Physicians must take what is known as the Hippocratic Oath. The key promise is to “first, do not harm.” We entrust physicians with the hope and expectation of either improvement or the continuation of our physical or mental wellness.
The same is true for our local churches: we visit, attend, and join a local body of baptized believers worshiping our Savior, hoping to be fed, nourished, and strengthened. Yet there is much criticism of the local church and its leaders. Sadly, most of it originates from those occupying the pews.
Are you and I engaging in behavior which inhibits the purpose, growth, and strength of the local church? Here are five simple ways you can be a positive influence on the health of your church:
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1. Go ahead and join.
You likely know or have known those single men and women who enjoy dating (sometimes for decades) without any intention of commitment. A relationship with the local church is no different.
In Ephesians 4:16, Paul taught, “[f]rom whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
By choosing to not join the church, the believer is missing out on the key aspects of being part of their church family as well as having a voice in how it operates. The local church needs you as a member to teach a Sunday school class, take up an offering, and vote whether or not to paint the vestibule.
Prayerfully ask God to direct you to a church which will strengthen you and your family, both individually and collectively as a member of the local body. If you have a desire to serve and grow as a Christian, ask God to lead you to a church with opportunities for your talents and gifts.
If you have yet to discern your individual talent or mission, He will direct you to a church with seasoned Christians who will allow you to identify and develop your areas of skill.
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2. Don't 'hop' too soon.
Do you know people who jump from church to church at the first sign of adversity? Their hope is that the next church is empty of drama or hypocrisy and full of church activities to meet their unique worship needs. When leaders do this, whether in music or youth ministry, those who are under the direction of their leadership can feel they are not 'all in,' making their ministry far less effective and undermining the body as a whole.
It’s understandable that, in some cases, there can be genuinely unbiblical activities taking place in a church that leave you no choice but to find another home for your family. However, leaving due to hurt feelings because no one ate your chicken casserole at homecoming is killing the stability of our local churches.
In Hebrews 10:24-25, we are told “let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” while “exhorting one another.” Believe it or not, fellow church members are emotionally invested in your spiritual condition and growth. When attendees are sporadic or tenuously dedicated to one church, the emotional connection with the church and its members is missing. And the pastor and other members feel a certain amount of failure when someone decides to take their Bible next door. We can’t have one foot in one church and the other looking for a better opportunity.
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3. Don’t be so critical of the pastor.
We all likely know those members who make note of every time the pastor misquotes a Scripture, accidently preaches only four points when he promised five, or refers to Sister Hazel as Sister Helen. The demand of our work and school days today leaves little room for positivity on the days we’re with our church family. We all invariably bring the stress of life into church with us on Sunday.
In Hebrews 13:17, we are taught, “[o]bey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
The pastor of a church has an extreme amount of pressure to perform well. However, keep in mind that his desire is primarily to please our Lord and Savior, not those who occupy the church pews.
If your pastor if preaching the unadulterated Word of God, your job is to pray for his strength to continue proclaiming these unsearchable truths.
Have compassion and recognize that the dedicated minister of the Word appreciates the occasional spiritual “fist bump.” Whether he says so or not, he is thankful for an occasional “Amen!” during the service, or at least a handshake in appreciation for his work.
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4. Join a church activity that’s a great fit for you.
It can be hard to juggle everyone’s availability when your family is growing or raising small children or has family members battling illness. However, when you have the time and opportunity, you should support the endeavors of your local church either with your time or financial resources.
Rather than thinking of reasons to support a church activity, many of us are quick to come up with excuses as to why we are not able to participate. Maybe it feels like supporting the church bake sale will ruin your Saturday morning.
In Colossians 3:23, Paul proclaims, “[a]nd whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men."
Church activities and outings are a privilege we’re granted to do a small part in the ministry of His church. Have you ever regretted doing something for God? Truly, I find that I get as much out of participating in a church activity as the church obtains from my service. The returns of serving God’s house always far outweigh the inconvenience of a Friday night or Saturday morning away from your normal schedule.
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5. Pray for your church leaders.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:25, Paul simply requests, “Brethren, pray for us.” In his writing to the Colossians, he explains further, “[w]ithal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds” (Colossians 4:3).
Try praying for your Sunday school teachers in the same fashion. Additionally, you should pray for those who are in charge of the music portion of the service, that each song is sung and each instrument played to resound the victory of our risen Savior!
Your music leader does not use a random number generator on his smartphone to select hymns. Similarly, the valued and passionate Sunday school teacher does more than just randomly select a book of the Bible and have attendees read verses until the clock reaches 10:50 a.m.
The structure, content, and presentation of every aspect of a Sunday service should have resulted from the prayer of the church’s members. If any part of the service fails to live up to your individual expectations, make sure the deficiency is not from the lack of your fervent and dedicated prayer claiming God’s power and presence in His house of worship.
Chad Napier is a believer in Christ, attorney at law, wannabe golfer, runner, dog lover, and writer. He enjoys serving his church as a deacon and Sunday School teacher. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at his golf devotion par3sixteen.com. He and his wife Brandi reside in Tennessee with their canine son Alistair.
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