Saints, I will let you in on a little secret: Many of you have read my articles, and some of you think I am perfect. I am not. Much of what I write about, I have done, and have been convicted of, and have changed.
Take this whole business of church membership. When I first accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour in the mid 1980s, I was a churchhopper. I had adopted the attitude that I could go to a number of churches. I could go to a Catholic church this week, then try a Baptist church the following Sunday. I was like a person who goes through the line at a cafeteria, seeking the food that he wants to eat. As long as I didn’t have to make a commitment, I could sample a variety of foods, and never be called out on the carpet. I didn’t want to be under a specific Man of God. God forbid that a man that I didn’t even know that well should tell me what to do? You have got to be out of your rabbit mind, I thought. If I join this church, I give this man rights to impose his do’s and don’ts on me, I thought.
And even when I first joined a church, back in the summer of 1990, I was not so quick to give it my all. Sunday after Sunday, I would go. I would get fat from hearing the pastor preach the Word, and I would come home full. It is not that I didn’t love the church, or the Man of God. I was in school, I was WAAAY too busy to join this activity, or that activity. I was a church member, a pewster.
But I came to a point where I realised: Is this what God wants of me? I mean, I could do SOMETHING around the church. I mean, I could pick up a broom and sweep, and get a mop and mop the bathroom. Church is not about getting what you can get out of it, it is about service.
There is no getting around it. Scripture specifically tells us that we are part of a BODY. Paul tells us that all the parts of the body need each other, so that the organisation as a whole functions properly. Are you a custodian? Do you clean toilets in the House of God? Your pastor, your fellow members, and your God, need you to do the job to the best of your ability so that the souls who would come to your church will keep coming and not be put off by a nasty house, a temple that God cannot dwell in. Are you a singer or musician? Then do it to the best of your ability, singing and playing to the Glory of God. Are you good at telling clean Christian jokes? Then be the first to sign up when your church does a comedy night.
The list goes on. Whether you are a preacher, writer, comedian, singer, dancer, janitor, or whatever, the Body of Christ needs you–your local church needs you. The Scripture points out: ” But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the Body as just as He pleased” (I Cor. 12: 18). Your gifts, talents, etc, are given by God and are crucial to a church–a local body–somewhere. The key is to find that local body to which God has sent you, and to get under the Man and Woman of God there. Find a Father and a Mother, and become a son or daughter.
Consult the pastor(s) of that church about where you best fit in. The key is to get connected. For you belong somewhere, and someone is depending on you. Again Paul: “But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you, nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”
If Christ is the Head of the Universal Church, and the Pastor, or Shepherd, is your spiritual father here on Earth–you have brothers and sisters who look to you to take your place in that body. Why do I say that body? Because the local body is the context in which you will learn what God has called you to do, how you can best impact your body.
For me, at my church, my spiritual Dad has placed me on the sound board. I am a sound engineer. My job is to test and control the mikes of the church, to make sure that the pastor, his wife, my spiritual mother, and the musicians are all well-miked. I am also responsible for the taping of the service. I answer directly to the pastor.
One of my old pastors called it being “spiritually employed.” But I would like to think of it more as being a member of a household. Growing up, I had certain chores around the house–like mowing the lawn–I had to do. My parents simply didn’t have time to do it all. They both worked. And besides, it was their way of teaching me responsibility. I could not live in their house, eat their food, and sleep in their bed, without doing some housework.
The same holds true for the House of God. The House of the Lord needs servants. Everyone who joins a church body should have some ministry in mind when they first arrive. The pastor may not set a person free to work there at a given time, for often new arrivals at a church need time to be fed, nurtured, healed from past church hurt, etc.
Yet there comes a time when we must end our season of resting on the pews, step up, and take our place within the body. I have realised that the pastor and his wife cannot continue to do things like mow the lawn, clean the bathroom, run the sound board, or the camera, or any of that. They need people to carry the load. They need sons and daughters to take on the responsibility of that so as to set them free to do what they are called to do: To hear from God and feed His Flock the Word.
Another aspect of sonship and daughtership is loyalty. Joining a church is NOT just for you. That pastor and his wife should be treated with as much reverence and respect as that which you should treat your earthly parents with. When they call on you to do something for them–be it cutting the grass around the church, or vacuuming the carpet in their home–you should always be willing to help out because you not only love the church–but you love them too.
The pastor’s job is very difficult. They look out for your souls. Moreover, you always expect them to be there for you when the going in your marriage gets tough. When the Man of God gets sick with a bad case of wintertime flu,it should be no problem when the First Lady of the House of God calls on you to get the pastor a drink of water, or to carry the trash out for him.
Or when your pastor–whom you say you love–has an anniversary, or an appreciation ceremony approaching–and one of your deacons asks you to reach a bit deeper into your pockets to send him and his wife on a cruise just because they think that he and his wife deserve to have the rest–do you willingly out of a heart of love give, or do you cop an attitude and say, “He is out to get every nickel he can get his hands on?” The first is a perfect example of a son or daughter; the latter is indicative of a member.
God does not need members–He is looking for sons and daughters. He needs Saints who recognise that He places us in a local church to serve a specific Man and/or Woman of God as a son or daughter, and not to just warm a pew as a member. As Terry Nance in his book “God’s Armor Bearer” points out,” we are to make a commitment to our pastor, our shepherd, our leader, to be his/her Armor Bearer. We are to help take on his or her heavy load. Hebrews 13: 17 says: “Obey them that have rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy, and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” Here, we are given the idea of a schoolteacher, or babysitter whose authority our parents have given us over to as an extension of their authority. If we disrespected our teachers and got paddled at school, woe unto us when we got home that night!
Imagine the Back Four we are going to get on Judgement Day if the Man of God that we were placed under gives Him who sits on the Throne a negative report about us as church members, that we were merely members, but never really graduated to becoming a son or a daughter of that ministry, that we could never really be counted on!
You see, Hell is not just for the wicked, for those who refused to accept Christ. I personally believe that the Saints of God will be well-represented down there as well. Those who chose to bring less than their A-game to their relationship to God, their relationship to their God-appointed earthly leader, will be among those screaming in agony forever.
You cannot half do this thing. God is looking for serious, committed soldiers marching in His army. He will tolerate nothing less, being that He gave us His very best.
Children of God, it’s time to quit being a member, and to be a son or daughter of God, a son or daughter to the man or woman He has appointed as your earthly shepherd. And if you don’t have one–you need to make sure you have one. Being out here as a lone saint just ain’t gonna cut it.