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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Does It Really Matter Where They Go?

Starting my newsletter has made me focus my attention on churches and their purpose, intentions and motives. I consulted with the pastor at the church I attend about my motives and desires of this ministry/business. Was my concern for people's salvation and spiritual lives or supporting my family? The logical answer would be both, which is why churches have to be run as businesses. My concern is that our churches have placed a high priority on the latter and I'm torn between what my priority should be.
I understand the function of the church, but I also have an idea in my head about what the function of the church could be. The church would have to ask itself, "Does It Really Matter Where They Go?" If you asked yourself is this a loaded question...yep, it is.
My idea is that the leader of the church should teach the members individually to minister to the community. Every person who attends the church already has a willingness to learn and a pastor's job is already hard enough ministering encouragement and comfort and teaching them how to grow their spiritual lives. Should they also have the sole responsibility of going out with a select few and ministering to the community themselves?

I don't believe that the ministry is only for a select few, educated people. The Body of Christ is often referred to as the church, with each person having it's own specific function in the church....the finger, the toe, the eye, etcetera. I can't believe that the people in the church are supposed to only serve the church. If we look at the church in the sense of being "a person" and then look at how we as "a person" are, how much of our time do we spend on ourselves compared to how much time we spend serving others? Myself, I probably spend at the most, an hour total every day taking care of personal hygiene and getting dressed. Usually, I spend anywhere from 5 to 8 hours sleeping. The rest of the time is spent cooking, cleaning, visiting, reading, praying, typing, working and playing. All of those are usually in some form or fashion serving someone other than myself. You might say, well, you're caring for your family. But if we're looking at the church in the sense of being "a person" then you have to see another church as "a person" too, which in my mind would be how you would see it if comparing it to "a family of persons."
Are we failing our communities because we only ask that people attend church, but once they get there we never teach them how they can fulfill their own purpose in life by ministering in their own way to others? When Jesus spoke of the parable of the sower, He said that the seeds that are sown in good ground will produce fruit, some 100 fold, some 60 and some 30. I can only imagine that means that not all the members will produce the same amount of fruit, but they still produce. He didn't say only sow your seeds in the ground that will produce 100 fold.

Based on my own personal opinion, the motivation most people have for getting saved is they want happiness or comfort in their life. After being saved for a while, their motives change to wanting righteousness in their life. They look around them to see they are on a race track and other people are flying by. As they're learning to run, they cheer on those who are running by them. Sometimes after a while, they step off the track to sit on the bench and cheer from the sidelines.
I've never been real involved in sports, but my daughter is. It never fails, at the beginning of the season, the kids that are labeled "bench warmers" are more than happy to "warm the bench." Towards the end of the season they start complaining because they are never asked to go out on the field. I can only assume that they gave the coach the impression that they had no ambition to learn how to be better players, they were content with sitting on the sidelines. After seeing game after game, the satisfaction the other players had after going out there and playing their best, they started feeling they were missing out on something they could not have because they were never asked to play. A coach only has so much time that he can spend with his players and he focuses his attention on those that have the same goal in mind as he does, to win.
Our church members are the same way. Unfortunately, there are members sitting on the bench and sometimes not by choice. Unlike a sports team, the pastor doesn't stand on the sidelines and give instruction like a coach. Every member can participate and the ones on the bench are the ones who need the most attention. They also want the prize, but they aren't sure how to get it. What I've witnessed happening in our churches is that a member will be assigned a ministry serving in the church and be replaced with a more "Biblically educated" person. They are left with a desire to minister, but not given any direction or instructions on how to fulfill that desire. Even if they're angry at the time and say they're unwilling to serve, I don't understand how that cannot be overcome or how they could be left to "sit on the bench." It takes time for ground to become too hardened for any seeds to be able to be sown.
Now for the other side of that loaded question. Should churches feel they should only support the purpose of increasing their own attendance and/or should they support a ministry that encourages people in the community to go to any church? I hope most churches prove me wrong, but it seems that churches are only supportive of the members pursuing ministries within the church that minister to the church. Never have I seen a church in which every single one of it's members know their purpose or function. Should it not be the pastor's responsibility to help each member find it's purpose and shouldn't their purpose be in ministering to their community?
There are those who come to church and do nothing else. Others are told that the purpose of those people is to show others, in the church, how to be faithful, but I can only wonder if those people know themselves that their ministry is to be faithful. Could it possibly be another way of saying they don't want the job of teaching that person how they can fulfill their purpose or ministry even if it is the ministry of being faithful? Do we just accept that they are ministering to others, outside of the church, by being faithful and never offer to teach them how to grow "their ministry?" Common sense would tell me that those who have been labeled with the ministry of being faithful, don't know that they even have a ministry and can use it to minister to people in the community, not just in the church. Again, I hope I am wrong.


Blogger Cindy said...

It's sad but true-too many end up just sitting on the sidelines- and a lot of times it's not because they don't want to do something, they just don't know what. And, sadder yet, they see all the positions being filled by their "betters". The idea of a "body" ministry needs to be taught and re-taught. There is supposed to be a place for each and every member of the body to minister. It's the same with our physical bodies- each part has a function and each part is necessary to help the others to function properly as well. And, when one part hurts, you don't chop it off and go on without it- something else that happens too shamefully often within our churches.

Sunday, January 15, 2006 5:40:00 PM  

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