It’s been awhile…and I’m breaking with my blog purpose here, but I feel like I need to post. I’ve been in full-time ministry for over a decade now. I’m still very much a rookie. Most days I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve done a lot of things wrong. By God’s grace, I’ve learned and He’s helped me get a lot of things right.
Through it all, I’ve picked up on some things that I have seen hurt local congregations. I’d like to say what follows are things that are done unintentionally. However, I also know that Satan is often more than ready to throw his schtick into the mix and lead us to treat one another in ways that aren’t Christlike.
The first is: Refusing to participate in something new.
Nobody likes change. I absolutely despise it. I like routine. I like comfort. I like stability. I don’t like when that gets chucked out the window on any given day.
I get it. Something that you’re not familiar with comes along and it feels like everything holy and sacred is getting ripped away. It can make you feel like a stranger in your own congregation. We long to go back to safer times; to the ‘good ‘old days,’ when things were better.
If we’re honest…the good old days weren’t that good. We just remember them with fondness because we block out the bad things. Getting real and being honest, however, we know that we’re just grasping for some kind of familiar stability. Perhaps that’s why Solomon writes:
Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this. (Ecc. 7:10)
Being upset and refusing to move forward only hinders what God is doing. It doesn’t help. It isn’t going to convince everybody else of your point. It isn’t going to change hearts and methods (which is what we’re usually trying to avoid anyway. Ironic). So don’t refuse to do something new. Whether it’s small groups, a new service opportunity, participating with people you aren’t familiar with, or singing new songs. Whatever it is, I can guarantee it isn’t worth dividing the body of Christ over.
Remember: It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about Jesus and reaching people with the Good news that Jesus is Lord! Whatever that takes, whatever method or change needs to happen that brings that goal to fruition, you need to be 100% all-in behind your leaders.
The next way you can hurt your church is this: Not Submitting to the Authority of the Shepherds.
Jesus saw fit to appoint elders in every congregation to oversee what went on in His church. These men are chosen to lead because they are already doing so. They guide and direct the congregation. They lead. They shepherd.
By refusing to submit to go where they are being led by God, you are actually disobeying Christ. The writer of Hebrews instructs us with these words:
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)
If you are publicly disparaging, criticizing or critiquing your leaders, you are hurting your church. It really is that simple. If you refuse to go in the direction God has asked them to lead, you are sowing discord and stifling unity.
Don’t make it a burden…don’t complain and criticize. Partner with God on what He’s doing, and support it fully. Get excited. Get involved. Don’t pout in the corner or launch out on a PR campaign to smear and malign. That’s what Satan does. Are you on his side or God’s? That’s what I thought.
The next thing you can do that will hurt your church: Refusing to participate at all.
The church does not exist to benefit you and me. It exists because it was bought at a great cost: Jesus’ blood. It exists to bring glory to God by partnering with Him in restoring Creation.
If I refuse to participate or make time for all that God is doing, I’m only hurting the church. If you’re not involved in something, I challenge you to find your place in God’s story and what He’s doing in your local church. How has He gifted you to serve others? When you find it, I promise it’ll change your life. Why? Because when you’re serving others you don’t have time to worry about anything else. You’ll be living life on purpose.
Another way you can hurt the church: Boycotting Classes and Refusing to Come
I really don’t understand this one. It literally boggles my mind, makes me sad, and hurts my head all at once. How in the world can you claim to follow the risen Messiah and refuse to sit at the feet of the ones He appointed to teach? How can you possibly say you belong to a church that you despise and refuse to attend.
Do you think you’re making a point? Do you think it’s making everyone else rethink their lives? Do you think it’s going to help bring unity to the church and spread the Gospel? Nope.
What it DOES do is show an incredible lack of spiritual maturity. If we take our ball and go home when we don’t get our way, we are not being a Christian…we are being babies. Seriously. Knock it off. You are working for the Enemy. You’re not helping God one iota. You are simply giving an unbelieving world another reason to not listen to what Jesus has to say.
The final way you can hurt your church is this: Not Making Church a Priority.
I understand work, life, health, and all kinds of other things will mess up getting to worship and other things. Things happen, right?
However, missing because you’re tired…or it’s a nice day so you want to chill at home…or it being your only day off.
I hear you.
Here is where this leads: Why isn’t my family growing spiritually? Why don’t my kids seem interested in Youth Group? Why do I feel so disconnected from my church family?
All of these stem from being unengaged. It isn’t the church’s fault. It isn’t the Youth Minister’s fault. It isn’t the elder’s fault. It rests squarely on your shoulders. Pretty soon you’ll be church hopping, looking for that “perfect” church, and weary because you’ll never find it. The grass is green where you water it. If you’re not making engagement in your local congregation a priority…then you can’t blame anyone else.
If you find yourself saying, “I don’t go because I don’t get anything out of it,” or “It’s boring,” that is a symptom that you don’t really prioritize your relationship with God.
If church becomes one of many options, it will cease to be an option at all. The more you miss, the easier it becomes to never go back. The less engaged you are, the more likely you are to do the things listed above in my other points.
I don’t write this to guilt-trip anyone. I don’t write it to shame you. I write it that we may once again feel the urgency of the Gospel. That we might stop putting ourselves and our comfort first, and that we would lay down our lives for others.
I pray that my congregation will truly learn to become “all things to all people” that we may reach some. The stakes are too high. The price is too great. The excuses won’t hold up. I pray that your congregation will have the same.
I plead with you that if you are doing anything I’ve brought up, that you would earnestly pray and repent. I pray that you will stop doing it, because you are literally choking the Body of Christ. We’ve got to come together. We’ve got to stop working against God and move with the Spirit. It’s our calling. What a beautiful calling it is.