Sometimes I forget. Sometimes in the midst of church life, I just do and forget the who. I forget the why and do not rest in His because.
As I talk to people who have left the local church, I get it. It’s easy to become disillusioned and frustrated, disconnected from unmet expectations, but regardless of the reason, my heart grieves. Scripture exhorts us to gather with a body of believers, to teach and pray, to worship and serve humbly alongside Christ followers, so what leaves us longing for more?
I can’t begin to dissect that in one post, but this quote once said by my former worship leader continues to resonate in my own heart because I’ve been culpable as well:
The greatest impediment to your spiritual intimacy is your giftedness. Because you are gifted, you are going to be able to make life work within the church without ever knowing God well.
Do we know Christ well? Are we longing for a deep and abiding relationship with our heavenly Father, prioritizing that over all else? It’s so easy to make church work in our own strength, pursuing it with our own agenda, and looking for what meets our own needs. Yet that will never satisfy our deepest longing within the local church. The newest spiritual trends may captivate an audience, but the impact of a spectacular worship service performance doesn’t gain more of God’s approval.
As I desire to grow in the gospel within a healthy church, I routinely ask myself these questions:
- Am I part of a church where the leaders make church work based largely on their giftedness? Am I held accountable if I do the same?
- As I listen to the pastors or teachers, am I drawn to their charismatic personality and motivating manner, or am I drawn solely to the Master? Am I left with applicable stories and a self-help philosophy or a call to pursue holiness and sanctification?
- As I serve in the local church, have I let my spiritual gifts block the intended intimacy waiting with my Father?
Routinely, I peel back layers to examine that last question. If I’m honest about barriers keeping me from a deeper relationship with Him, I’ve come to the altar with a performance hat in motion. Sometimes, there is a power struggle, a fierce competition t0 captivate our whole hearts because we’re preoccupied with all things self. Culture screams, “Produce! Accomplish! Succeed!” So we jump in and strive, reach and grab, all in the attempt to do more, be more, and make more. It’s easy for me to “do what I do best,” and yet there in lies that double-edged tension many of us wrestle with regularly.
We’ve committed to memory Ephesians 2:8-9, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.” But James also stresses the importance that “faith without works is dead.”
It’s not either faith or works; it’s both/and.
When we examine the heart motive behind the works we do, faith compels us to step out in obedience because we’ve experienced the Savior’s undeserved grace and overwhelming love. We begin to understand that we don’t have to point others to His abundance; we get to. In fact, God doesn’t need us to accomplish His greater purpose, but we get to be a part in proclaiming His glory.
That’s how a healthy church works. It will never be perfect. No matter how hard we try, it will never meet all our needs because there is only One who can. In the most simplistic of terms, we commit to a healthy church as a bunch of sinners, saved by grace, who don’t just tell the story of His redemptive love but humbly demonstrate it. We “just do it” because He already did it all for us on the cross. It’s only for Him and His glory.
My prayer is that I may never stand before a congregation sharing a spoken word, serving coffee, leading music, holding a child in the nursery, or opening doors by just making church work. If I lean in that direction of performance, may my hypocrisy ring so true that I can’t continue and am brought to my knees.
Because even with my desire to serve and share, it’s not about my work. It’s about His work that He so faithfully, generously, and graciously sharpens in me. I’m slowly learning to get out of my own way.
How about you? Out of a grateful and humble heart for all He’s done for you, how are you using your unique gifts to impact others? Whether to your family, neighbors, co-workers, or maybe even an (in)courage friend here in the comments, He desires to use you to be the difference for someone today. His work will be completed. The choice of how is up to us. Don’t doubt the impact you can have on the lives of those around you. A single gift, given as an offering, hands wide open, unrestrained, impacts generations.
Just do it out of gratitude because that’s holy work.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
In any Christian leadership positions I’ve held, I’ve run into the roadblock you discuss here. It’s so easy to let our own giftedness dictate the course rather than a humble and contrite heart that is focused on Who really is in control. So many times, God has had to tear me down so that He could build me back up again. Maybe instead of seeking out our “spiritual gifts” we ought to focus on our “spiritual weakness” for when we are weak then He is strong. Shifting my focus from the “What” to the “Who” has been a lifelong journey. One thing I’ve learned for certain is that apart from Him, I can do nothing. Awesome post and reminder!
Yes, Bev. I don’t think anyone has crafted a spiritual weaknesses test for us to take, but I love that starting point in my own life.
Kathy Cheek ~ First Breath of Morning Devotional says
For me, since I was not allowed to go to church growing up, I have always been so grateful to be able to go to church, and the struggles that come and go do not compare to the satisfaction of being part of a body of believers, even as imperfect as we all are. We are family and God’s desire is for us to gather together and do His work.
If you are looking for a 90 day devotional for your fall inspirational reading, I hope you will check out my book at this link:
I can’t imagine my life without church as a child, but part of my struggle in growing up in the church has been seasons of apathy and taking that privilege for granted. I can only imagine how different it is for you. Love seeing it through your eyes – so refreshing. 🙂
I’d love to find a church again!
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Jas praying for you that you find the right Church for you. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little
Yes, echoing this.
