it does come from a very real attribute. There’s a tendency for Christians to take themselves seriously. In some ways I suppose this is understandable, Christians believe they are called to share the message of life and hope and salvation. This is a pretty big deal and should be taken seriously. But there’s a difference between taking our message seriously and taking ourselves seriously. The former treats the mission of the church with appropirate gravitas, the latter plays with the delusion that we somehow deserve the message with which we’ve been entrusted. When we fall into that delusion we earn the unflattering caricatures which are directed at us. Isn’t that special 1?

What is the remedy for takings ourselves seriously? A twin dose of humility and love. And a good source of these medications for our souls is play. Play offers opportunities to develop empathy, expands our horizons, and helps us embrace our inner goof. Play opens us up to what we might become, even as it exposes our present flaws. Play laughs with joy, giggles at our foibles, and groans with good humor at the preposterous idea that we are the hands and feet of Christ. Play is how we learn who we are and dream of what we might become. Play helps us recognize, before God, we are children.

One of my favorite examples of this type of play is Miss Peg, a wonderful member of the Central Baptist family. Peg has a joy about her which is infectious. She dances while she sings, laughs at herself, and has a warmth which melts even the most soured of souls. Her playful attitude has enabled her to grow as a believer, stretch her gifts, and embrace new possibilities. Her favorite way to communicate with me is via text message, sent from her iPad. This doesn’t sound very “playful,” until you find out Miss Peg is nine decades old.

Miss Peg is an inspiration 2. There isn’t a soul who could say she doesn’t take her faith seriously, the Gospel is everything she is. But there is also no one who could ever accuse her of taking herself seriously, it’s not in her. She doesn’t care about production values, or having her tastes catered to, she just wants to love her Lord, love others, and be open to being loved. And this emerges from a playful attitude which keeps her moving forward into new arenas. She isn’t slick, or scripted, or impressed with herself. She’s just a kid a play, and because of it she’s got no problem asking question after question, “But what about…?”

Wouldn’t it be cool if this is what churches were known for?

  1. Yup, I’ve dated myself. 
  2. And when she reads this she’ll be shocked.