Are you sitting or serving?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

What is the average person’s image of the church?  Too often our look at the church is what’s in it for me.  Too many times there is an emphasis on being served, rather than serving.  Remember what Jesus said about servanthood in Matt. 20:25-28.  He came to serve rather than to be served.  That should be our philosophy of life.  This should be our emphasis whenever we gather together with other believers.  What needs do they have that I can seek to meet?  Closely related to what the Lord Jesus commanded concerning servanthood is what the apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 12 about our placement in the Body of Christ and how we should be involved as members of the Body.   

In my recent preaching series on “Confronting Complacency,”  I addressed the question, “Are You Sitting or Serving?”  In answering this question, we focused on I Corinthians 12 and how to become an active member of the church.  There are four problems which need to be confronted and eliminated to be an active member.

  • The problem of limited capability:  there is no member that has not been equipped for service (I Cor. 12:7-14, 28-31).   “I can’t do it.”

You may use the excuse for not ministering, “I can’t do it,” but it doesn’t hold water.  It is not true, considering how God has equipped each believer for service.  You as a believer are equipped with a spiritual gift (I Cor. 12:7-11, 28-31).  You are equipped by the Holy Spirit—He has given you a gift (I Cor. 12:7-11) and has placed you in the Body of Christ (12:12-14).  You can be an active member of the Body because He equips you and empowers you.  

  • The problem of unwise comparison:  there is no member that is less or more important than another (I Cor. 12:15-26). “They don’t need me.” “I don’t need you.” 

There are two attitudes which Paul confronts in this chapter regarding a believer’s place in the Body of Christ.  They are attitudes which hinder one’s involvement in the Body.  And they are built on unwise comparisons.  There is the attitude of inferiority—“they don’t need me” (I Cor. 12:15-20).  But you shouldn’t say this because each member is equally important (12:17) and God has placed you where He wants you (12:18-20).  On the other extreme, there is the attitude of superiority—“I don’t need you” (12:21-26).  Even the weaker and less important members are important (12:22-24), and there must be unity and caring in the Body (12:25-26).  These truths argue against a superior attitude.  Removing these wrong attitudes is necessary to be an active member.

  • The problem of inaccurate conclusion:  there is no member that is not needed (12:21-24). “I am not needed.”

You cannot say that you have no need of other believers because even the weaker and less honorable members are necessary.  Paul illustrates this again from the human body.  He shows the importance of three kinds of members of the Body.  The weaker members are necessary, likely referring to members such as the internal organs which require the protection of the rest of the body (12:22).  The less honorable members are vital, likely referring to the parts of the body which are not attractive (torso, thighs, stomach) and need to be clothed (12:23a).  The unpresentable members are essential (12:23b-24), likely referring to the private parts (not shameful in themselves, but rather the display of them—showing concern by covering them).  Since each member of the Body is needed, each should be active.  

  • The problem of mutual consideration:  there is no member that should be rejected or neglected (12:25-26). “I don’t care.”

The purpose for God blending together the Body and giving more abundant honor to the part lacking is in order that there may not be a schism in the Body.  God wants no division, but unity.  If some members feel superior, it can make others feel inferior and unimportant.  This destroys unity and causes one to isolate from other members and have a lack of caring for other members. Functioning properly in the Body requires mutual consideration for one another.  There must be the same care for one another (12:25) and a sympathizing sharing with one another (12:26). Each member should be considered important to the Body.  

It is the case of many, if not most, churches that the great majority of the work and ministry in the church is being done by the small minority of believers.   The 80/20 principle is so often mentioned:  20% in the church are doing 80% of the work.  Are you part of the 80 or the 20?  Are you inactive or active?  Are you sitting or serving?

