My Identity as Part of the Church

I am not sure how long it has been since you started looking for a church.  Whether you have moved or whether your life circumstances have changes.  When you go into a church you are looking for certain things.

  1. Will we be fed? If I am not in the Word on a daily basis, this is literally a life line for many in the church.
  2. Is the worship style aligned with what speaks to us? Are we spiritually moved and entertained?
  3. Do they have a good children’s ministry? My son at one of these critical junctures asked if we were going to the church that was fun or the one that we learned about Jesus.  We felt convicted and went to the one that talked about Jesus.
  4. Do the people in the congregation look like me?  This comes to feeling welcomed and in a place that is not too foreign.
  5. Of lesser concerns initially are whether the church has a vibrant Men’s and/ or Women’s ministry.

That brings me to the point of me in the church.  If we are all part of the body, then why are we reluctant to serve and do it with thanksgiving.  What if a number of those qualifiers are not that good.  Instead of opting to strengthen that ministry, we would rather move on to where we are not required to do any heavy lifting.

I find myself in a bit of that situation has I have now been in the same church for over a decade.  I remember how vibrant the men’s ministry was.  With my first couple of weeks, no less than eleven men had invited me to the Men’s retreat coming up in a couple of weeks.

As many of those pillars of the church have either moved away or passed away, I am realizing that much of that vibrancy has diminished.  We are a fraction of what we used to be.  I then look at what might I be able to add.  I see certain personalities and do not think it will necessarily inspire the guys and get a lot of people wanting to come to the events. In fact our numbers have been declining for years.

Year after year we ask “is is about quantity or quality”?  We lean towards quality, but attrition also says something as well.  So how do I not judge the current situation, but add my help and energy without trying to make it all about me.  The leader is a man wanting to lead Kingdom Men.  I just see fewer and fewer men coming to events.  i find myself forcing myself to go.  I am always glad that I go, I just need to get pushed to go. The problem is that fewer and fewer people are asking me to go.  I then came to the realization that I was part of the problem and now I wanted to be part of the solution.  My church has changed to the extent that people in my circumstance are not stepping up to lead.  This may be because we know how much prep time will be required and it seems so overwhelming.  Or we might just feel insecure about making a difference at all.  I learned many years ago, but I constantly have to remind myself that my goal is to love and encourage.  If I keep it simple and not “about me”, then progress can be made in my church one person at a time.  Time to step it up.

Culture and the Church

I wonder how many Christians struggle with what is necessary culturally and how does that mesh with our purpose of bringing glory to Jesus Christ.  I was reading over The Measure of a Man, written by Gene A. Getz.  He was introducing what it looks like to be a good witness for Christ.  It also gets to what is in our heart and the why we do something.  Getz talks about adorning the Gospel or presenting the gospel attractively.  That can look like many things.  It is our actions that speak to the culture about what Christians are like.  

The example Getz gave was when he moved into a home that was owned by a Preacher.  The home was built on rock.  Not in the context of building your home on a strong foundation.  Actually rock where the grass would not grow.  So the home with the Preacher in it, did not have the time to tend to his lawn or lack thereof and the neighbors resented the impact his property was having on the resale value of homes in the neighborhood.

So when Getz moved into the home, he found out that the neighbors had already had a context on how Preachers take care of their property.  Many walls were erected and he got a cold shoulder from a lot of them.  

Then they proceeded in trying to clear away the rocks in order to put down top soil in order to grow grass.  Gene and his wife made a decision to invest their limited funds on the exterior of the home.  The reason was they wanted to be able to present the Gospel in an attractive way.  The reality was that Gene did not think he would have a receptive set of neighbors unless he removed the negative context of Preachers based on the care given to the property by the previous Pastor.

In that their funds were limited, they had to do a lot of that back breaking chore by themselves.  The effort was not lost on the neighbors and over time many of the neighbors became quite friendly.  The point is you could be trying to create a facade that is pretty for vain reasons or you go do it to testify and be a good witness to Jesus.  The heart of why makes all of the difference.

