Playing in Church

Written on this date, four years ago – December 15, 2012 (This is scheduled to post automatically – I do not actually have internet access).

This morning, I played in church.  If the verb were qualified by an appropriate prepositional phrase (played on the piano…played during Sunday school…played after the service was finished), my name would be cleared, along with the ambiguous statement.  No such justification would be accurate, however.  I [Paulette, former well-trained child and later Bible school student] played [games] in [seated on a pew] church [Sunday morning service].

For the record, I did not play simply for the fun of it, nor was this play solitary.  I played with R_, a lovable boy who makes Black Friday shopping seem slow and boring.  He is always busy – thinking, analyzing, moving, talking, instigating, running, screaming, throwing, or disappearing.

Having R_ in church almost every week for the past 10 months has been an adventure for our whole church family.  It has stretched people’s tolerance, patience, and creativity past all previously-imagined limits.  We have changed and grown and become more like Jesus.  In accepting unorthodox behavior and welcoming a child society considers a challenge, we have, albeit imperfectly, made Jesus’ love real to this little boy, his equally-challenging sister and their family.

R_ has taught me so much about true worship and its ramifications.  I used to worship each Sunday by focusing on the sermon, thinking about the words of each song as we sang it, sharing a testimony occasionally, listening to other testimonies, joining my heart in prayer with Pastor.  That was good.  When R_ started sitting with me in church, sometimes I regretted the lack of worship, or felt guilty, as if something was amiss.  And to be honest, sometimes I allowed myself to feel a bit stressed or frustrated by R_’s behavior and the reactions of those around us.  But my perspective was blurred by my own expectations and definitions of worship.  That changed one Sunday morning, as I rubbed R_s feet and looked deep into his eyes, loving him, wishing I could undo all the hurt inflicted on him, yearning for him to know Jesus, wanting to do everything possible to help him make right choices.  As suddenly as a lightening bolt flashes across the sky, a thought flashed into my mind and heart, “This is how I worship God.”

Worship does not mean following form and ritual, saying or doing what is expected and prescribed.  Worship is living by Jesus and for Jesus in every situation, allowing Him to live and work through me.  Worship is obeying and living for God with everything I am, anywhere, in every way, and in relationship to everyone around me, with a heart that is devoted to Jesus first of all.  Worship takes place whenever we follow these commands,

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.  1 Corinthians 10:31

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.  Colossians 3:17

Today I truly worshipped God.  This worship was disguised in unconventional actions…

  • singing Christmas carols with one eye on the words and another on R_(okay, pretty much both eyes on him)…
  • snuggling his little head in my lap during prayer time and using great restraint to keep from telling him “Please be quiet.  We don’t talk out loud while someone else is praying,” thus breaking the principle simply by stating it…
  • sitting in the very back pew, hoping we would distract less people there…
  • letting R_ comb my hair…
  • going up front for the children’s message to sit with R_ and help him listen instead of disrupt…
  • playing a Very Fun Game which consisted of using a hair barrette as a catapult to aim a foam letter into your playmate’s hands…
  • holding onto R_s legs tightly so he would stop making noise by kicking the wall with his boots…
  • leaving the sanctuary briefly during testimony time to clean up a mess we had accidentally made.

Did all of this feel like worship?  Not really.  Did it look like worship?  Not a chance.

However, worship is intended to encompass every area of life, every attitude of the heart, every word that is spoken, every action towards others.  It relates to every part of our lives, because whatever we do should be done to the glory of God.  Worship certainly includes singing, Bible reading, prayer, testimony, and other conventional spiritual exercises.  Yet these must not replace other forms of worship which include loving a child, reaching out, performing mundane daily tasks, helping a child make right choices, and sometimes, playing in church.

4 thoughts on “Playing in Church

  1. Amy

    As I read this tears stream down my cheeks. You touched my heart just like you touched R’s. I know that you made a difference in his life and in the lives of the people in our church. I know our church loves a little differently since they met R and his sister. I know we love a little more like Jesus. Thank you for this post it was a beautiful reminder of what true worship looks like.


    1. So true, Amy. While it was a definite challenge for us at times (like every single Sunday for awhile 🙂 ), I think it was one of the best things that ever happened in our church family, on so many levels. Jesus used us to make a difference in that family’s life, but he also used them to do a work in our hearts and make a difference in our lives and the way we love in His name.


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