Jas – we’d love for you to find a body of believers that you can be a part of as well. Can I ask what has kept you from being able to find that? Are there specifics that you’re looking for? Maybe some readers here have recommendations.
This is an excellent post. I’ve come across the verse Faith without works is dead quite a lot this year. I continue to learn that works is to glorify the Lord though, not working to get into heaven in my strength. God is in charge of everything and I am in charge of following him in obedience. Thank you for such a thought provoking article.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Yes nother good word. We in our Church Enniskillen Salvation Army. I know we are the other side of the world. But our Officer says after the service before we go home. Who are you going to Bless this week. Meaning who are we going to help get along side. It does not have to be the person that goes to our Church. Or is saved. It could be someone who is lonely or the neighbor beside us who can’t get out of the house. Just going to see them. Showing a friendly face. They might be glad to see us. If not you will know. Just say I will keep you in my prayers. If they are glad to see you. Ask do they need anything at the shop. Or just if lonely stay and chat a while or take them out for coffee. Be the hands and feet of Jesus to them. As we Christian are the Church to the world around us that are hurting lonley and unsaved. We too make the Church work are to do as Christian what Jesus would want us to do be kind loving and caring to all people of all walks of life. Just like Jesus was. As we are Jesus too the world. The unsaved especially watch everything we do and say as Christian. I have also learnt this as Christian. Not to be going to this Chrurch or this meeting to hear this speaker or this Minister or Pastor or Salvation Army Officer. As someone once said too me are you going to hear that person or hear the word of God. Another thing as Christian we are not think going to Church makes you a Christian any more than goinh to McDonald’s makes you a Hamburger. That if I go Church every I will be a Christian. Like I said about the Meetings and Church services. You go because you are wanting to hear Gods word. No matter who is taking it. Plus not go to Church to make you a Christian or it will not work. You have spend time in the word of God his Bible and prayer as well everyday if possible. Especially if saved. Listen to Gods Holy Spirit. Then we become the Christian God wants us to be. Making Church Work as today’s heading says. Love Dawn Fergson-Little
Jennifer, what a great reminder and much needed as I haven’t been to church services all year , in person. I miss that!
Dawn, you make some great points and as you pastor ends service.I also try to start my weeks off with the same question. Who will I impact , help, pray for, or even smile at this week? I often remind myself daily after my morning coffee and devotional. There are millions of ways we can positively impact others!
Bless you all and have a great day
good message ! as I worked and worked for ten years in a large church I seen much and now am so happy to be worshipping at home with a small group .
I know it doesn’t matter where or what ” church” looks like as long as we continue on in faith and have others with us in the faith. Jesus ministry was pretty simple so I find it hard to see people in the large churches over doing it with all sorts of ministries. I served in 35 ministries in ten years and am so glad to be worshipping at home now ! it’s not what you do for the kingdom it’s how you love God with all your heart that matters. loving God and caring for others is the christian call.. not simply belonging to a fancy building and socializing .
I serve by fellow believers with the blessed gift of encouragement and prayer. I regularly reach out to see how I can pray for others and regularly pray for the Lord to put a person, place or scenario on my heart to pray. I absolutely feel called to do this and so thankful for His giftedness.
Beth Williams says
There have been many years when I just did church. It was what you did on Sundays. Church in Am, youth & choir in PM. Nothing else. It wasn’t until I started attending my husband’s little church that I “got it”. The pastor would go over & preach on certain scriptures. God finally got to me. I began to fully understand what He had done for me. The cruelty & ridicule He endured just for my sake. Now I’m out there trying to spread His light in our dark world. I want the world to see me making cookies for less fortunate & serving them meals. Then taking some left overs for my in-laws & elderly neighbor. Also visiting people in the hospital or texting/emailing or calling to see how they are doing. Cooking food for sick or those having surgery. Whatever it is God must be glorified for me to do it. It isn’t about “look at me”.
Nancy Ruegg says
The last three sentences of your conclusion spoke directly to my current situation. At a church we’ve been attending for about three years, I’ve been asked to serve on the Women’s Ministry Team. Most of the women will be a lot younger than I am, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I’m going to seem irrelevant to them and out-of-touch. But just the other day God whispered into my spirit that my role will be encourager, listener, and prayer supporter. You say, “A single gift, given as an offering, hands wide open, unrestrained, IMPACTS GENERATIONS.” You’ve given me such hope, Jennifer, that serving on this team could offer strong positive effect to the generations behind me. I also appreciate your reminder that it is holy work and am grateful for the opportunity to proclaim God’s glory in this way! Thank you, Jennifer! (The first meeting is tomorrow. See how timely your message turned out to be?!)
Marinalva Sickler says
Thank you all for sharing about Making Church Work. I grew up as a pastor’s daughter and going to church was part of my daily life. I sang at my dad’s requests and traveled with him visiting other churches. Today, I raise two grandsons and I’m recovering from a bunion surgery. My grandsons go to church regularly. I’ve been home and studying the Word. As I go out I give tracks messages and talk to people as possible about God’s love. Right now, my ministry is visiting two friends in Assisted Living facilities. This is church for me.
May God bless you all, especially Jennifer for encouraging my faith.