Many Christians invest in their house so that it can be a blessing for the church.  We have a family at church that has an in ground pool.  Anybody from the church is welcome to use it. No need to call in advance, just be careful and clean up after yourself.  On many a hot afternoon you could go and see a mother with kids enjoying the blessing of a cool pool on a hot summer day.

Others make their homes available for bible studies, youth group meetings or maybe adhoc marriage retreats.  Again is what lies at the heart of it. One can easily fall into the trap of justifying a bigger purchase than is necessary based on benevolent promises for the future.  

The goal is to continually check yourself to see how you are presenting to the culture without being dictated by the culture.  We must adorn the Gospel, but not by watering it down, but rather being a person of character and grace that would allow people to hear you and what you have to say.

It is always tough to do a honest assessment of what people would say about us.  We can get caught saying that I hope they would say this or hope they say that.  When you ask who would say it, then that will cause us to pause? Then ask when that person has witness evidence of that trait? Then ask if they also have evidence that points to that not being the case?  That is a process that will usually induce depression.  

Who witnesses what and where.  it is hard to pinpoint a consistent strand of empirical evidence to support our initial self-assessment.  I participated in a Bible Study called Sonship. The premise was that we are heirs to the King of Kings.  If we have a saving faith in Jesus Christ than we are heirs to the Heavenly Kingdom.  If we are heirs, much like a Prince that comes into town to conduct business, we are under much scrutiny.  How do we measure up to that scrutiny? Everyone is expecting you to act in the same character of the king that you are an heir to.  Going through that self-assessment was quite gloomy.  Then the study says “cheer up, it is worse than you think”.  

This brings us to Martin Luther who started off trying to suffer his way into heaven.  He would deprive himself of all earthly things and continue to flog himself.  He saw how bad he was and was again trying to earn salvation.  That was until the light went on and he saw that you cannot merit salvation.  It is by His grace and Mercy.  It Jesus’s righteousness that we are adorned in.   So being given such a gift, we should be able to share that grace with others. We should be able to endure hardship and not let ourselves be ensnared again in sin.  But God being a gracious God will forgive us should we fall into darkness.  Jesus adorns us with his righteousness before the father.  We should be able to adorn the Gospel with great affection and grace.  

Serving at Church

It is always challenging to look in what ways you may serve at your local church. There are ways to assess your gifting.  it is rather amusing to hear what your gifts are when you cannot see them yourself.  I look and I know that I have taught Sunday school to second graders with my wife.  I have volunteered with the Church Youth Group.  I have stayed invested in a number of those kids that are out of college now.  I Usher and generally go and participate in events.  i have been in skits, lead prayer, taken and acting role in the Christmas Concert.  I have taken an occasional role in leading Wednesday evening Men’s Bible Study.

So why then do I not want to go to classes about serving.  So right as I am pondering this, I have a friend asked if I might be interested in running the men’s ministry at church.  I have always felt like I could not fill the shoes of whoever was there before and I had to ask God, if I am really the right guy yo do this.  i am always the guy they have to ask three times to do something.  I pretty consistently give in, but the bigger question is the fact that I have to be dragged.

Now I do not feel as though I am the best person for this job by any means, but i also know that if I do not jump into something, then I tend to just stand on the outside.  So the Who am I in my mind as opposed to the Who am I intended to be becomes more salient.

If i go all in, then I am pretty confident that it will work out quite well.  But that is the entire issue.  Am I all in?  I know that I need to start pushing myself and stop having to be dragged into service.  Service is a condition of the heart and part of the maturing process as a Christian is to lead.  it is important to be trained, but God meant us to go “train up” others and walk alongside them.

So if you are in a situation where you do not think you are the right person to ask, remember that God is looking for a willing heart.  I am very Confident that God is in control and I just need to do my part.  As I recall, the Bible was filled with characters that did not seem like they were up to the task.

I have to keep telling myself that it is not about me.  It is about Jesus.  I was created to love Him and Glorify Him.  It is funny how the whole world seems to come into focus when we realize that it is not about us.