So, yes, your church is imperfect. After a few weeks there you have realized this, I hope. Your pastor is either a bit boring or too over the top. You wish for a bit more depth in his messages or perhaps a bit more practical application. The music has too much drum or too much organ. The youth ministry needs more teaching or more pizza.
And maybe you've read one of the rash of books telling us how the church has gotten it all wrong for all these years, why the youth are heading for the exits. So you're convinced that your church needs to either get more missional, more doctrinal, more seeker-oriented. More something.
Here's the thing. You're probably somewhat right. I'm guessing the church you attend has inadequacies. But it's likely that it's served by staff who genuinely care about the Lord, about people, and about doing it right. They're probably missing some big things and making mistakes.
But, as I look at Scripture I see that God uses churches like this. Imperfect, clumsy, a bit off. Actually these are the only kinds of churches God can use because the only kinds of people he has to work with are ... you guessed it, sinners. You're one of them. Even though you've done the research, read the books, attended the seminary, you are still an imperfect human filled with sin. You're saved only by the grace of God and not your merit.
I say all this to say one thing. You can gripe about your church and find another. And perhaps that's what you need to do. I'm not minimizing serious church issues, abuse, etc. But, largely, church problems are caused by imperfect sinners.
What I'm saying is that you can see your church become more fully effective by becoming part of the solution. Be the change you want to see. Here are five ways you can help your church from an admittedly imperfect, learning, needy pastor:
1) Be Committed.
The best way to make your church better is to be there consistently and faithfully. Seriously, you can't gripe about a church you hardly frequent. And you have no idea how it encourages and motivates the heart of the pastor and staff to see you present at most functions regularly. And your regular attendance makes a statement to the world that God's called-out assembly means something to you. It makes a statement to the devil that you are standing with Christ and His body. And it makes a statement to yourself that church is more important than anything on Sunday. Also, part of being committed is to be at your place of service at the right time. If you've signed up for a ministry, be there when you say you will be. The church is depending on you.
2) Be On Time
This seems small, but it's big. Get up early on Sunday morning and be at church on time. I must confess that before I was a pastor I was habitually late to church. I always came, but I was usually late. Now that I'm a pastor I realize how this totally stresses the church staff. We actually like to know who is going to be there and who we can count on. And I think punctuality at church makes a statement about how much we care about the Lord. If we were as punctual at work as we were at church, I wonder how long many of us would keep our jobs. That sounds a bit harsh, I know, but getting to church early and on time helps your church become the church God intends it to be. If you're supposed to serve in a particular area, make a special effort to not only be on time, but be early. Give the attention to that ministry that you would to something you value such as your job or your favorite hobby.
3) Be Positive
Come to church with a smile. I'm not saying be plastic or inauthentic. If you're suffering through a crisis, the church should be the first place to cry. Don't come with a mask. But also don't come with a super-critical eye. Come intending to give back to the body with your gifts and talents. Come intending to be fed the Word, but also disciple and encourage others. Come ready to love and forgive and hug and forbear. Come to church ready to forgive small and big slights. Also, be pro-church. Greet guests warmly, advance the church goals and ministries with a smile. Be positive, not cynical.
4) Be Prepared
You can prepare with prayer. Before you walk in the doors, you might pray for your pastor and the staff. Pray for the Spirit's presence to be strong in the service and in the preaching. Bathe the entire church body in prayer. Think of some of the neediest members in your church and commit their needs to prayer. Most of all, before you walk in the church doors, pray that God will use you to impact someone's life for the Kingdom that Sunday. Sunday not simply an ordinary day. Church is not something to simply cross off our list. Church is the expression of Christ in the world. You are the church. Be the church. Pray that God powerfully uses you to change lives. And pray that through the preaching and worship and prayer you're heart will soften to the gospel and you'll become more like your Savior.
You can also prepare by preparing your own heart with Scripture. Be a person of the Word and doctrine so that your heart is ready to soak in the teaching on Sunday. Nurture your spiritual life so that the soil of your soul is ready to be changed for God's glory.
5) Be Solution-Oriented
In #3 I said to be positive. I want to offset that by saying being positive isn't being a flatterer or Kool-Aid guy. What I mean by this is that you help your church being gently discerning. If you see an area of improvement, make a note to try to be a difference maker. Ask the person in charge of that are if you can help solve the problem. In other words, rather than complaining about a dirty bathroom or a gap in the childcare, politely and kindly bring this to someone who can affect change and offer to help. The pastor and the staff don't see everything. They sometimes need some help from committed members on the ground level who can give them some critical feedback on services in the church.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, just a few ways you can make your church what God intends it to be.
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About Daniel Darling
Daniel Darling is the Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and is the author of several books, including his latest, iFaith. His work has been featured in evangelical publications such as Relevant Magazine, Focus on the Family, Marriage Partnership, Pray!, Relevant, In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley. He has guest-posted on leading blogs such as Michael Hyatt, The Gospel Coalition, OnFaith (Washington Post), and others. He has been profiled by The Chicago Tribune. Daniel is a contributing writer to Zondervan’s Couples Devotional Bible. Publisher’s Weekly called his writing style “substantive and punchy.” Dan is a contributing writer to Christian Today‘s online magazine, Kyria as well as Lifeway’s men’s devotional, Stand Firm. He also maintains a blog at patheos.com, entitled, The Friday Five, where he interviews leading evangelicals. Dan’s columns appear weekly at Crosswalk.com and monthly for the local Lake County Journals. Dan has been interviewed on TV and radio outlets across the country, including Moody Broadcasting Network, Harvest Television, The Sandy Rios Show, American Family Radio, the Salem Radio Network, and a host of drive time radio stations across the country. Daniel has a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from Dayspring Bible College. He traveled extensively to India and the Middle East. He and his wife, Angela, have three daughters and a son and reside in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.
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