Because of His Grace—Pastor Charlie

How are you identified with the church?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In their book, A Heart Like His, Mike and Amy Nappa present a list of hypothetical reasons why a person stopped going to ball games. While these reasons seem extreme, they sound too familiar to excuses given today for not attending church. Here are the twelve reasons given regarding why he stopped going to ball games: When-ever I go to a game, they ask for money. . . . The other fans don’t care for me. . . . The seats are too hard. . . . Coach never visits me. . . . The referee makes calls I don’t agree with. . . . Some of the games go into overtime and make me late for dinner. . . . The band plays songs I don’t know. . . . I have other things to do at game time. . . . My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up. . . . I know more than the coaches do anyway. . . . I can be just as good a fan at the lake. . . . I won’t take my kids to a game either. They must choose for themselves which teams to follow (Barbour, 1999; pp. 182-183). I’m sure you get the point. While the typical sports fan would not use these excuses for avoiding sporting events, many professing believers use these very excuses for avoiding church attendance.

In my recent preaching series on “Confronting Complacency,” I addressed the question, “How Identified Are You With the Church?” We must first distinguish between the universal Church (Matt. 16:18; Col. 1:18) and the local church (Acts 2:42, 47; 8:1; 9:31; 12:1; 13:1; 14:23). While every true believer is a member of the Universal Church (composed of all born again believers in Christ since the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2), not every believer is a member of a local church. Many don’t see the need to be involved in a local church. They rarely, if ever, attend church services. Others attend church services periodically, but they never commit themselves to a particular local church. This is not the pattern that we see in the New Testament. In the early Church, when a person became a believer in the Lord Jesus as his Savior, he soon banded together with fellow-believers, recognizing the need for fellowship with believers. He became identified with a body of believers. Such should be the case with every believer today. This identification will be displayed in commitment, specifically in three areas: where the church is going, on what the church is grounded, and how the church is growing.

In my message on this topic, I addressed the direction of the church—where the church is going. We as believers must be committed to where the church is going. The mission statement of Blue River, which defines the direction of our church, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ who actively praise God in worship, practice godliness in character, promote growth in believers, and proclaim the gospel to unbelievers. As a church, we focus on relationships—our relationship with God, with believers, and with unbelievers. Second, we examined the doctrine of the church—that on which the church is grounded. The early Church was grounded on the teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:42), and the local church must be grounded on the truth of the Word. All that we do revolves around sound doctrine, having a firm commitment to it (I Tim. 4:6; II Tim. 3:10), a faithful communication of it (I Tim. 5:17; Tit. 1:9), and a godly conduct in accordance with it (I Tim. 1:10; 6:1, 3). Finally, we looked at the development of the church—how the church is growing. We saw six marks of the development of the early Church: faithful teaching (Acts 2:42a), regular fellowship (Acts 2:42b, 46), consistent remembrance (Acts 2:42c), corporate prayer (Acts 2:42d), reverential fear (Acts 2:43), generous sharing (Acts 2:44-45), genuine praise (Acts 2:47a), and daily growth (Acts 2:47b). Just as with the early Church, our church is committed to the proper direction, to sound doctrine, and to steady development.

Many of those who are reading this letter have in one way or another identified with Blue River. Do you as a believer identify with the direction, doctrine, and development of our church? How is this identification demonstrated?

  • Are you committed to regularly attending the services of the church? Or is your attendance sporadic at best?

  • Are you committed to developing relationships with believers in the church? How many do you know well and encourage?

  • Are you committed to faithful involvement in at least one ministry of the church? How are you using your spiritual gift?

  • Are you committed to sacrificial giving to the church, both to our local ministry and to our worldwide missions outreach?

  • Are you committed to reaching out to the lost, seeking to win them to Christ and help them grow spiritually?

  • Are you committed to consistent prayer for the church and to corporate prayer with other believers in the church?

  • Are you committed to making disciples within the church, selecting those who you can help toward spiritual maturity?

What are specific ways that you need to strengthen your identification with Blue River Bible Church?

