Recently in this space we discussed the need for a Modern Reformation among Christian churches. As mentioned in that commentary, the modern Church – at least in the United States – has lost its focus, and much of that is due to shortcomings that need to be addressed within the organizational structure of our churches.
But there is another aspect of change necessary in today’s churches – and it’s much more personal.
God’s people also need to refocus at the individual level. We need to refocus on the One who has redeemed us, and once we’ve done that we also need to reconsider how we serve, support, and fellowship within the operational structure of our local church. We’re not discussing the need for revival here – everyone should agree that is needed above all.
As with the proposed corporate points mentioned in the earlier post, the following list of proposals for improving our individual focus is offered merely to start a conversation. It is by no means comprehensive, nor is it to be taken as Gospel.
Remember too that in this post we are examining the way that individual believers operate within the organizational structure of the church. Foundational to all of this is that we must all maintain an intimate spiritual relationship with God. All the items in this list come after that.
1. Do all things to glorify God.
Paul instructs us in his first letter to the Corinthians that everything we do should be done to bring glory to the Father, and if that’s not enough – Jesus’ example should be. The Father is first, period.
Any work we do within the church, any contribution we make, any insight we share – ALL should be done within the pretext of bringing glory to God. Every one of us should be constantly questioning our own motives, and if we find there is any other reason for what we’re doing than to glorify God – we should stop immediately.
2. See your own weakness in others’ failure.
This is a big deal, but it’s also difficult. Pride always fights any effort to admit imperfection. But we are imperfect – ALL OF US. From the pastor to the newest convert, we are all sinners by nature, and every last one of us is just one bone-headed decision away from being right where the worst of us is.
NEVER let yourself think “I could never do that.” Because guess what – YOU COULD.
Realizing that we have the same weak nature that every other human being has is the first step toward both righteous judgment and ready forgiveness – and it’s necessary if we’re going to be able to love that person in the assembly who just constantly grates on our nerves.
3. Know your passions and your gifts, and work to them.
Believers who have a servant’s heart are a great blessing to a pastor. Often they see a need and jump in to fill it without having to be asked. The rest of us could use a little more of their initiative.
But jumping in without first seeking God’s direction can be dangerous – both to the servant and to those around them. No doubt most of us have sat in Sunday School classes taught by well-meaning servants who just don’t have a gift for teaching, or who just wanted to be helpful but had no real passion for the job.
It can be a downright painful experience – and it can keep someone who is gifted in that area from being able to serve in the capacity for which the Creator has designed them. If you’re not a natural at something and you don’t have a passion for it, don’t do it. Trust me, the rest of us will thank you.
That being said, listen if the pastor or a fellow believer tells you that you have the right gifts to perform a certain job. We are often blind to the characteristics about ourselves which are most obvious to others.
4. Support the mission.
This should go without saying – but unfortunately in most churches if it’s not said, it’s not done. Reaching people comes with many costs, most obviously in money and time. EVERY believer within the assembly should support the work of the church in both those capacities.
5. Live to your own convictions, but don’t expect others to do so.
If God tells you it’s wrong to do something, don’t do it. If He hasn’t told someone else, don’t take it upon yourself to do so.
The flip side of that is that if we share our convictions with others – which is perfectly fine if done in the right spirit (see #1 above) – we MUST abide by them.
I recall two fellow believers who brashly chastised a young woman for accepting Georgia’s Hope Scholarship to help pay college tuition because those funds are raised through the state’s lottery system. The young lady was devastated by what was really nothing more than legalistic bullying, and eventually left the church. Later, those same believers readily applied for and accepted Hope funds to pay tuition for their own children.
Hypocrisy at its finest – and a prime example of why modern Christians have little credibility in today’s society.
6. Attend a church in the immediate community if one exists.
PLEASE spend some time pondering this one, because it’s CRUCIAL to getting us back to where we should be. Think of the churches in the Apostles’ time. They weren’t known by some Biblical name pulled out of Scripture. They were known by their location. They identified with the communities where they existed.
Ask yourself – is it possible that the reason our churches have such a hard time reaching the community is because so many church members don’t live there?
The earliest Christians worshipped together, ate together, worked together, supported one another, and yes they also disagreed with one another. But what was born out of that struggle has impacted the world in the centuries that followed.
Two points bear mentioning here.
First, we are most vested in that which immediately surrounds us. Attending the church which is most near to us in location just might lead us to be more involved in its outreach than we would otherwise. Doing so would also reinforce the community-based support system that is so necessary to provide a good start for our children, a strong kinship with our neighbors, and help for our needy – all of which are terribly lacking today.
Second, none of us knows everything there is to know about our faith, ourselves, or our world. Today it’s easy to wall ourselves off and drive 20 minutes to church so that we can surround ourselves with completely like-minded people.
It’s comfortable. But it’s not beneficial.
That way of thinking leaves us susceptible to flawed belief, and it impedes our ability to remain open minded and constantly growing. Scripture tells us that iron sharpens iron, but if all the iron we have is fashioned into swords, with what will we till the ground? There is value in discussing and debating our differences, but there is no value at all in never encountering a position different than our own.