If you're a Christian, whether you realize it or not, you are called, by God, to be on mission in the world. This is the essence of the gospel call, that you were not simply saved from death but also saved for a purpose (Ephesians 2:10). That purpose is to make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20). And the way God has called you to make disciples is through the local church, His expression of His body in your community.
So how do you help your disciple-making, evangelistic, Bible-preaching church with its mission? You might think I'm going to say something really cool like: "go to another conference with a well-known speaker" or "read and then pass along to your pastor that best-selling book" or "get your pastor to do this or that new, innovative church ministry model."
Those are all good efforts. And if you are in a position of influence, please use that to move your church forward. But there is one, very uncool thing you can do to help your church be all that God desires it to be in the community.
Be dependable. If you were to give your pastor a shot of truth serum, he'd probably say his biggest frustration is to find dependable people. Of course he won't say this publically, because he's very grateful for the few in his church who are dependable. I think of my own church, Gages Lake Bible, and the band of people who give of their time (mostly volunteer) to make the church function smoothly. They are awesome.
There is a verse, 1 Corinthians 4:2, that I memorized while in Christian grade school. It's simple: "It is required of stewards that they be found faithful." In other words, what God is most looking for from His people are not necessarily spectacular gifts, stunning talent, or amazing personality. Those are wonderful traits that can be leveraged for God's kingdom, to be sure. But what God is mostly looking for is faithfulness.
Faithfulness is really not a sexy term. You don't see too many big conferences on faithfulness. I'm guessing none of the political candidates are running on a faithfulness platform. And it's a subject that is not going to wow your Twitter and Facebook followers.
But wow is it valuable in a church, especially most churches that are, like our church, small and limited in resources. One faithful person or a faithful family can really move a church forward.
And by faithfulness I mean:
- Attending the services and functions whenever possible. Even when you don't feel like it. Even when you'd rather be watching football. Not simply because you may get something out of it, but because your presence says something about what you value. Doesn't mean you don't go on vacation (I encourage our families to travel--do it, please do it.) Doesn't mean you don't ever get sick. Doesn't mean you don't travel for business. But all in all, are you someone who is in church whenever you can be?
- Signing up for jobs nobody wants, like the nursery. Believe it or not, if you want your church to be a family friendly church, somebody has to volunteer to supervise the children. Even if it's not "your thing." I'm pretty sure nursery is not anyone's thing, really. Neither is setting up for an event, mowing the grass, or other such mundane stuff. But these faithful tasks are what makes a church function. And they are acts of worship and sacrifice that please the Lord.
- Being on time and being someone that your pastor and the church leadership can count on. There are two kinds of church members, in my view. Those who we all know will be there and those whom we wonder if they will show up. Don't make your attendance and/or participating in a ministry commitment a game-time decision. Don't make it depend on your faulty alarm-clock or whether or not you spent Saturday night playing Halo. Be there. Be faithful. Be committed. Be consistent.
- Committing to a regular pattern of giving. Yes, I know you are tired of hearing this from pastors. Yes, we often ask for money in ham-handed ways. But, there is hardly a better measure of your heart than your wallet. (I didn't say that, Jesus did.)
Why is faithfulness so important? Because it tells yourself, the world, and your Lord what and whom you value. God loves His Church, His Bride. And he calls us to love Her too. I dare say your faithful participating in a local, gospel-preaching church for a long-lifetime will do more for the Kingdom than that winsome blog post, witty tweet, or Facebook rant.
So, to those who faithfully attend, do nursery, hand out bulletins, volunteer, cook meals, tithe, and other church things, I salute you as Christian heros. To those who are not as faithful, here's your chance: commit this week to being faithful to the local church where you are called.
Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). You can find more from Dan at his website DanielDarling.com.