Because of His Grace—Pastor Charlie

Are You Isolated or Involved?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

A sad story appeared in the Boston Globe in October 1993.  It reads as follows:  “It can never be said that Adele Gaboury's neighbors were less than responsible. When her front lawn grew hip-high, they had a local boy mow it down. When her pipes froze and burst, they had the water turned off. When the mail spilled out the front door, they called the police. The only thing they didn't do was check to see if she was alive. She wasn't.  Police finally climbed her crumbling brick stoop, broke in the side door of her little blue house, and found what they believe to be the 73-year-old woman's skeletal remains, where they had lain, perhaps for as long as four years. ‘It's not really a friendly neighborhood,’ said Eileen Dugan, 70, once a close friend of Gaboury's, whose house sits 20 feet from the dead woman's house. ‘I'm as much to blame as anyone. She was alone and needed someone to talk to, but I was working two jobs and was sick of her coming over at all hours. Eventually I stopped answering the door.’ ”  (Source: Sally Jacobs, "Years After Neighbors Last Saw Her, Worcester Woman Found Dead," Boston Globe 10/27/93)

This story is morbid, but true. Even though it is an extreme case, it reveals the danger of isolating from others.  Adele Gaboury, who seemed to be seeking relationships with others, did not evidently have any family or friends to whom she was close.  She must have lived a very lonely life.  All those who lived around her were too busy to develop a close relationship with her.  Perhaps there are those around us like Adele.  They have deep needs, but we don’t have time to develop a close friendship with them.   Maybe we choose to live isolated from others, not taking time and effort to get involved in their lives.   This can be true in families and in neighborhoods, but it is so often the case in churches.  We can attend the same church for years and never develop close relationships.  We can sit across the sanctuary Sunday after Sunday and yet never know the name of that person, or never speak to him or her. All conversations and relationships that we do have are surface in nature and go no deeper than a courteous greeting.   We see each other, but know very little about the other.  There is no accountability nor any desire to get to know each other. We too often choose the path of isolation and have little involvement with others.

In my recent preaching series on “Confronting Complacency,”  I addressed the question, “Are You Isolated or Involved?”  I pointed out that isolation is one of the greatest hindrances to developing relationships.  When you isolate yourself from others, you cut yourself off from a ministry from others (Eccl. 4:7-12).  You need someone to help you and someone with whom you can share, but you choose to go it alone.  Isolating yourself also cuts you off from a ministry toothers(Heb. 10:24-25).  The writer to the Hebrews exhorts us to consider one another, focusing our attention on the other and turning our focus from our needs to those of others.  We should consider one another in order to stimulate and stir up one another to love and to good works.  How do you consider one another?  Negatively, by not abandoning the assembling of ourselves together, and positively, by exhorting (encouraging/admonishing) one another.   This is a major purpose of meeting with one another, not only on Sundays, but whenever the opportunity arises. You cannot study the “one anothers” of the New Testament without realizing the necessity of being involved in one another’s lives (cp. Rom. 12:10, 16; Gal. 5:13; Phil. 2:3; I Thess. 4:18; 5:11; I John 4:7, 11). In addition, the experiences of life require involvement as we share in the rejoicing and in the suffering of others (Rom. 12:15; I Cor. 12:26).  

Let’s take personal inventory.  The answer to these questions may reveal how isolated or how involved you are:

  • With which three people in our church have you begun to develop a relationship this past month?

  • Can you name the new families who have come into our church in 2018?  Which have you made an effort to welcome?  With which have you developed a relationship?

  • Are there people down the pew or across the aisle to whom you have never introduced yourself?

  • Do you confine your involvement only to the people with whom you sit/associate each Sunday?

  • Is there anyone in our church to whom you are accountable? Who are you keeping accountable?

  • Do you regularly attend small groups (Sunday School, connection groups, etc.) to get to know others?

  • Do you utilize time before and after services to get to know others?

  • Do you limit your interaction with church members to Sunday mornings?  Or do you make contact during the week also?

  • What percentage of your relationships at church are only surface in nature?  How many close relationships do you have?

  • Do you regularly pray for the needs of those in our church?  Do you communicate this to them?

In this new year, commit yourself to leave isolation behindby deepening your involvement in the lives of others. Take the risk to get to know others . . . move out of your comfort zone.  Take the initiative in making contact . . . don’t expect others to come to you.  Go beyond the surface. . . use each contact to learn more about the person.

Because of His Grace — Pastor Charlie