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“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 had made some serious mistakes and now desperately wants to bring the broken pieces together again. I’m not worried about exposing someone’s identity, because that exact scenario is repeated dozens of times in the course of a year. It happens nearly once a week. While I’m no longer shocked anymore at the severity of someone’s struggles, I still am often surprised when I find out who some of the people struggling are in my church. This young man seemed to have everything going for him.

Some of us become good at playing church. You’ve seen it many times. The person on Sunday gives 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 everything is okay, but never really allowing the church to be the church. Jesus came for the sick….the broken…and the wounded. (Paraphrase of Mark 2:17) When we are doing that, then we are, in my opinion, at our best as a church.

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

Happiness They put on a false smile so you can’t see the tears they want to shed.

Humor Some people hide the drama of their life by laughing off the pain. Sometimes the jokester is hiding something inside he or she doesn’t want you to see.

Hiding – Some people in pain 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.

Holiness – These people pretend their life is wonderful, that they are making wise decisions, that they are “good little Christians”, but the reality is they’ve made a mess of things and don’t know how to fix them.

One of the keys to a healthy church is continuing to learn how to engage people beyond the smiles of Sunday morning. 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 life?

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

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 26 Comments

  • karen daley says:

    I was also a member of this church not good

  • Scott says:

    I would say mine are Hiding and Happiness. I am currently in a situation where I just can,t seem to find a church that offers any type of one on one group counseling or any curriculum that would help aid in understanding of who we are and why we are in the situations we endure. Most churches in my area don,t offer anything such as these things and I am currently trying to find a way to pursuade the local churches to open their doors to the needs of the community and tear down their walls.

    • Daniel Himsey says:

      Hello Brother Scott, I’m preaching (Lay preacher) this Sunday evening at Rural Vale Baptist Church in Tellico Plains, TN. My msg will be, “Playing House”! It’s really addressing Church. My points are taken from the master of disguises, Judas Iscariot. 1.) He Read The Book 2.) He Had The Look 3.) He walked The Walk 4.) He Talked The Talk…… but his heart was dark-he had no light, he kissed heavens door-and went to hell that night.”

  • Deon says:

    (This should have gone before my other comment!)
    I have done ALL of those things on a regular basis as well as others. I would also add “Biblical knowledge” without heart application into that. I spent many years learning and speaking loudly about areas that I struggled with. After all, who would think I would mess up in a way I knew so much about and spoke so passionately against?! Also, PRIDE. Which I think goes hand in hand with knowledge too often. We put on the mask of pride or confidence to hide all that lies underneath. The insecurities or failures or sins. We would never be the one to mess up. These were brought out to me two years ago when my own marriage hit a tough spot. God had to bring me face to face with my own sin so that I would see mine was no different than my husbands.

  • Deon says:

    Sorry…accidentally hit Publish mid-sentence! I was brought face to face with all those 2 years ago when my own marriage was seriously rocked. I now label it this way – God pulled my security out from under me, took away everything I hid my failings behind, and forced me to see that my sin was no different than any other. It was because of that (and the hard moments over the next few months) that I stopped “playing church”…on a consistent basis anyway! Nobody’s perfect right?! My reminder is now Psalm 119:71 – It is GOOD for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn God’s ways.

  • PetDig says:

    Dear Christians! Please; get out there and tell people who the real Jesus is. Fix what man's twisted religion has broken. At least attempt to repair a small part of what the (false) church has corrupted. Exonerate God's character from the despicable lies the religious establishment has been telling about Him (like He will torture and burn alive non-Christians for eternity). This is NOT God's character, and it is NOT what the Bible teaches when you understand the whole story! Do you realize doctrines like this are responsible for the majority of atheists? If you teach this, YOU are partly responsible for turning many away from God, and you are in essence worshiping and promoting Lucifer's doctrine. Get out of a house (church) that teaches these doctrines of Satan, unless God has placed you there to correct them. Repent ….. and then get out there and fix it! Help restore the Lord's good Name among the sheep! You will be a small insignificant minority, and hated by ALL sides (i.e. – unbelievers AND the religious establishment) just as Jesus and the disciples were. But that is what "taking up your Cross" is all about. The lesson Jesus taught us is that Truth and the religious establishment are polar opposites, and it was the religious establishment who murdered Him – it wasn't the secular world. There is nothing new under the sun, and it's the same today. If you're not being persecuted, you're not doing your job. The Word, and the Word alone is where the Truth is. Learn the pure Word, and then do your part to undo the damage that has been done by the corrupt religious establishment – which is the primary platform for the devil's lies and propaganda.


    "The Truth will separate you from friends, family, and church."(Anonymous)

  • mar

    It also came to mind about the time we can’t do either of thouse, but by the responsability you keep on attending and you just overwhelm yourself with serving at church, just doing stuff and not letting issues to become real problems in the real life. Its a way no one notices and you just don’t have to deal with your mess.
    Been there. Done that.

  • Jason says:

    I would change Holiness to pretence! True Holiness is the call of every Christian. We are called to live a life of purity and holiness in our thoughts, words, actions, and motives. It looks like you were describing pretence or posing.

    I think people also pretend thru giving. We weigh a person's "Holiness" often on the amount they give when in fact a poor widow may actually give more. That is why God is concerned with our motives and not just our actions. He knows our true heart.

  • ronedmondson says:

    I totally agree. No disagreement there. We've done a poor job of being the church at times. Thanks for commenting.

  • ronedmondson says:

    That's very true. I would pray we get closer to the Biblical model though.

  • ronedmondson says:

    I understand. I don't think this is Biblical though, but rather cultural. The Bible is clear about community…bearing with one another. It's cultural here too, btw.

  • James Mac says:

    Interesting post, but there's a secondary related issue. You look at HOW people conceal; sometimes it's a matter of WHY. As Uma says, some of it is shame – that would be one reason for hiding.

    But part of it is also simple mistrust. I'm in a church that is very hot on ministering to what it thinks is the problem – except it doesn't listen to what's really going on. It also pushes its own way of sorting the problems without taking into account the needs of the person with problem (I reject the use of the word "victim", but it more than once has felt like that). Faced with that, who wouldn't step back and conceal the problems?

  • Because many feel it is shameful to reveal that something is not going fine in their life. This is very true especially in the East. People never come out and share their troubles even if it is church.

  • timelines says:

    WOW, what a great post. The sad thing is I can see me in each one of the 4 things…

    I worry if they know the "real" me I would have to explain so much. I do not want to do that.

    At this point in my life taking chances is not easy!

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thank you. There does seem to be a story here in your life. Praying for you!

  • linda jett says:

    I think its so important to ‘connect’ with people.To stop talking so much and listen with your heart and eyes.Keep your eyes looking in there’s.Really care.Be His hands and feet.Be His voice.Respond and follow up.If its me who’s hurting..I need to be open and talk to someone.Keep connecting!

  • Rob Rash says:

    I think I usually use Happiness and Humor most of the time, but I see many folks using all fours of these. Then you have the folks that don't mask anything and are completely honest about everything! You know what I mean?! 😉

    Good points Ron!