I recently heard about a family in our denomination who drove nearly an hour to church every Lord’s Day for a number of years. Because of where they happened to live, there was no closer likeminded local church for them to attend. This family knew that committing to that long drive meant that they would not have the fellowship that they might have had otherwise. They did, however, expect that families in the church would invite them to lunch. After months of not be invited by anyone, the wife decided that she would be an agent of change. Every Sunday, she would bring a crockpot–with an easily prepared meal–to the church building. She would plug the crockpot in before the service and then invite families from the church to eat a meal with them after the service each Sunday. This is a prime example of what it means to “be the change” you are wanting in your church.
Last year, I wrote a post titled, “The Church Comes First,” in which I sought to give several reasons why I believe that according to Scripture the local church is to be the foremost sphere of priority in the lives of believers. I want to give further consideration to one of the points in that post where I suggested the following:
The Church is dependent on the resources and service of its members. The communal aspect of the church on earth is absolutely dependent on the willingness of the people of God to give of their time, gifts, prayers and resources for the building up of the members of the local church. Both pastors and people alike are in need of the gifts and resources of the members of the local church. The Apostles make this abundantly clear through their illustrative references to “the body” (Rom. 12 and Eph. 4). Equally, they do so by the multitude of references to using gifts and giving generously. Building cost, utilities, outreach, worship supplies, office supplies, staffing, mercy ministry, missionary support, etc. require the generous giving of the time and money of the members of the body.
When we divide our labors and fellowship, we necessarily end up hurting the local church of which we are a part. Imagine for a moment what it would be like if a husband and father decided to give a 20% commitment to provide and care for his family and an 80% commitment to provide and care for other friends and families. You would expect a monumental breakdown in the dynamic of his family life. In such a case, there would necessarily be detrimental marital and parental consequences. Similarly, many local churches suffer because the majority of its members only give a 10-20% commitment to the local church of which they are a part and an 80-90% commitment to other organizations and activities.
The local church not only suffers when her members divide their time, labors, fellowship and resources to a significant degree among secular activities in society–she suffers when her members significantly divide their time, labors, fellowship and resources between numerous local churches, or between the local church and parachurch ministries. Church hopping–while it might seem like a harmless way to meet an individual’s social needs–only ends up hurting the body. Those who tend to divide their lives between multiple local churches or between a single local church and a parachurch ministry believe that they are meeting a need or correcting a deficiency. I fear that discontentment often lies at the root of much of this division of commitment.
Every church will have its deficiencies. Local church members must not allow discontentment to fester in their hearts and minds. Rather, we should seek to be “change agents” for the health and well-being of the body of which we are a part. I am not sure who first coined the (fairly cheesy) phrase, “Be the change you seek,” but I find it to be full of wisdom–provided someone is not seeking to bring about change in a divisive way in the life of the church. In short, all of us are either “problem observers” or “problem solvers.” If the local church lacks fellowship among a particular demographic, we should be seeking to fill the gap–using our gifts to strengthen that particular dynamic of the local church. If the music in the church is wanting, we should be willing to fully use our gifts and talents to help better that aspect of the church’s life–or to encourage those in the body to do so through a use of their gifts in that area. If we find ourselves to be some of the only young adults or couples in the church, we should be active in inviting others in that stage of life to worship and fellowship with us. If the church’s hospitality is lacking, we should be seeking to model what it looks like to be hospitable. All of this should, of course, be done in loving communication with and humble submission to the elders and deacons of the church–but you should not wait for elders and deacons to take the initiative on bringing about change where we believe that we see deficiencies.
Imagine what it would look like if every member of a local church sought to use their gifts, labors and resources to the full in the local church. Imagine how many seeming problems would be resolved if each of us committed to doing our part to be a blessing and an agent of change. Problem observing fosters discontentment, problem solving yields peaceable fruits. In short, it’s time to change your church!